‘Touchable art’ collection will teach museum studies students new perspectives

A collection of touchable art to promote and teach about the creation of art for the visually impaired is being assembled by Travis Nygard, associate professor of art and director of the Caestecker Gallery in C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts.

Funds from a Kohler Foundation grant recently were re-allocated to the art department to assemble the collection. The collection will be used for the first time during the spring semester of 2020 when Nygard will debut the class “Museums, Artifacts and Cultural Heritage.” The class is being offered as part of the new Museum Studies minor.

As a part of the class, Nygard also is developing exercises to help students understand how a visually impaired person might interact with art pieces.

The collection includes replicas of historic art pieces. Often, people with poor eyesight or blindness are unable to fully appreciate the art in front of them because of institutional rules that patrons have to stay a certain distance away from the art, Nygard said in his grant application. Art institutions are beginning to adapt their current policies and select certain original pieces or copies of pieces for patrons to be allowed to handle. Although this is still a new practice, this change has been adopted in such notable museums as the Louvre Museum in Paris, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, either in the form of “Touch Galleries” or specific objects patrons can interact with physically.

Nygard said the collection will help to teach students about how a museum can be more accessible to people with a visual impairment, as well as to give seeing people a way to experience art other than with their eyes. This would help all people because “people experience art more fully when they can touch, hold, turn and otherwise manipulate it, and the multi-sensory experience causes them to appreciate and remember it more fully,” Nygard wrote.

Jillian Heidenreich ’22
Monroe, Wisconsin


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Travis Nygard with examples from the collection

 


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