On Sunday 17 August, I had the pleasure of hosting a tour for blind and visually impaired visitors, assisted by one of our front of house hosts, Zoe Westlake. There was a great turn out; sixteen people of all ages, four with seeing guides. (I know that some of our hosts were disappointed we didn't get to meet any guide dogs).
There were many special moments on the tour but I particularly enjoyed watching people experience experience the artwork Sphere Square – a room sized bean bag people climb onto. I offered coordinates of where each person was, to help them avoid collisions with each other!
Another highlight was experiencing Seung Yul Oh's work The Ability to Blow Themselves Up. This video shows people blowing up balloons until they pop. Some of the participants in the artwork had been filmed blowing up balloons at one of our monthly Open Late events. We sat in the gallery and listened to the work while I explained the directions that the participants had been given. I then gave our blind and visually impaired visitors the option to blow a balloon up until it exploded in their face. To my surprise (and theirs), four people had a go, with great whoops of laughter.
Opening up art experiences to different audiences is an important part of our role as a public gallery, so it was terrific to have so many people from the blind community come and engage with the Gallery in this way.
One visitor, Robyn Hunt, sent in this feedback: "I enjoyed the whole tour. There wasn't anything I didn't like, and I look forward to more of them! I think you can be pleased with the response, and it was lovely to have a wide age spread! Building the arts audience among young people is very important I think."
We couldn't agreee more.
Steve McVey, Visitor Learning Assistant
Images above by Mark Tantrum: Steve McVey hosting a tour and Director Elizabeth Caldwell taking part in Seung Yul Oh's video project, The Ability To Blow Themselves Up