Arts & Disability Ireland got in touch with Stuart Lawler from NCBI’s Rehabilitation Training Centre to see if we could offer an audio described tour of our exhibition A Different Republic to some of the centre’s students. Audrey Tormey one of the centre’s staff took up this mantle and asked the students if they would be interested in a visit to a visual art gallery. Ten students and accompanying staff from NCBI joined us in the LAB Gallery based in Foley Street, Dublin 1 on the 24th of January for the audio described tour.
To set the context A Different Republic, was a visual art exhibition by Aideen Barry, Amanda Coogan, Corban Walker and Suzanne Walsh, exploring universal human rights in a year of commemorations, being both the centenary of 1916 and the 20 year anniversary of the Irish government’s landmark report of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities ‘A Strategy for Equality’. It ran at the LAB Gallery between the 17th of November 2016 and the 5th of February 2017. It was co curated by Arts & Disability Ireland and Fire Station Artists’ Studios in partnership with the LAB Gallery.
Bríd Ní Ghruagáin led the audio described tour and Sheena Barrett, The LAB Gallery’s curator, was on hand to answer any questions about the exhibition. They made a great team. Bríd offered verbal descriptions of the art works, guided people to touch some of the work and got people thinking about the work for themselves while Sheena gave insights into what the artists were trying to say and why they used certain materials.
When we commissioned the artists to create these new works they were asked to consider access for all types of audiences that might come through the doors of the LAB Gallery. In particular all four artists thought about how they could enhance the experience of their work by audiences with visual impairments.
Amanda Coogan gave us permission to touch the wall of silver emergency blankets and blue rubbish bags. Alongside the green and white pram filled with rotting oranges that were part of her installation. Suzanne Walsh made audio recordings reading her poetry works aloud. Suzanne also gave us permission to touch the vinyl text that was on the windows of the gallery facing onto the street. Aideen Barry kindly loaned us a blank accordion note book and a mini projector for audiences to touch. Both of these objects featured inside her wooden vitrines that housed her drawings and projections. Corban Walker chose to print his images on vinyl so that people would be able to touch and walk on the works mounted on the windows, walls and floor of the gallery.
Bríd is an audio describer with a wealth of knowledge and she created a really interesting experience for the students that included verbal descriptions, touch experiences and playing recordings of the artists talking about the work they had made through the Discovery Pens.
It was a delight to hear all of the thought provoking questions from the group.