Blind at the Museum



On March 11 and 12 2005, the Blind at the Museum conference brought together scholars, artists and museum professionals to explore issues of intellectual access to visual art.  Questions under discussion included: What is the relation between seeing and knowing, between words and images?  To what extent are traditional notions of beauty founded in sight or seeing, and how are these notions being transformed and called into question precisely within that site of beauty, the museum?   How do artists with impaired sight represent their visual experience?  What role can technology play, as both tool and artistic medium,  in the accessible museum of the future?

{read the curator's statement by clicking here}




Friday March 11

4 - 4:50 pm            
Keynote lecture, Georgina Kleege, English Department, UC Berkeley

Dream Museum Blindness, Language, Art.

{read this lecture by clicking here}

Georgina Kleege is the author of a novel, Home for the Summer and a collection of personal essays about blindness, Sight Unseen.  Her work appears frequently in such journals as Raritan, Southwest Review and The Yale Review.  She teaches creative writing and disability studies in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley.  Her latest book, Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller is forthcoming from Gallaudet University Press

Introduced by Susan Schweik, English Department, UC Berkeley

5 - 6 pm
Artist Panel

Alice Wingwall, Artist, Berkeley

Alice Wingwall is an artist who works in a wide range of media, including photography, sculpture, and film.  Wingwall has earned numerous awards for her work, and for her film, Miss BlindSight: The Wingwall Auditions. She serves on the Board of Trustees for the Creative Growth Center in Oakland, as well as for the Kronos Performing Arts Association. Her work has been featured in the SF Chronicle and SPARK/KQED. 

Kurt Weston, Artist, Los Angeles

A successful professional fashion and commercial photographer, Kurt Weston became legally blind in 1996 due to an AIDS-related condition.  Now a fine art photographer, Weston creates a wide variety of images, including his current focus on touchable photography, aimed at creating increased accessibility to the arts for the blind viewer.

Michael Richard, Artist, Los Angeles

Legally blind since January 2002, Michael Richard has a long career as a successful musician.  His vision enables him to see the graphic, pronounced elements which he composes.  His work as a photographer has garnered great attention and reviews, including a recent review in the Los Angeles Times. 

Pedro Hidalgo, Artist, Oakland

An artist originally from Cuba, now living in the bay area, Pedro Hidalgo is a photographer who emphasizes humor, landscape, and religion in his work.  Legally blind since birth (a condition of near-sightedness/myopia), Hidalgo uses the camera to emphasize and depict his fascination with color, light, and theater

Moderator:  Kari Orvik, Lighthouse for the Blind

For the past 3 years Kari Orvik has been the Lighthouse for the Blind’s Exhibition Coordinator for Insights, a national, juried art exhibition of works by blind and visually impaired artists at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery in City Hall. She is currently the Program Marketing and Outreach associate at the Lighthouse and serves on the Access Advisory Committee for the Asian Art Museum. She is a graduate of Stanford University in Comparative Literature.

6 - 7 pm             

Saturday March 12

10 - 10:45 am             
Lecture, Andrew Potok, Artist and Writer
What Is It and Who Makes It:  Art Reconsidered

Andrew Potok was a Josef Albers trained painter for 20 years. When retinitis pigmentosa impeded his central vision, he turned to writing and has published 3 books, including Ordinary Daylight and A Matter of Dignity as well as many articles.

Introduced by Paul Longmore, History Department, San Francisco State

11 - 11: 55 am
Medicine & Technology Panel

Michael F. Marmor, Ophthalmology Department, Stanford University
The Blind Vision of Degas and Monet (with thoughts on the rationale for painting)

Michael F. Marmor is Professor of Ophthalmology at the Stanford Medical School, and Faculty Member in Human Biology at Stanford.   He is also co-editor of The Eye of the Artist, and author of Degas Through his own Eyes: Visual Disability and the Late Style of Degas.

Hesham M. Kamel, The College of Information Technology (CIT), United Arab Emirate University
Understanding the Sound of Silence

Hesham Kamel recently joined the University of United Arab Emirat as a computer science professor. He works at the intersection between cognitive science and computer science.  He develops technologies to both represent, and support, those with visual impairment.  His research, and numerous publications, address issues of:  User Interface for the blind and visually impaired; contextual feedback for visually impaired artists; and computer-aided drawing techniques. He studies blind drawing practice, and the creation of graphical information without the reliance upon the visual channel.

Moderator: Dan Gillette, UC Berkeley & Stanford University

Dan Gillette is chair of the Innovative Technology for Autism Workgroup at Cure Autism Now, and an independent consultant in product design, education, and disability. 

12 - 1:30 pm
break/lunch Box Lunches provided for all speakers (Conference Room, BAM)

1:30 - 2:15 pm
Lecture, Joseph Grigely, Visual and Critical Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago


Joseph Grigely is an artist whose work involves the performative act of conversational exchange. He has had solo shows at the Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London; the Musée d'art Moderne in Paris; The Whitney Museum of American Art; the Barbican Center, London; Air de Paris, Paris; and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. His group shows include the 2000 Whitney Biennial; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Portikus, Frankfurt; Kunsthaus, Zürich; and the Venice, Berlin, Istanbul and Sydney Biennials.  He has also published Textualterity: Art, Theory, and Textual Criticism (1995) and Conversation Pieces (1998), as well as essays on body criticism. He has a D.Phil. from Oxford.

Introduced by Beth Dungan, Center for Medicine, the Humanities, and Law, UC Berkeley

2:20 - 3:40 pm
Disability Studies Panel

Catherine Kudlick, History Department, UC Davis
Blindness: A Touching History

Catherine Kudlick teaches history at UC Davis.  She is the author of Cholera in Post-Revolutionary Paris: a Cultural History (1996), and with Zina Weygand, Reflections: The Life and Writing of a Young Blind Woman in Post-Revolutionary France (2001; 2004 in French).  She has published essays in journals such as The American Historical Review, The Radical History Review, Signs, and in several edited collections.  She is working on a comparative historical study of attitudes toward blind people and blindness in modern France and America.

Michael Davidson, Department of Literature, UC San Diego
Nostalgia for Light: Re-siting Modernist Ocularcentrism

{read Nostaligia by clicking here}

Michael Davidson is professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego.  His scholarly works include: The San Francisco Renaissance: Poetics and Community at Mid-Century, Ghostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material Word and Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics.  He is the editor of The New Collected Poems of George Oppen.  He is the author of eight books of poetry, the most recent of which is The Arcades, and (with Lyn Hejinian, Barrett Watten, and Ron Silliman) Leningrad.   He is completing a book dealing with the work of disability in an age of globalization.

Simi Linton, Disability/Arts; University Seminar in Disability Studies, Columbia University.
Body/Art: Riding High at the Guggenheim

As President of Disability/Arts and Co-Director, University Seminar in Disability Studies, Columbia University, Simi Linton has written Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity and many other articles about disability studies, and disability and the arts. Linton has just completed a memoir, My Body Politic, forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press.

Moderator: Alice Sheppard, English Department, Pennsylvania State University

Alice Sheppard is currently an Ed Roberts Post-Doctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley. She teaches in the English Department at Penn State.  Her research examines representations of disability in Old English literature. 

3:45 - 4:45 pm
Museum Studies Panel

Tish Brown, Access Coordinator, the Legion of Honor

As access coordinator for the Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum, Tish Brown works with a panel of expert advisors and museum staff to make the museums accessible for all.

Katherine Hales, Creative Manager, Antenna Audio

In her recent thesis, entitled “Developing Audio Description Tours for Blind and Visually Impaired Audiences in American Art Museums,” Hales explores a range of issues including the nature of description and the intersection between the visual and the auditory.  Now working at Antenna Audio, Hales can apply her research to a diversity of audiences, serving the needs of blind and visually impaired audiences, and others.

Rebecca McGinnis, Access Coordinator, Associate Museum Educator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rebecca McGinnis is Access Coordinator and Associate Museum Educator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has 14 years' experience in the field of access to museums for people with disabilities, with particular interest in access to interpretation and information for people who are blind and partially sighted. She recently co-authored Art and the Alphabet: A Tactile Experience, an innovative children's book combining introductory Braille, tactile pictures, and images of works of art. She was previously Director of Making Sense Access Consultancy in the UK and USA, and worked at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal National Institute for the Blind in London. She has Masters Degrees in Art History and Museum Studies, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Cognitive Psychology at Teachers College Columbia, focusing on tactile perception and visual impairment.

Robert B. Greer, Director, Low Vision Clinic, UC Berkeley

As a practicing optometrist and Director of the Low Vision Clinic at UC Berkeley, Greer works with the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment and management of visual impairment, along with rehabilitation. He teaches numerous courses about the visual system and clinical experiences, including custom-designed optical systems, electronic magnification systems and computer hardware and software solutions.

Moderator: Dominique Moody, Artist

Dominique Moody’s assemblages and constructions have been exhibited in galleries and museums nationally.  Recent exhibits of her work include:  Finding Family Stories, which traveled to the Japanese American National Museum and the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, and Sweet Equity:  In Search of Mother Home, in Houston.  Moody was the recipient of a Fellowship Grant from the California Community Foundation and the Getty Grant Program and the Arts Partnership Project Grant.

Moderator: Olivia Raynor, National Arts and Disability Center, UCLA

Olivia Raynor, PhD is the Co-Director of the Tarjan Center and founding Director of the National Arts and Disability Center (NADC) at the University of California Los Angeles. Professionally trained in Occupational Therapy and Educational Psychology, she has served more than twenty-five years as a national leader on topics such as cultural inclusion, career development for emerging and established artists with disabilities, audience outreach and  accessibility to the arts. Currently she is conducting the first national study of performers with disabilities for the Screen Actors Guild.


4:50 - 5:30 pm
Lecture:  Christine Leahey, Independent Curator

Blind Curious

{read Blind Curious by clicking here}

A s curator of the recent exhibition “The View From Here: Visual Art by Artists Who Are Visually Impaired and Blind” at LA Artcore in Los Angeles, Christine Leahey has a committed understanding of visuality and access.  Formerly an administrator at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, Leahey is now addressing issues of art and blindness through her independent research, writing, and curatorial projects.

Introduction by Katherine Sherwood, Art Department, UC Berkeley

Funding for Blind at the Museum is generously provided by University of California Humanities Research Institute; the Flora Family Foundation; and, at UC Berkeley: Arts and Humanities; Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities; Consortium for the Arts; Center for Medicine, the Humanities, and Law; Departments of English and Art Practice; School of Optometry; and Disability Studies.