On a recent jam-packed class day, my Seminar in Museum Education class was held at MoMA! The theme of the day was learning about accessibility – opening learning to all – a topic crucial for every area of education.
My friend and I opted to walk from Columbus Circle to MoMA, to take in some of the bustling 9AM city life….
and get some delicious Swedish coffee at Fika! They make a mean soy latte.
After a thorough synopsis of MoMA’s extended efforts to reach all types of patrons, we headed to the galleries. First, with a partner, we took turns closing our eyes and explaining one painting to each other. This is a practice often used to assist blind visitors in experiencing art. I chose to describe Magritte’s “Empire of Light II”.
Then came the once in a lifetime opportunity to actually touch art! Supervised by staff and armed with plastic gloves, my classmates and I were able to touch a Boccioni sculpture called “Development of a Bottle in Space,” and a Picasso called “Woman’s Head,” or “Fernande” (as pictured).
Everyone scurried back to Bank Street afterwards, to meet a guest speaker Ellen Rubin, an accessibility consultant (and Bank Street alum!). Listening to her perspective of accessibility was invaluable, for Ellen herself is blind. Her personal experiences combined with her museum and education background (she in fact has degrees both in Museum Education and Special Education from Bank Street), gave us, I felt, a realistic overview of what needs to be done to make a museum truly accessible. And I loved her sense of humor!
Ellen brought along a number of books in braille, mostly what she felt were great examples of extending certain topics to the blind, including astronomy. She also brought a book that she said was a poor example – an alphabet book that used small objects to demonstrate a word per letter, but often in a convoluted way (a rubber band for elastic? Would a child get that connection?).
Just another day in the life of Bank Street Sara!