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VISUALLY IMPAIRED FIND ART AT THEIR FINGERTIPS A BARNES PROGRAM TEACHES PEOPLE WITH POOR VISION TO EXPERIENCE PAINTINGS THROUGH TOUCH.

By Anne Barnard, INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT December 24, 1996
MERION — High above Andrea Mullock's head, sinuous gray figures dance and sprawl across stark stripes of salmon pink, blue and black.
She is sitting on a bench beneath Henri Matisse's Merion Dance Mural, which the artist painted specially for Albert C. Barnes. It fills three connected arches high above the windows of the main gallery of the Barnes Foundation building, which Barnes built in 1922 to hold his vast collection of impressionist paintings.
Mullock can't see it. She is legally blind. She turns her attention to a soft, rubbery sheet on her lap, stamped with raised outlines of the mural's figures and stripes. Between the lines, different textures represent different colors. Thin-edged circles stand for pink; smaller, rough dots for gray. ``It feels really beautiful,'' she says, running her fingers across the picture over and over. ``The movement of color - it feels beautiful.'' Mullock, 37, of Gladwyne, came to the gallery last week for the opening of a Barnes program designed to help blind and visually impaired people experience art. And they stroked the tactile reproductions made by Denise Lasprogata, 23, of Wynnewood. She said she dreamed them up after she invented Braille clothing tags to help visually impaired people color-coordinate their outfits. It made sense to start with Matisse, she said, partly because as his sight failed in later life, he began to work with paper cutouts and flat planes of color.  Lasprogata said she brought the idea to the foundation last spring because of Albert Barnes' efforts to bring art to working people, African Americans, and others who traditionally did not have easy access to the art world. ``I thought it would fit right in,'' Lasprogata said. The Barnes pounced on the idea. Lasprogata got to work making the reproductions - including a half-life-size version of the Matisse mural.

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WILDENSTEIN EXHIBIT- A TOUCH OF PICASSO

New York Daily News. April 29, 2000The blind are generally totally disregarded by the gallery world, but Wildenstein & Co. has developed an innovative exhibition of thirty cancelled etched plates by Picasso to reveal his genius to those who cannot see. Along with the copper plates of the painter's illustrations for Ovid's Metamorphoses are "tactiles", raised-line graphics that duplicate the plates, plus descriptions in Braille so the blind can feel the quality of Picasso's linear draftsmanship while reading the text. For these tactiles, Wildenstein recruited Denise Lasprogata, director of the Wynnewood, Pennsylvania-based Touch the Arts, which also produces materials for the Barnes Foundation. Sighted Picasso enthusiasts will appreciate the plates particularly because only a single edition of the cancelled etchings was printed.

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VON LIEBIG TO HOST ART EXHIBIT FOR VISUALLY IMPAIRED

From the Naples Daily News. August 29, 2016

The exhibits this fall will be much the same. There will be some tactile exhibits that anyone can touch and feel to understand. Some exhibits will have information translated into braille. Blind artists will make art and teach classes and people with good vision will be encouraged to experience art as if they have poor vision, using blindfolds, etc.

Helping with the plans for the exhibit is Denise Lasprogata, director of Touch the Arts, a program that interprets art for the visually impaired. Lasprogata had a high school friend who lost her vision at a young age and had trouble picking out clothing to wear. Lasprogata developed clothing tags that were machine washable and identified the colors using braille. While living in New York, Lasprogata helped those with visual impairments shop for clothing, then label it. At one point, she even worked for Stevie Wonder.

Lasprogata draws the most basic lines of famous paintings, uploads the drawings into a computer program and then prints it out using special ink and paper. That paper is then fed through another machine that reads the blank ink, heats it and raises it so the picture can be felt.

To achieve the finished image, Lasprogata adds a few more lines to her original free-hand drawing, repeating the process for a series of plates that offers museum visitors a series of increasingly complicated pictures they can feel. Introducing the picture in piecemeal helps themrecreate it in their minds.

Lasprogata runs her interpretations past a group of visually impaired consultants who tell her whether the series of images works.

"It's really them teaching you," she said. "The dots can't be too close and spacing elements are really critical."

Other exhibits Lasprogata has worked on included the use of QR codes so visitors to the museum could scan exhibits and have descriptions read aloud to them through their smart phones.

Over many years of mounting these exhibits at the Barnes Foundation, the Wildenstein Gallery, the China Institute, the Musee de L'Eysee and the St. Petersburg Museum, among others, Lasprogata said she has seen many grateful clients learn how to appreciate the arts for themselves.

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ACCESSIBLE PHOTOGRAPHY FOR THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED

From The Eye of Photography. October 25, 2016.It’s a world first: a major photographic institution has made available to the blind and visually impaired a selection of images from its collection. For World Sight Day on October 13th, the Musée de l’Elysée of Lausanne in Switzerland unveiled its innovative project. About twenty tactile photographs have already been produced. There will be thirty-one by spring 2017. They can be accessed at the museum or are available on line. A nude by Gertrude Fehr, an aquatic scene by Hans Steiner and an early colour photograph from the end of the 19th century appear in the selection.
The photos are printed on paper with microcapsules that react to heat. The images are converted into lines and circles,while the shadows, highlights and colors are given separately via  sounds or in braille. The photos can be downloaded from the museum’s website, thanks to a format that allows relief printing. The tactile prints are then made on an appropriate printer.
The project for the blind and visually impaired is part of the cultural mediation of the canton, which has a social integration role. In this case, the Musée de l’Elysée is a partner in the program with Touch the Arts, directed by the American Denise Lasprogata and she conceived these programmes of accessibility to the arts by sound and touch.