Prior to the opening of the exhibition in the Gallery at Salisbury Library I felt I had to be proactive and make sure the public knew that it was on. I sent details to Meridian South, BBC Radio Solent. the local press, local blind clubs and organisations. I also said that I would attend every day for the three weeks it was on show.
To say I was astounded at the public reaction would be an understatement. Meridian covered the opening and later filmed me in my studio. BBC Radio Solent invited me into their studios for a half hour show. The local press gave me coverage and as a result every day the gallery was full, some visitors returning again and again. Children who had been brought in by schools, returning at the weekend with their parents.
I learnt so much from the total cross section of visitors. A man blind from birth said that he did not know what he was feeling but after a while said ” I like the idea of touching a painting”, a woman who had lost her sight said that she loved the idea that she could feel art again. Young children told me that ” it tickles my fingers, it makes me smile, it is funny, it makes me happy”. The gallery was full of conversation the work encouraged interactive responses.
Another group was brought in from a local club who care for adults with learning difficulties. I had to constantly reassure them I would like them to touch my paintings. I promised they would not get into trouble.
The group moved from painting to painting, not in any particular order, just the ones they were attracted to. One woman came and took my hand and stood me in front of ANGELS CONFETTI, she said ” I like it best because it feels nice and it reminds of Christmas, I always go home to Scotland at Christmas and see my Mummy and Daddy and that makes me happy.” I painted it because it snowed on my daughter’s wedding day and this woman felt happy because it reminded her of Christmas. She saw, felt and read her own story.
Within a few days I knew that I had created an exhibition of paintings that did not exclude anyone. By being able to touch the painting Visually Impaired visitors, Adults with learning difficulties, young children, as well as the mainstream visitors could all be part of the art experience. MAGIC
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