Volume 29, Number 3, Fall 2007

Braille Literacy through the Arts Event Declared a "Model of Success"

“The Braille Literacy Through the Arts event and the interactive touch display of sculptural materials is a model for how museums and galleries can better serve their patrons who are blind or visually impaired,” declared Don Ehman, ADA coordinator for New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Ehman was describing the success of an innovative art appreciation event specifically designed for those who are sight-impaired.

Staged at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, the event gathered 210 people - including seventy individuals with disabilities - despite bad weather - to experience how art can be made accessible to the blind and visually impaired. The event marked the launch of two new docent-led tours as permanent features of the Grounds for Sculpture program. Each tour is specifically designed for the blind and visually impaired, and one also is wheelchair-accessible.

Grounds for Sculpture sponsored the event in partnership with the New Jersey Library for the Blind and Handicapped (NJLBH) and the Department of Human Services Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, with cooperation from the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey and the New Jersey Council of the Blind.

Guests were treated to a unique experience in the arts as they discovered more than 230 contemporary sculptures beautifully sited on thirty-five acres of landscaped grounds in an arboretum-like setting with thousands of trees, water features, courtyards, and hidden locations to explore.

Activities included docent-led sculpture tours encouraging visitors to carefully explore the contours, shapes, and surfaces of the sculpture on display; a story hour about sculptor Henry Moore; interactive touch displays of sculptural materials discussed by artist Petro Hul; hands-on art workshops; and music by singer and songwriter Mark Bodino.

Among those attending were Rowena Madden, executive director of Americorps, who brought greetings to the crowd from New Jersey Secretary of State, Nina Mitchell Wells.

The event organizers provided audio cassette, large print, and Braille versions of all materials as a way of fostering Braille literacy - a key goal of NJLBH, which has a collection of more than 12,000 Braille books.

Grounds for Sculpture is a public nonprofit organization that offers the sculpture park, two indoor museums, and Rat’s Restaurant, located on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. Grounds for Sculpture is located at 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, NJ 08619. Visit the Grounds for Sculpture Web site.