Archive for the 'Access Programs' Category

The Light and the Dark

What is it about art that speaks to us so deeply? How does it tap into our soul and speak so loudly to us, sometimes even uncomfortably shouting our truths to other people? We spend all of our time hiding the deepest parts of our souls from others around us, sometimes even from the people closest in our lives. But art, this amazing living and breathing thing, shouts our truths back at us and makes us feel emotions that we were positive we had locked away deep in our hearts where they could not escape. Suddenly, there it is. That work of art that is so profound, so fierce, that it stops us in our tracks and we are taken aback. This seemingly unassuming piece vividly screaming out to us and all surrounding us.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Here I was, a four decade veteran of the mind as a psychotherapist, and my mind was the very thing being attacked. I realized something was wrong when I could not get my thoughts straight enough to form words. I could, and can, still speak but there is nothing more frustrating than consistently not being able to think of a word and speak it. My mind has become a tangled web where things often do not make sense and I have to stop and really think about what I want to convey to other people. As parts of my mind grow darker, the more creative and patient I must become–and this is where art has changed my life.

Recently I was able to come to the Museum and spend some time in the quiet stillness of the galleries before it was open to the public during the Meaningful Moments program. As I observed the beauty of this majestic place and wandered the meandering galleries, I took in the colors and the mediums, the brush strokes and the carvings; able to breathe deeply and take in the magnificence of where I was. As I turned the corner of a hallway towards the end of my time at the Museum, I saw a piece that stopped me in my tracks and pulled at my heartstrings.

Jackson Pollock, Cathedral, 1947, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard J. Reis © Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Cathedral is a piece of contemporary art created by the famed Jackson Pollock in 1947. I had never taken stock in contemporary art, really. But this piece stole my heart and was screaming my truth in a way that I didn’t think was actually possible. In this, I see my mind—this mess of black and grey and white. What is the brain if not a mass of neurons, an incredible weaving of all of your thoughts and feelings, experiences and memories; together it creates this masterpiece that we call the brain. Cathedral puts onto canvas what the brain is and more specifically, those who have Alzheimer’s. The beautiful brightness is the living and breathing part of me that is alive, capable of everything. In contrast the inky black is what the Alzheimer’s has taken from me: the plaques, tangles and weaves that steal my mind.

As I sat looking at this enigmatic piece of art, I thought about my experiences over the last two years. I see the parts of me that I had to let go of: my practice, driving, paying the bills. The death of those things is so eloquently represented with the sharp jagged edges of black here. In contrast, I think of all of the things I still have: helping others as much as possible, holding a conversation with my friends, the love of my husband and family. While my brain has betrayed me in ways I cannot express to those who do not suffer from this disease, it has not taken the essence of who I am.

I sit and stare at Cathedral and in it I see who I am: I see that there is a complexity and a depth; there is pain and there is joy, truly a mix of the light and the dark. So often we do not understand that even in illness we are part of a bigger picture; to not let the dark define who we are is what is important. To embrace who and what we are and celebrate ourselves as part of a larger medium of art is the definition of life–for without the dark there would be no light.

Jane McManus
Participant, Meaningful Moments program

Allison Espinosa
Care Advisor, Honor Health Care

Our Harp’s Delight

July’s Meaningful Moments program was all about music as participants explored The Harp Lesson by Jean Antoine Théodore Giroust. While closely examining the 18th century French painting, participants shared their memories related to learning to play a musical instrument.

We were joined in the galleries by harpist Cindy Horstman, who shared her own experiences of learning the harp in college and becoming a professional musician. Cindy brought The Harp Lesson to life as she plucked away at her harp, filling the gallery with music.

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Cindy began by playing “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Johann Sebastian Bach, a piece of music that was popular during the time The Harp Lesson was painted. She also wowed us with a wide-ranging assortment of music including “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles and “Summertime” by George Gershwin, all played from memory!

At the end of the program, participants were already asking when Cindy could return again.

Emily Wiskera
Manager of Access Programs

A Truly Touching Tour

Let’s face itwhen brainstorming ideal field trip locations for a group of blind or visually impaired visitors, a visual arts museum probably wouldn’t be at the top of your list. One might assume that art museums don’t have much to offer visitors with impaired vision. However, when vision teachers from the Dallas Independent School District reached out to the DMA to request a tour in 2014, we were eager to create an unforgettable experience for their students. Each summer, the DMA has welcomed this group of students, whom we work hard to impress—challenging ourselves to bring the collection to life through multi-sensory experiences.

In past vision impairment tours, we have explored artworks in the Sculpture Garden through touch. But as any Texan knows, these surfaces can get pretty hot under the scorching Texas sun, making them uncomfortable to touch. This year, we were thrilled when our conservation team helped us identify several figurative sculptures inside the Museum that were suitable for touch. To help protect the sculptures, students and instructors wore thin gloves as we guided the students’ hands. We also explored the works of art through visual description, discussion, raised line drawings, scents, additional tactile objects, and by acting out poses.

Take a peek at some of our favorite moments of this year’s tour! We are already looking forward to next summer!

Click here for information about Art Beyond Sight programs or to request a tour for visitors who are blind or partially sighted.

Emily Wiskera
Manager of Access Programs

Help Needed: Museum Accessibility Research

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We love collaboration here at the DMA, and when it comes to teamwork, Texas Women’s University occupational therapy students are fantastic additions to our team! Since 2010, the DMA has held quarterly-occurring Autism Awareness Family Celebrations for children with autism and their families to enjoy activities in the Museum before it opens to the public. We have been partnering with TWU’s occupational therapy students led by Dr. Tina Fletcher, OTR, EdD, MFA during these events. The students host the TWU Sensory Room during every Autism Awareness Family Celebration by creating a quiet space filled with weighted blankets, tunnels, and resources for families.

One of Dr. Fletcher’s students, Jennifer Burns, is conducting research about the accessibility of museums for children with special needs here in the United States and in other countries. Please see details from Jennifer below about how you can help:
 

Texas Woman’s University is conducting research investigating parent’s perception of museum accessibility for children with special needs. The study is looking at museum accessibility domestically and internationally.

To be able to participate in this study, you must be a parent or guardian of a child with special needs and have visited at least one museum in the United States and/or abroad. The questionnaire will take 30-60 minutes to complete.

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We appreciate your contributions toward museum accessibility research!

Emily Wiskera
Manager of Access Programs

Making Sense of Art

We’re super exsighted for Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month! Check our schedule to find an art experience involving senses other than sight!

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Dallas Museum of Art Uncrated

This October marks our tenth year of participation in Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month! Coordinated by Art Education for the Blind, Inc., Art Beyond Sight is dedicated to art education for people with vision impairment and to building an inclusive society for promoting access to all. Each October, the Dallas Museum of Art hosts hands-on activities, gallery discussions, art-making experiences, and artist demonstrations that focus on ways to experience art using senses other than vision.

Artist John Bramblitt joins several Art Beyond Sight programs throughout the month of October to talk about his process as a blind painter, and he leads workshops that include adaptive techniques for people with disabilities. Be sure to check out our full schedule of events to discover the variety of ways you can experience art using all your senses!

Emily Wiskera is the Manager of Access Programs at the DMA.

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All Access Guide to the Museum: Dementia

We believe museums should be fun and engaging for everyone, so in this month’s installment of All Access Guide to the Museum, we’d like to share some tips for creating an enjoyable visit for visitors with dementia.

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  • Plan your visit in advance through the DMA’s website to find information about parking, dining options, and more.
  • Take a load off! Wheelchairs are available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. All Museum galleries are accessible to wheelchair users and those who may want to avoid stairs.
  • You don’t have to see it all in one day! Plan to look at only a few works of art that spark your interest and take breaks to sit and reflect. General admission to the Museum is free and you can return again and again!
  • Consider the interests of the person you care for when choosing which galleries of the Museum to visit. You can explore the Museum’s collection online in advance, or see what catches your eyes when you arrive. If the person you care for has a special interest, try searching the Museum’s online collection for related works of art, such as “dog” or “Italy.
  • Spend time with a work of art. Begin by just looking and reflecting. Ask the person you care for to describe what they see using questions about things like colors or shapes. Encourage them to express themselves through movement, such as acting out the facial expression or pose of a portrait. Create your own story to go with a work of art.27800664023_4f799bba63_k
  • Bring some small sensory objects that connect to a work of art. For example, if you are admiring a beach scene, feeling a seashell may inspire more connections to the work of art. You can also listen to music with headphones or repurpose old spice jars into scent jars to evoke the smells of an object.1472657932-dmameaningfulmoments_al001
  • If the person you care for connects with a work of art, take note! You can revisit the object again from the comfort of your home through the DMA’s online collection. Print out images of the object and hang them up in the room of the person you care for, so they can revisit and enjoy them often.
  • If you prefer to plan your visit during non-peak hours, you may want to come September through May (Tuesday-Friday, after 1:00 pm). If you are planning your visit during Summer, Spring Break, or holidays, you may want to visit Tuesday-Friday, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.
  • Some of our galleries are often less crowded and quieter than other areas of the Museum: Wendy & Emery Reves Collection, Decorative Arts & Design, Conservation Studio and Gallery, and Ancient American Art. A map of the Museum is available here. 17170929235_a4656f016b_k

We invite visitors with early stage dementia and their care partners to participate in our monthly art program on the third Tuesday of every month. Designed specifically for individuals with early stage dementia and their family members or caregivers, Meaningful Moments includes a gallery discussion, an interactive component, and an art-making activity. Participants will have the chance to relax and connect with art in the galleries, share stories, and gain inspiration.

You can find out more from our recent Meaningful Moments profile in the Dallas Morning News. The program is free, but reservations are required and space is limited. For more information or to register, call 214-922-1324 or e-mail access@DMA.org.

Emily Wiskera
Manager of Access Programs

All Access Guide to the Museum: Autism

For any visitor, going to a museum has the potential to be an overwhelming experience. Large crowds, new sensory experiences, an unknown environment, and expectations of best behavior can act as barriers to enjoying a day at the museum. This can be especially true for visitors with special needs. But is that a reason to avoid museums altogether? No way!

In this series, we’ll explore tips and tricks for creating a great Museum experience for visitors with special needs. First up in our All Access Guide to the Museum series is Autism!

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  • Reviewing a social story before your Museum visit may help your child understand what to expect. This can meet a need for structure and predictability, and help to reduce the stress or confusion your child may experience throughout their visit. Find a social story for your DMA visit here!
  • Make your visit child-sized and focus on just a few works of art that spark your child’s curiosity. Don’t feel like you need to see everything in one day. General admission to the Museum is free and you can return again and again!
  • Pass the reins to the kids and follow their interests! Let them choose where to go and what to see, then give their imaginations a workout. You might search for favorite colors or animals, act out a story you see in the artwork, or play a game of I Spy.
  • Children may prefer to sit and participate in quiet activities, such as drawing or playing a game. Find places within the galleries that allow for quiet time, such as one of the benches found around the Museum or open spaces to sit on the floor. Bring along a sketchbook and colored pencils to experience the art in an interactive way.
  • Take a break! Adding breaks to your Museum visit may help children spend more time touring the galleries and increase their overall enjoyment. Find a quiet place to take a break that is free of auditory, visual, and tactile stimulation. For example, the walls in the Ancient American galleries are a calm, muted grey tone complimented by low lighting. This creates a more soothing atmosphere for children who are sensitive to bright light or may become distracted with too much visual stimulation.

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  • Children are welcome to wear noise canceling headphones or listen to music during their time at the Museum. This may be helpful if they respond negatively to unexpected or loud noises, hold their hands over their ears to protect them from sounds, become distracted around a lot of sounds, or can’t work with background noise.
  • Allowing children to carry a small object or favorite toy during their visit may enable them to focus more fully.
  • Children who have sensory seeking tendencies may display a need to touch certain surfaces or textures. Providing them with opportunities throughout their Museum visit to touch and interact with exhibits may be helpful in increasing their enjoyment. Although the majority of items in the Museum should not be touched, a few galleries do include interactive elements, such as the playable thumb piano in the African gallery. For more interactive experiences, head down to the Center for Creative Connections on the first floor where you can visit Arturo’s Nest and the Young Learners Gallery. Both are “please touch” spaces where kids can crawl, explore, and play.
  •  If you prefer to plan your visit during non-peak hours, you may want to come September through May (Tuesday-Friday, after 1:00 pm). If you are planning your visit during Summer, Spring Break, or holidays, you may want to visit Tuesday-Friday, 11:00 to 1:00 pm.

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  • Visit the Museum during our next Autism Awareness Family Celebration, when we open two hours early for children with autism and their families to enjoy art together! Families can participate in art-making activities in the studio, enjoy an interactive performance by our music therapist, listen to an in-gallery story time, or relax in our quiet sensory room facilitated by occupational therapy students from Texas Woman’s University.

We hope to see you soon!

Emily Wiskera
McDermott Graduate Intern for Family and Access Teaching


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