[accessibleimage] Philadelphia Museum of Art's Form in Art and Athens tactile museum

  • From: Lisa Yayla <fnugg@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: accessibleimage@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, art_beyond_sight_learning_tools@xxxxxxxxxx, art_beyond_sight_advocacy@xxxxxxxxxx, artbeyondsightmuseums@xxxxxxxxxx, art_beyond_sight_learning_tools@xxxxxxxxxx, art_beyond_sight_educators@xxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 24 Sep 2004 00:24:51 +0200

Two articles.


'Please dotouch the exhibits'
Harry Papachristou
Posted Mon, 20 Sep 2004

A small museum in Athens offers blind people a rare chance
to literally get in touch with great works of art otherwise
kept from them behind plexiglas and protected by hi-tech

"Thank you for helping us discover so much," an anonymous
French visitor noted in the guestbook of the Tactual Museum
in the Athens quarter of Kallithea.

"If you want to see the Venus de Milo you have to go to the
Louvre in Paris. But if you want to touch her you'd better
come here," Dimitra Asideri, the museum's director, told

Opened in 1984, the museum displays exact, original-size
plaster copies of more than 80 works of ancient Greek
masterpieces and bas-relief representations, including
famous statues such as the Venus de Milo, the Charioteer of
Delphi and the Zeus or Poseidon of Artemision.

Accessible clay models of the Athens Acropolis with its
landmark Parthenon temple are also on show.
Adjacent inscriptions in the Greek version of the Braille
language for the blind describe the exhibits. Since the
Athens Paralympics began last Friday, non-Greek visitors
receive headphones offering guided tours in English.

"Contrary to other institutions, we actually encourage
visitors to touch the exhibits. To our knowledge, there are
just four or five museums like ours across the world,"
Asideris said.

"It is so nice to be in a museum when they don't shout at
you for getting near the exhibits," read the guestbook
inscription of Nigel Howard, another visitor.

"Every museum in the world should have a room with replicas
for the visually-impaired," said Asideri. "I remember once,
when I was in the British Museum in London, I simply refused
to leave if they did not allow me to touch the ancient Greek
marbles they have there," she said laughing.

The Tactual Museum is located in the old offices of the
Lighthouse for the Blind, a US-sponsored group 
founded in 1946 to offer jobs and services to
visually-impaired people in devastated post-war Greece.
Damaged in a severe earthquake in 1999, the museum reopened
in March, just six months before the Paralympics.

A separate room opened specially for last month's Olympics,
and the Paralympics. It features carved maps and pictures
for the blind depicting the Games' mascots and all
competition sites in their greater Athens area. In their
midst stands a replica of one of the most celebrated ancient
sculptures, the Hermes of Praxiteles. 

"That was the most expensive remake we have. It cost around
?7500," Asideri said. All the sculptures remakes were made
by a state-authorised workshop of Greece's Culture Ministry.
The museum relies entirely on volunteers for its operation.
It extends to two floors and is ? naturally ? accessible to
people in wheelchairs.

                   Blind artists tap into their mind's eye
for inspiration 

                   By Joe McAllister , CORRESPONDENT 
09/22 /2004

                   Most art is admired from afar, a visual
delight to those who can
                   view its color, form and texture. 

                   But what if you couldn't see? Could you
still be a patron of the arts? Better yet,
                   could you be an artist?

                   The Philadelphia Museum of Art's
                   "Form in Art" program answers those
                   questions with the affirmation that art
                   is for everyone, regardless of physical
                   limitations. This hands-on program
                   takes art from aesthetic to tactile,
                   involving adults who are legally blind
                   in a workshop that focuses on their
                   inner artist's vision.

                   "It lets them see art in a new light,"
                   says museum spokesperson Dominic
                   Mercier. "Usually art is something
                   visual. This fascinating program
                   concentrates on the tactile properties
                   of art and allows them to see with
                   their hands."

                   The one s et of eyes for all 16 members
of the on-going program belongs to wood
                   sculptor Eiko Fan of Havertown. Fan is
always on the prowl for raw art materials,
                   even going as far as trash picking, in
her effort to "invent" new ways of teaching and
                   doing art.

                   "I go for odd shaped things that my
students can make something out of," says
                   Eiko, 52, who divides her time as a
working artist and teacher of disabled students.
                   "I invent different ways of creating art
with these people. They see by feeling

                   Using raised features like clay on
canvass or three-dimensional figures made of
                   wire, paper mache or wood, Eiko guides
her students to create independently. "We
                   encourage independent ideas and we give
them the opportunity," Eiko says.
                   "When you make something unique, that's a
gift, like food for the soul."

                   One gifted member of Eiko's art class is
Broomall resident Arslan Seraydanian.
                   Sighted most of his life, Seraydanian
literally went blind overnight from macular
                   degeneration. He was 80-years-old.

                   Now an optimistic 86-year-old, this World
War II veteran is back in the fight thanks
                   to Eiko and the "Form in Art" program.

                   "He's unusual in that he pursued art
after he lost his eyesight," says his daughter,
                   Carol Seraydanian. "People don't use
their other senses. Now he uses his spiritual
                   eyes, his artistic eyes."

                   Seraydanian isn't quite as metaphysical
when describing his artistic muse.
                   "Sometimes I haven't the slightest idea
what I'm doing," says the modest
                   up-and-coming artist with a laugh. "It
just feels good to be working with my hands."

                   And "feel" is what it's all about for
these optically challenged artists. The normally
                   staid museum setting becomes more like
the Please Touch Museum of art where
                   shape, form and texture often take
precedence over color. Not that color is ignored.

                   "They still think in color and color adds
character to their work," says Fan. "I find a
                   way to raise the shape so that they can
feel the subject. If they can't see and if
                   they can't touch, then nothing exists."

                   Seraydanian's first project was an
unlikely one for the former front-line soldier -
                   fashion design. Modeled on the museum's
summer exhibit "Shocking: The Art and
                   Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli," the
octogenarian created a fabric dress sculpture for
                   his wife, Gladys.

                   The inaugural work, complete with the
superimposed facial photo of his wife, was
                   entitled "Dress Design for My Wife." The
work was exhibited along with nearly 50 of
                   his fellow students work at the Wills Eye
Hospital and the Philadelphia College of

                   "He's a natural," says Fan. "Some people
are really lifetime learners."

                   Carol Seraydanian says her family can
appreciate her father's work. "We're getting
                   a kick out of it," she says. "It's
encouraging to know that no matter what happens
                   in life, a new experience can present
itself at any age."

                   As usual, Arslan Seraydanian is more
pragmatic in his artist assessment. "I count
                   my blessings. I made a doll that
resembles her and now we have it in the window,"
                   he says. "I can't believe that I did it."

                   To find out more about the on-going "Form
in Art" program, call the Philadelphia
                   Museum of Art at 215-763-8100 and ask for
the museum's Education Department
                   or visit www.philamuseum.org. Currently
on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of
                   Art: "Poetry of Clay" featuring Hawaiian
sculptor Toshiko Takaezo. Coming Oct.
                   2:"African Art/African Voices."

                   To view or purchase the wooden art
sculptors of Eiko Fan, call 610-446-0376.

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