Art to touch accessibility programme
A pioneering visual accessibility programme that the museum and Iberdrola launched in 2012, is leaving the museum to be held at different schools around Bizkaia.
Since 2008, Iberdrola and the museum have shared the goal of extending accessibility to an increasing number of audiences to foster their development through activities in which art is the main educational tool. With this goal in mind, the museum's Education and Cultural Action Department has developed a series of specific activities and workshops targeted at individuals with some kind of visual or intellectual disability, as well as other groups with special needs.
One of the most pioneering projects is Art to Touch, a programme targeted at individuals with visual impairments which the museum launched in September 2012, and which years later has been adopted by other museums such as the Prado and the Thyssen in Madrid and the Pushkin in Moscow. It is based on a new technology developed by Estudios Durero (Bilbao) which is capable of conferring textures and relief on flat images, transforming the digital image into a medium that can be touched.
The process begins with a high-resolution photograph of the artwork chosen, and it picks the elements from the composition which could best guide the hands of the blind person. After defining the volumes and texture, they are printed in special ink. Afterwards, a chemical process is applied which confers volume on the elements that were initially flat. The real artwork is printed at scale over this surface in its original colours and in an appropriate size for a person's hands to cover all of it by running them over the surface. In this way, the planes become three dimensional, sticking out up to 6 millimetres, which makes it possible for the reproductions to be explored via the sense of touch.
This sensorial experience is complemented didactically with a supporting audio guide—in Basque, Spanish and English—specifically developed to guide the interpretation of the painting. Finally, in order to raise awareness of this activity, masks are made available to the public so that anyone can experience the potential of the sense of touch. The additional didactic material also includes panels with comments on the work in Basque and Spanish and artwork labels in Braille.
After more than five years developing the project on-site and welcoming almost 600 participants, the display with the museum's works is starting to tour around different schools in Bizkaia to spread the programme outside the museum itself. The museum is thus expanding its target of making a representative selection from its collection available to individuals with any kind of visual impairment.
The five initial works in this educational programme were recently joined by a new one which completes the set. Now, six works from different periods and masters of art history can be enjoyed with the sense of touch. They include works from the Spanish school, such as The Annunciation by El Greco and Saint Sebastian Tended by the Holy Women by José de Ribera; an Italian Baroque painting, Lot and His Daughters, by Orazio Gentileschi; an Impressionist work, Seated Woman with a Child in Her Arms by Mary Cassatt, one of the most emblematic paintings from that movement; art from the second half of the 20th century, with Lying Figure in Mirror by Francis Bacon; and finally, The Little Village Girl with a Red Carnation by Adolfo Guiard, one of the most representative works from the museum's collection of Basque artists.
In addition to including the new work, the furniture housing the reproductions has been updated to make the tour through the museum more user-friendly.
More than 25 schools have already expressed an interest in this activity, which will be held from the 30th of this month until March 2019, and they will welcome the display with the six pieces. Furthermore, a docent trained by the museum will facilitate the tactile contact with the exhibition while encouraging participants to talk about and share their impressions of the experience.
Along with the sponsorship of Iberdrola, this year the Art to Touch activity is also partnering with the Educational Inclusion Resource Centre for Students with Visual Impairments of Bizkaia from the Department of Education of the Basque Government.
Iberdrola, committed to society
Ever since it was created, Iberdrola has been committed to the development of the energy, culture and society of the communities where it operates. Indeed, the Iberdrola España Foundation is taking yet another step in this direction by spearheading initiatives that contribute to improving people's quality of life. One of the areas in which it works is cultural development, primarily the care and maintenance of the cultural and artistic heritage.
Its partnership with the Fine Arts Museum is framed within this area. This partnership includes support for the Conservation and Restoration Programme, the creation of a training and research grant in the field of conservation and restoration of works of art, and helping to develop didactic activities specifically designed to share the museum's collection with audiences with special needs because of visual or cognitive impairments, or in social insertion programmes.
Information and reservations: Education and Cultural Action Department. Tel. 94 439 61 41.