Sensorius: Where The Skin Meets the Eye

The general value of arts and culture to society has long been assumed, while specifics have just as long been debated. Try to imagine society without the humanizing influence of the arts, and you will have to strip out most of what is pleasurable in life, as well as much that is educationally critical and socially essential[1].

 

The presentation of art and contemporary craft is in itself complex, as arts and crafts express and communicate not only ideas but also emotions. Exhibitions present objects that appeal to and connect with the human senses.

 

For the longest time exhibition spaces have been the privilege of fully able people and therefore left out a large portion of our society. Historically, persons with disabilities have been excluded from art galleries, because of inaccessible places[2]. Disabled-identified communities have been denied the right to fully enjoy gallery spaces and the shows contained within its walls as the preconceived notion of the “do not touch the artwork” have prevailed in those institutions since their inception.

[1]The Value of Arts and Culture to people and society - an evidence in review. Arts Council of England. Manchester, UK. 2014

[2] The Smithsonian Guide for Accessible Exhibition Design. Washington D.C, USa. n.d.

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To prioritize accessibility within the gallery spaces we started this project by asking: Who does not come and enjoy our programing, and why? As a small-scale, not-for-profit art organization we felt the need to do our part in dismantling ableism and creating a more inclusive and accessible space, promoting a new form of gallery exhibition in which the disabled-identified community could engage with our resources while expanding our viewership and visitor numbers. We felt the need to redefine our cultural importance by developing a project that reflected the community that we wanted to engage with our space.

 

Removing barriers is the way to create an environment that will give equal opportunities for the population as a whole. Integration, respect, adaptability and challenging stereotypes portrayals can and will generate a healthy change in attitudes. Accessible spaces and works early on the curatorial design process has been the primary focus of Sensorius: Where The Skin Meets The Eye.

 

Disability-related art can be worked by disabled artists and disability companies. Or it can be work by mixed-ability, integrated or inclusive companies [or individual artists][3]. Every accessible program has the potential to inspire, welcome and develop a safe space for all public that will result in an open conversation about art and contemporary craft reducing the anxieties that stem from beginning a new experience in a “foreign” place. With that in mind, The Craft Council Gallery of

 

[3] Arts For All, Arts Access Aotearoa. Ngā toi mō te katoa. 2014

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James,Louise Webb and Erin Power) all based in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador; national artists Jade Yumang, Laura Kenney and Sarah Albu, and the international artists Joanne Kaar (Scotland) and Ashleigh Downey (Ireland). As well as collaborations with local organizations such as Inclusion NL, NLAD Interpreting Services, Visual Artists Newfoundland and Labrador (VANL-CARFAC) and the Anna Templeton Center.

Artworks are indexes to, but are not obliged to, society, and the curation process has the ultimate responsibility to the social and political world surrounding us.  To be able to curate such an important exhibition within our Gallery and to take a step forward in minimizing the limits in accessibility within art spaces has been a humbling and learning path. The common element presented in Sensorius: Where The Skin Meets The Eyes, is that these artists counterattack the established notion of “look but do not touch” of art galleries: the boundaries and limits were broken and encouraged a space that is softer, cathartic, and compassionate, while acknowledging at times that limiting themselves to experience their art in an exclusive sensory way is a fundamental part of the human condition to be embraced by all. This is in line with the idea the exhibition’s notion that art that can be conceived, perhaps unfashionably and with contention, as hope for a better and more accessible world.

 

Bruno Vinhas

Gallery Director/Curator

Craft Council Of Newfoundland and Labrador Gallery

Newfoundland & Labrador proposed an interactive, sensory, tactile and haptic exhibition designed to celebrate Newfoundland and Labrador craft which stimulates the senses beyond sight and to provide a unique artistic experience to visually impaired gallery visitors of Newfoundland & Labrador and beyond. The goal of this exhibition was to provide a unique experience for disability-identified community.

Having in mind that “access needs are not static”[4] and that “they can change in relation to infinity factors” [5] the selection process of the artworks exhibited considered how the interaction with the pieces would work, who our public was and why the need of that piece both for the artist and for our audience. Based on those questions, we have selected craft artists, both nationally and internationally, whose work encompasses haptic, sonic, and odorous, among other qualities, which would enhance the scope of the visual and sensory language of craft within the province. The Gallery is proud to present works from Janet Peter, Jennifer Young, Kelley Brutton, Alexandra Antle, June Walker-Wilson and the Five Island Rug Hooking Group (Frances Ennis, Maxine Ennis, Marion Counsel, Barbara O'Keefe, Helen Murphy, Sheila Power, Marilyn Cameron, Eileen Colbert, Ann Donnelly, Nicole Donovan, Gerri Downey, Sheila Feaver, Lois Finn, Bonnie

 

[4] LAZARD, Carolyn. Accessibility in the Arts: A promise and a practice. 2019

[5] LAZARD, Carolyn. Accessibility in the Arts: A promise and a practice. 2019