Fort Worth

Amon Carter Museum Gives Blind Hands-on Art Experience

Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum of American Art is filled with visual masterpieces.

But the museum is now reaching out to a particular group of visitors and their other senses.

One can see intricate details in paintings and the beauty of sculptures in the museum's halls, but for people with low or no vision it's a much different experience.

"I don't think I've ever been to this museum before," said Shawn Keen. "Museums are an area that's always been cut off to us. I mean, sure you can bring a spouse to describe what they see."

But it's certainly not the same. However, Keen is now able to see that art for himself thanks to tactile tools that allow him to touch and feel the art. The tools include braille as well as two-dimensional simplified depictions of the art hanging on the wall.

"Using my hands and feeling things is something I'm accustomed to," Keen said.

He may soon become accustomed to this new program offered by the museum. Close Encounters is a group tour that features audio descriptions, conversations about the art and additional items, like fabric and rope, to give the visitor a sense of what is being described.

"It helps kind of what you can't explain through the texture of the paint and things like that," said Peggy Sell, interpretation manager for the museum. "It helps enrich what looks so lush and yummy on the canvas."

October was the first time the museum held the program. Sell said they have five tactile paintings so far, although only four are currently on display. The museum plans to add even more, as they want to bring in visitors that might not otherwise go to the museum.

"We're back on people's radar that we might not have been for years," Sell said. "And so, personally, that's why I do what I do. I love that feeling of someone else gets to enjoy some of my favorite art works."

And if Keen is any indication, he and others plan on doing just that after a positive experience.

"The representations of the paintings, along with the audio description, really gives me a clear picture of what's hanging on the wall," Keen said.

The program is held every other month. The tools are available every day the museum is open though. Sell said it's best to call ahead to make sure they're available, in case a school might be visiting.

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