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ARTS: Multi-sensory art exhibition in Ballina

Going Out
Bringing art to the people – all the people

A new multi-sensory exhibition at Ballina Arts Centre gives real weight to the expression ‘accessible art’

An exhibition of works from the collections of Mayo County Council, South Tipperary County Council and the Irish Museum of Modern Art opened to the public on Friday, August 14, at the Ballina Arts Centre. ‘Altered Images’ includes work by artists Thomas Brezing, David Creedon, Alice Maher, Caroline McCarthy and Abigail O’Brien, with specially commissioned works by Amanda Coogan and Daphne Wright.
Accessible, interactive and inclusive in ethos, ‘Altered Images’ aims to stimulate engagement with the visual arts for the general public – particularly for people with disabilities.
The idea that a visual art exhibition should be accessible to all is not a new one, most museums and galleries have an access programme that enables people with disabilities to experience art works. However, the idea of selecting an entire exhibition with an emphasis on accessibility in a multi-dimensional way is relatively new in Ireland.
The exhibition aims to enhance people’s engagement with the works through the tactility of relief models, by listening to audio and artist descriptions and by viewing the sign-language interpretation by Amanda Coogan.
Altered Images works on many levels. Firstly, curatorial decisions were taken to ensure a cohesive body of work. The selected artworks all make reference to classical or art historical sources, either in the method of depiction or in their subject matter.
While each of the partner organisations has very different collections in terms of capacity and the period of time they have been collecting, it was agreed at the outset that each would be represented equally. Each artwork is accompanied by a multi-sensory display in order to provide meaningful access.
In addition, the large-print exhibition catalogue is available in  audio-CD and Braille format on request. Sign-language tours are available by arrangement and an accessible website for the project can be found at www.alteredimages.ie
In the Altered Images catalogue, Padraig Naughton, the director of Arts and Disability Ireland, comments on the innovative nature of the exhibition: “What makes Altered Images an advance on what has gone before in an Irish context is the curation of a whole exhibition that has a multi-sensory approach to access, thus having an inclusive appeal that will reach the widest audience possible.
“While in my reflections I have concentrated predominantly on my access requirements as a visually-impaired person, Altered Images intends to provide access solutions that are cross-impairment.”
Naughton explains that this means that the exhibition should be as interesting and as accessible to a disabled audience as it is to a non-disabled audience, adding that he hoped that this would encourage “disabled people and their families and friends to come and explore the exhibition together” and allow “people who are blind or deaf [for example] to explore the conceptual nature of visual and sound art alongside non-disabled people.”
Altered Images, which was first shown at South Tipperary County Museum from June 20 to August 5, continues at Ballina Arts Centre until September 30. It will tour to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 2010. 

> Ballina Arts Centre is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 3pm. For more information, contact the centre at 096 73593 or info@ballinaartscentre.com , or visit www.ballinaartscentre.com .