Last week, I accompanied LightHouse art teacher GK Callahan, Project Insights Theresa Navarro and blind musician and painter Charles Blackwell on a visit to California College of the Arts. CCA sculpture instructor Kota Ezawa and his students approached GK about the possibility of making a sculpture installation for the Please Touch Community Garden.
GK is collaborating with the LightHouse on the Please Touch garden. He was awarded a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission to re-imagine the neglected plot of land adjacent to the LightHouse and just across from City Hall.
I was really excited to have an excuse to return to my alma mater. But, I was a little skeptical about the idea of putting a “light sculpture” in a garden geared toward visually impaired visitors, myself included. GK wanted Theresa, Charles and I to hear the various proposals that the students had put together for their garden installation and to provide feedback.
I prepared some notes about total blindness, low vision, color blindness and light sensitivity to help the students think about how their proposed art pieces may or may not illuminate the experience of the garden. But happily, I discovered that most of my notes were not really necessary.
The students’ proposals were awesome! It was clear that they had done a great deal of research into the blindness community. Their use of “light” in the proposed sculptures is somewhat figurative; one will not need light perception to enjoy the installation. And their use of the word “sculpture” is not fixed either. The students are devising ways for LightHouse community to be involved in the actual making of the piece.
Charles gave the students powerful suggestions about collaborating, based on his many years of playing in bands and teaching art in prisons. Theresa contributed fun ideas about accessible art from her work with the kids at Project Insights—the City’s park and rec program for visually impaired children. And GK filled Kota and the students in on the many steps involved in working with a nonporift, city government and arts funders.
We reviewed several light sculpture proposals during our visit to CCA. The final decision is up to Kota, GK and the CCA students. Whatever they decide, I know it will make for exciting, integrated art for sighted and blind visitors to the Please Touch Community Garden.
–Amber DiPietra, LightHouse Resource Specialist.