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A sense-ational art experience

December 11th, 2017

Woman listens to a seashell while looking at artwork

Translation based on Two Piece Reclining Figure No. 2 by Henry Moore. A seashell with a wireless speaker that plays sounds of the ocean and excerpts from Henry Moore. Image courtesy of the AGO.

Have you ever wondered what your favourite painting would sound like? What it would feel like? What it would smell like? (Imagine how great Claes Oldenburg’s Floor Burger would smell!) At the end of November, visitors got a chance to experience art with all of their senses.

OCADU graduate students in the Inclusive Design program, taught by Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director Dr. Peter Coppin and Assistant Professor Beverly Dywan, were tasked with developing seven different multisensory interpretive projects inspired by artwork in the AGO’s Collection. 

“We believe that there shouldn’t be any barriers to experiencing great art,” said Melissa Smith, Coordinator of the AGO’s Access to Art Program. “By creating new tools, we provide opportunities for ALL visitors, regardless of ability, to experience the AGO by stimulating all of their senses.”

After choosing their favourite piece of art (including the stunning architecture of Walker Court), the students got to work – collaborating with representatives from the AGO, the CNIB and visually impared participants from the AGO’s multisensory tours to create their “translations” of the art.

“Many students told us that using their other senses – outside of vision – encouraged them to think more deeply about the artwork,” said Peter Coppin. “At the same time, these projects raised many questions about how something like an artwork that was originally intended to be experienced visually can be conveyed in non-visual ways, through sonic or tactile means.”

“Museums are reaching out to their visitors in new and exciting ways,” added Beverly Dywan. “In providing additional sensory accessibility, we hope that this collaboration will enable a broader, deeper and unique experience for AGO visitors.”

The projects were shared with visitors attending our Free Wednesday Nights on November 29 to rave reviews, with many saying that it encouraged them to look longer at the artwork, seeing more than they would otherwise. All of the fantastic prototypes developed by OCAD University Students were donated to the AGO to be used in future multisensory tours.

Check out some of the multisensory prototypes below:

Woman looks at a painting holding an umbrella.

Translation based on The Storm (L’orage) by Narcisse Virgile De La Pena Diaz. The umbrella depicts the image of the sky while a Bluetooth speaker plays rain and thunder sounds. Image courtesy of the AGO.

Suitcase with pictures of artwork, 3D artwork to touch, and containers with outdoor scents.

Translation based on Rain Squall – Georgian Bay by Frederick Varley. 3D printed version of the painting and fabric version of the painting as well as vials containing stones, soil, pine needles and bark to smell. Image courtesy of the AGO.

People look at and touch a model of Walker Court.

Translation based on Walker Court. A 3D printed resin version of the staircase, Glulam piece and original items from construction. Image courtesy of the AGO.

A woman looks at a painting with headphones on.

Translation based on Moose Story by William Kurelek. A sound file narrative that tells the story of the painting. Image courtesy of the AGO.

Hands touch raised lines on a copper sheet.

Translation based on Man Changing into Thunderbird by Norval Morrisseau. A raised line drawing in copper and a sound file with sounds associated with the colours and shapes in the image. Image courtesy of the AGO.

If you or someone you know is non-sighted and are interested in booking a visit, please call us at 416 979 6648 or visit our website for more information.

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