SARASOTA, FL – Upon entering the courtyard or galleries of The Ringling, you can’t help but immediately see and admire the beauty of the works of art all around you. But what if you have limited or no vision – will art forever be off-limits to enjoy? Thanks to a partnership of Lighthouse of Manasota and The Ringling, that answer is emphatically “No!”
Lighthouse of Manasota is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers those affected by vision loss so that they may enjoy happy, healthy and independent lives. Its programs – for those with all levels of vision loss and all ages – are completely free. About 20 years ago, Lighthouse and The Ringling began working together to incorporate special art tours into Lighthouse’s eight-week Adjustment to Vision Loss course, which teaches adaptive methods and techniques to perform everyday tasks.
Scores of Lighthouse clients have enjoyed art through tours with Ringling Museum educators, who use incredibly detailed descriptions of the artwork so that participants can visualize the works in their minds. On a recent tour, Museum Education & Training Specialist Erin Carter, School and Teacher Program Coordinator Katie Nickel, and Barancik Community Engagement Fellow Ana Juarez led Lighthouse clients Richard Draper, Cathy Rushwin and Jeff Martin in a tour that included a replica of “The Capitoline Wolf” statue, the replica of Michelangelo’s “David” that stands in the courtyard, and the painting “Portrait of a Young Lady” by Johann Georg Ziesenis.
After hearing detailed descriptions of the pieces’ historical significance, color, texture, poses and facial expressions, sensory elements were added. Tour participants donned gloves and were able to feel “The Capitoline Wolf.” They were offered a 3D-printed mini-statue of “David” to explore. And tactile printouts of the portrait helped the participants to complete the picture in their minds.
The tour ended at Noël Nicolas Coypel’s “Louise Élisabeth, Madame la Princesse de Conti, as Venus,” the artwork that is serving as the signature piece for Lighthouse of Manasota’s annual fundraiser, Art in the Dark, which takes place on April 13. For the past four years, Lighthouse and The Ringling have partnered on this event, with Ringling educators helping guests to experience the signature painting the way Lighthouse clients do: by using their other senses. Guests will close their eyes and feel tactile objects related to the painting. The Asolo Rep’s head costume designer is recreating the dress from the painting and an actor will be walking around in the dress during cocktail hour and providing a photo opportunity for guests.
Lighthouse of Manasota Rehabilitation Aide Cathy Rushwin, who is visually impaired, says the benefits of the art tour are immeasurable.
“I have tunnel vision and, therefore, can see only a very small portion of a painting. Ringling staff described the details of the pieces so thoroughly it helped me to visualize the beauty of the painting in its entirety,” Rushwin said. “To hear the details of the background of a portrait described, along with the facial expressions, style of clothes and accessories, meant that I could visualize the entire painting. It was very interesting to hear the history of the painting and information about the artist as well. It was a lovely way to enjoy the artwork.”
To learn more about the programs and services of Lighthouse of Manasota, call 941-359-1404 or go to lighthouseofmanasota.org.
About Lighthouse of Manasota
The mission of Lighthouse of Manasota is to educate and empower those affected by vision loss so they may enjoy happy, healthy and independent lives. The organization’s vision is to transform the community so those with vision loss have the opportunity to participate, contribute and rise to their fullest potential. To learn more, call 941-359-1404 or go to lighthouseofmanasota.org.
The Ringling is the State Art Museum of Florida, a center for art and history situated on 66 magnificent acres on the shores of Sarasota Bay. It is built on the remarkable legacy of John Ringling and his wife Mable. The Ringling features the Museum of Art, Ca’ d’Zan Mansion, two Circus Museums, Bayfront Gardens, the Art Library, and the Historic Asolo Theater. Affiliated with Florida State University, it is one of the largest university art centers in the nation. Visit ringling.org for more information and to plan your visit.