New Multi-Sensory Art Project Installed

Posted on June 20, 2022

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UNC Greensboro’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) and the Industries of the Blind (IOB) announces the third iteration of a public art piece, which tells the stories of the blind and low-visioned using sight, sound, and touch.   

The installation is located at the IOB building at the corner of Gate City Boulevard and Tate Street, one of the main entrances to the UNC Greensboro campus, and is the culmination of an innovative collaboration between the IOB and the CVPA’s Schools of Art and Music as well as Interior Architecture, University Libraries, and the Creative Writing MFA program. 

Sight:  Students in Professor Mariam Stephan’s Advanced Drawing class were paired with IOB employees for a series of conversations focused on ideas of independence, empowerment, and access.  Based on those conversations, the students created paintings, which were then printed on 8′ x10′ banners hung on the side of the IOB building. 

Sound:  Art History students with Assistant Professor  Nicole Scalissi worked with the painters to record verbal descriptions of the paintings and narratives surrounding their creation. Music composition students under the direction of Professor Mark Engebretson created musical works inspired by the narratives and paintings. To hear these narratives and compositions, participants can press a button on audio boxes under the banners, which were designed and constructed by Derek Toomes’s Interior Architecture students.

Touch:  Not only can the paintings be viewed, they can also be experienced by the blind and low-visioned through touch. Installed beneath each banner is a touchable bas-relief ceramic sculpture created by Hugh Bryant’s Ceramics III students. These artworks represent a three-dimensional interpretation of the banners.

Images, audio material, transcripts, and more stories will be publicly available online through a website designed by Assistant Professor Maggie Murphy and hosted by UNCG University Libraries.

Industries of the Blind will host a presentation of the project at 10:00 am on June 28th at their facility located at 914 West Gate City Boulevard in Greensboro.

This is the third iteration of a four-year project. Chris Cassidy, Director of the School of Art at UNCG and organizer for this year’s iteration of the project, says this about the collaboration:

“This has been a tremendous project that has seen a sustained commitment by faculty and students from across the University. The opportunity to learn about the associates at Industries of the Blind, and the challenge of translating that experience into works of art that are shared with the wider public, is a great example of how UNCG’s community-engaged work can have a powerful impact on everyone involved.”

In earlier interviews about the project, Richard Oliver, Director of Community Outreach at Industries of the Blind, and Sean MacInnes, UNCG’s Sustainability Specialist talked about the success of the partnership:

“Industries of the Blind is proud to collaborate with UNCG on such a tremendous project,” said Oliver. These pieces of art capture the journeys of our associates and show the empowerment and sense of achievement that all Industries of the Blind associates strive for as they work towards their American Dream.”

MacInnes said about the project, “The heart of UNCG’s mission is to make the world a better place by building thriving and vibrant communities. This project, with its synergistic connections to the environment, economics, aesthetics, and social equity, is an embodiment of that mission. This isn’t just a simple beautification or place-making project. It is a collaborative effort, it encourages interaction, and it elevates the connections we have with each other and with the places in which we live, work, and play.”

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