Art workshops teach art to the visually impaired

Photo by University of Nebraska at Omaha

Will Patterson

Jeremy Johnson, an assistant professor of art and art history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, is hosting the second annual workshop at UNO aimed at bringing art to the blind and visually impaired.

“This idea actually sprouted because my wife is visually impaired,” Johnson said. “We have an interesting relationship where I’m an artist and she’s not so much. This can make it difficult to access art for her.”

The second rendition of these workshops is titled Sensory: Please Touch the Art 2.0, following in the footsteps of last year’s Sensory: Please Touch the Art. The workshops take on the challenges of teaching artistic technique to the visually impaired and highlight on the unique perspective.

Johnson said that this year’s workshops have kept similar themes from last year’s workshops but have evolved into something new. With more experience teaching these unique workshops, Johnson has branched out into more artistic territories and mediums.

The four workshops composing Sensory: Please Touch the Art 2.0 each touch on different art forms.The first workshop hosted on Aug. 19 was focused on clay building. With help from the sculptures and ceramics lab, the workshop was able to have four potter’s wheels operating at once.

Johnson said that he has observed several participants having an easier time aligning the clay on a pottery wheel than most sighted students. He believes that emphasis on touching the clay helped create a more accurate depiction of the progress to participants.

The following workshop was hosted on Aug. 26 and was about loom weaving. Each participant created their own weaving during the workshop. Textile Inc., a local business, helped make the loom weaving workshop reality by donating a significant amount of fabric.

“We’re teaching how to draw, which always makes some participants a little nervous,” John-son said. “’How do you teach a blind person to draw?’ is some of the comments we get.”

Johnson plans on using a couple different methods to make drawing a viable medium for visually impaired artists. One such method includes a form of paper that cracks while someone is writing on it, giving an easily felt impression. Another opportunity bestowed on those attending is the chance to work with 3-D pens, which allow users to draw with depth.

The final workshop will give participants a chance to try their hand at carving. Using alabaster as their material of choice, the workshop members will get to chip away a completely new experience for Johnson.

Despite his personal connection, Johnson makes it very clear that he doesn’t want these workshops to be about him, and instead wants attention shifted to the importance of making art accessible to everyone.

The art produced by participants of the workshops will be on dis-play at the Osborne Family Art Gallery early next year. Keeping true to the workshop’s theme, the exhibit will strive to be accessible to everyone. This will include audio assistant devices and the option to physically interact with any of the art.