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Breaking barriers with installations for differently-abled

Breaking the barriers of disability and making art inclusive and accessible for the differently-abled, the tactile experiential programme called “Senses” at the Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) has enabled the visually-impaired to get a feel of the exhibits at the Adil Shah palace in Panaji.

This has been conceptualized by art access consultant, Siddhant Shah, where differently-abled visitors, children and senior citizens got an opportunity to engage in the act of ‘viewing’ art with the help of touch.

“In a space for social and educational engagement, the Senses project acts as catalyst to allow intellectual and social access to those demographics who are otherwise overwhelmed and do not participate in these events,” Shah said.

With the ‘Please Touch’ signage contrasting the conventional ‘Do Not Touch’ warnings often seen at galleries, Shah opened up a fresh avenue by including the differently-abled and the elderly.

Physical maps, braille books, tactile reproductions of art works on display and braille-equipped signage are part of the exercise. “These enable visitors to understand the various aspects of the artworks through multiple senses. The products and the ideas designed will allow a wide range of interactions with the artworks on display, thus making it universal to a large section of the society,” Shah said.

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Art you can touch, smell and hear

At the ongoing Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa, Siddhant Anisha Shah was kept busy by visitors “looking” at a photography exhibition. Young from the National Association for the Blind, Goa, huddled around four monochrome portraits by Chandan Khanna; Shah, a 26-year-old culture and art access consultant, had made tactile reproductions of these photographs, allowing his young audience to know more about these works through touch.

Part of his larger aim to make the visual arts accessible for the disabled, Shah’s ‘Senses at Serendipity’ was his way of getting the visually challenged students to appreciate portraiture. The tactile photograph brings out the nuances and definitions in Khanna’s photographs. “We started by getting them to familiarise their own faces; later, when they touched the faces in the tactile works, they were able to understand better as they already had a mental image of their faces,” says Shah. For the last year and a half, Shah has been working with institutions across the country in an attempt to make art institutions accessible. Earlier this year, Shah worked with the City Palace, Jaipur, to make tactile forms of their miniatures and also with the National Museum, New Delhi. “Making tactile versions of miniatures is simpler than for photographs as they have well-defined lines. With photography, there is so much play of light and shadow, that is hard to convey all the nuances to the visually challenged,” says Shah.

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Sight Specific

It’s the first for Pakistan. The Museum and Art Gallery, State Bank of Pakistan, Karachi, will unveil a braille handbook in Karachi on August 14. “It’s the only museum in Pakistan, which is disabled-friendly,” smiles the man behind realising the project, Siddhant Shah.

The 26-year-old has completed his masters in heritage management from the Athens University of Economics and Business, and is currently an architecture and access consultant for the MSMS II Museum, City Palace Jaipur, for which he wrote India’s first braille art book. In March this year, at a Commonwealth Association of Museums workshop conducted at the City Palace, the Juhu resident was one of the speakers and he shed light on his work and area of expertise. The State Bank of Pakistan museum director, Dr Azma Ibrahim, attended the workshop and approached Shah to create a braille handbook for the institution. In addition to using braille, Shah created tactile prototypes of the objects on paper, using the skill of henna designers. “We used a dye that they use for cone work in handicrafts; it is a pigment mixed with an adhesive,” he explains.

But in hindsight, creating a handbook for Pakistan was perhaps one of the most challenging projects he has taken up so far. “Their collection is massive and I wasn’t even able to go there to work on the book because of visa issues,” he informs. “Even couriering the book from here to Pakistan was a task. The Government Post Office in Jaipur, where I spend a fortnight each month, wasn’t sure what matter I was sending in braille. Finally, I had to return to Mumbai to send it via a private courier service.”

Shah has also created a tactile gallery for the National Museum in Delhi and has worked on a project called Abhas, a tactile experience for the exhibition on the Masterpieces of Indian Master Artists at DAG Modern, New York, and another for the exhibition titled The Art of Shantiniketan at DAG Modern, Mumbai.

He took to creating art for mainly the visually impaired after seeing partial blindness from close quarters. Four years ago, Shah’s life turned around, when his mother lost nearly 70 per cent of her vision in her right eye. “We were like any other regular family, going out frequently, and suddenly most of it stopped. We realised how unwelcoming most open spaces are for the disabled,” he grouses.

Around the same time, Shah fortuitously received the Saint Gobain scholarship for research for prototyping of cultural material for universal access in museums and monuments (physical and intellectual disability), as well as the Stavros Niarchos scholarship, through which he got the opportunity to study the Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh, “so that I could understand how disabled-friendly national monuments are really,” he says. “In fact, a person who was visually-impaired took me around the Stupa.”

To strengthen his body of work further, Shah has been working with a school for the blind in Jaipur, from where he has learnt braille. There, he met professor Bhargava, who works with visually impaired children abandoned by their families. “His contribution to my work is invaluable. For instance, when I first wrote the braille guidebook, I started almost every sentence with ‘as you can see…’, out of sheer habit. It was Professor Bhargava who pointed out that they can’t see,” he shrugs.

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Braille books with pictures

How a new set of colourful, tactile books are aiming to transform the reading experience of the visually impaired.

A Dreaming Fingers book. Photo courtesy Karadi Tales

When you think of books in Braille, it’s likely that what comes to mind are plain white sheets embossed with dots. It’s hard to imagine a Braille book with vibrant, tactile images. Yet this is precisely the way in which a handful of people are trying to transform reading into a sensorial experience for the visually impaired. Exquisite henna reproductions of the architecture of a medieval palace, textures that bring alive Eric Carle’s children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and embossed sticky worms that help a toddler learn to count.

“One day I was watching a mehndi artist at work, and I thought why can’t I use the same artist and her technique of cone work to make a tactile illustration in a Braille book,” says Siddhant Shah, a heritage architect and consultant on making public spaces accessible to the impaired and challenged. This was last year, when Shah was working at the City Palace, Jaipur, on the Open Braille Guidebook for the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II (MSMS II) Museum. The book was released in March.

Shah has always been vexed by the blandness of Braille books, which seldom try to engage visually impaired readers. “Accessibility doesn’t mean stop at creating a ramp within a building. One can use aesthetics in design principles to create accessibility too,” he says. So he and the MSMS II Museum team set about creating tactile illustrations of the paintings, objets d’art and architectural elements at the museum to bring them alive for a new audience. Especially striking is the reproduction in henna of the City Palace’s brass door.

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Stuti Agarwal interviews Siddhant Shah

Tell us about Abhaas. How did the initiative come about?

Abhaas is for all to ‘view’, even the visually impaired, as each painting has a tactile representation. In Greece, I came across a tactile mus­eum. I decided to bring that.

What are the things to keep in mind when making tactile representations?

The first is to keep it close to the original. The size, texture and medium correspond, and we add music and smell to help create environment.

Any difficulties?

Technology, the lack of it. Also, Indian paintings being replete with figures and elements.

You have a braille booklet to go with it.

It is not just translations in braille. We also have tactile samples and swatches of med­iums and drawing styles to help educate the visitor.

Take us through one such experience of tactile art

There is a painting by Nandalal Bose of an esraj player. The visitors first exp­erience it through an esraj piece. Burning incense adds to the mood.

You also have block-printing as part of the exhibition.

Block-printing is the most tactile art. One can feel both the paint and the block.

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History at the fingertips

The efforts of two individuals from either side of the India-Pakistan border have helped in creating the first museum brochure in Braille

Little did Siddhant Shah know, as he took to the podium in March this year to speak about the need to create access within museums for the differently-abled, that four months hence he would be creating history. One of the speakers at the Commonwealth Association of Museums conference, held at the City Palace, Jaipur, his talk impressed many in the audience, including Asma Ibrahim, director, State Bank Museum and Art Gallery Department in Karachi, Pakistan. The only practising woman archaeologist in the country, she has worked relentlessly over the years to make the State Bank Museum the …

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‘Touched’ by art

Try spending some time in a visual art gallery wearing a blindfold. The visit would not make much sense, would it? However, since October 12, visually impaired visitors have been enjoying an exhibition showcasing the works of some of India’s celebrated visual artists belonging to “Group 1890” at DAG Modern in Hauz Khas Village here.

The gallery has come up with an innovative interpretation programme called ‘Abhas’. The tactile experience for visually impaired students aims to help them learn, appreciate and experience a visual art form.

In the form of a guided walk and talk for students from blind schools across the city, the experience has been curated by an organisation called Access Logic and Logistics (ALL) headed by Siddhant Shah.

Mr. Shah, an architecture student, has been working on projects to make public spaces more accessible to the differently-abled. He started working on projects to focus on intellectual and social inclusion after someone close to him started losing her vision gradually.

He has taken 10 of the works on display at the exhibition and worked on ways in which the visually impaired can make use of other senses to enjoy the work on display.

Mr. Shah has used real flowers, feathers, sandpaper, wax, cutouts, other tactile materials and sound to help students get a sensory experience of the artworks. For those with partial vision, he has used lighter colours to reproduce a painting so that they are able to view it more easily. Visitors can smell flowers, feel feathers and get a better understanding of textures while experiencing the exhibition.

 “I am not an artist. I came up with these methods through trial and error. Once I came up with the concept, I tested it to see if it worked. The feedback I got helped me interpret the works of some of India’s best painters and bring the context to the visually impaired,” he said.

In addition, a book in Braille providing information on the show has also been brought out so that students can take it home and enjoy it at leisure. The gallery will also create awareness on inclusive design and spaces, hold sensitisation workshops for budding designers, artists, and educationalists from art and design institutions.

Speaking about the initiative, DAG Modern president Kishore Singh said: “We want to ensure that art is accessible to everybody at a level they can appreciate it. We hope the learning from these will become part of the everyday space for Indian viewers.”

The exhibition includes works by artists J. Swaminathan, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Jeram Patel, Himmat Shah, Jyoti Bhatt, Ambadas, Eric Bowen, Raghav Kaneria and Reddappa Naidu. It is on display at DAG Modern till December 14.

‘Abhas’, a tactile experience for the visually impaired, aims to help them experience visual art

Serendipity Arts Festival is an all-inclusive Festival

At the Adil Shah Palace, you may be fortunate enough to chance upon a group of students on a specially curated art walk, being led by young man, who’s warmth and humour is apparent in his voice. He takes them to a foyer, where a display of photography by Chandan Khanna is has been set. However, these children pay no heed to the pictures adorning the high walls. It is only when one observes carefully that one realises they are visually impaired. This gets confirmed when you hear the young man describing to the group what they should expect and then hand out tactile reproductions of the very same pictures.

The kaleidoscope of emotions displayed on the faces of these students makes it apparent that their imagination is taking them on a journey, none of us can ever experience. It’s their journey into the world of tactile-visual art.

Siddhant Shah is trying to break the barriers to access art as he is the brain behind all the ‘Please Touch’ signage at The Serendipity Arts Festival. Visitors almost do a double take as traditionally displays of artworks come with a rather indiscreet instruction more along the lines of “Do Not Touch”. As an art access consultant, Siddhant works towards ensuring differently abled visitors, kids, and even the elderly, are given the opportunity to enjoy and engage in the arts just as everyone should. With the aim of being inclusive and accessible for all, the festival partnered with Siddhant to create a tactile experiential program called ‘Senses’.

The main aim of the Senses programme is to make the event, spaces and its artworks accessible to the visually impaired visitors along with others with special need, so that one goes back with a fulfilling experience. Tactile maps, braille books, tactile reproductions of art works on display, tactile and braille equipped signage are all a part of this. The tactile products essentially enable everyone to understand the various aspects of the art-works through multiple senses. The products and the ideas designed will allow a wide range of interaction with the artworks on display, thus making it universal to a large section of the society.

Shah has also designed ‘Kids Activity Sheets’ for the children and young minds to engage with the space and the displayed works of art. Amongst all of this, he conducted a Blindfold Photography Workshop, where the participants will be clicking pictures without seeing them. In a space for social and educational engagement, the Senses project acts as catalyst to allow Intellectual and Social Access to those demographics who are otherwise overwhelmed and do not participate in these events. Along with this one will also provide the right infrastructure for apt Physical Access in and around the spaces of the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa

Additionally, an in depth disability access audit and consultation with the Nipman Foundation has helped the Festival provide physical access and support services at the venues for visitors with disabilities. They have also teamed up with ALL (Access Logic & Logistics) in order to make selected exhibitions accessible for visually impaired audiences and others with special needs.

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Art For The Visually Impaired at India Art Fair 2016

A gentle, unobtrusive advisory at the entrance to the India Art Fair asks visitors not to touch the art works. Understandably so. But at the other end of the venue, at the awe-inspiring DAG Modern booth of Delhi Art Gallery, there are four works of art that a certain young gentleman called Siddhant Shah will request you to touch. Of course, he will ask you to close your eyes first before touching. Because, those works of art are tactile representations of four important works by renowned masters, that have been reproduced for the visually impaired, who so far have remained out of the ambit of the world of visual art for obvious reasons.

“I studied architecture in Greece, at Athens, and was exposed to amazing museums, including private ones, which are sensitive towards the visually impaired. When I returned to India, I wanted to do something similar but was met with rejection by all those who could help in Mumbai. After meeting up with many people who weren’t interested, I finally found eager patrons in Delhi Art Gallery and they encouraged me to do this,” shares Siddhant Shah, a Mumbai-based heritage architect and access consultant. When he is complimented for the brilliant addition to the India Art Fair, he says that he isn’t doing anything extraordinary, and it should have been done earlier because he says, “culture is meant to be inclusive. How can a section of the population, that is impaired, be kept out this very important aspect of life.” S.H. Raza’s “Jala Bindu,” 1998 and Shanti Dave’s “Untitled,” 1974 are two of the art works with tactile reproductions.

This pilot project, called Abhas, has been created by Access Logic and Logistics (ALL), not only creates a platform for the inclusion of the visually impaired in the field of experiencing art, but also subtly sensitises the audience on the issues of disability. The tactile representations are accompanied by braille text explaining the work. A Braille book, explaining the various processes and materials used along with the biographies of the featured artists, has also been published. Ashish Anand, Delhi Art Gallery, says, “This is the first time that such an attempt has been made and we hope to make our booth as friendly for all sections of the society as possible.” The various niches in both the booth of DAG Modern — booths G1 and H1 — come with gentle ramps leading to the art works for the aid of the differently abled.

Adds Shah, “When I started working with the gallery on this project, their work for the India Art Fair was already underway. But they were so cooperative that despite some work already been done, they agreed to make certain changes to help the display become disabled-friendly. For instance, we have ensured the right height of the captions and descriptions of art works so that anybody coming on a wheel chair has no problem reading it.” The heights and placement of the art works along with the tactile aids and reproductions are designed as per the ergonomics of Universal Access. The DAG Modern booths, by any standard the best designed at the India Art Fair 2016, have been created by Rafiq Kidwai.

The Abhas pilot project will culminate in a presentation on the concluding day of the fair, January 31, where its results will be analysed and discussed.

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In conversation with Siddhant Shah, heritage architect and access management consultant

Accessibility in museums and heritage sites is a pursuit that is taken seriously by many institutions. ReReeti’s Tejshvi Jain chats up with Siddhant Shah , a heritage architect and access management consultant who works towards accessibility in a heritage space at different levels.

TJ – You work with museums and heritage sites as a consultant on disability access. Could you elaborate the term accessibility and the scope it has in public spaces.

SS -In the domain of museums, heritage sites and monuments, ‘Accessibility’ is discussed as a very shallow level and it is immediately associated with physical access into a site or museum complex. Well, being an architect my first aim is always to make any public space/ site physically accessible through ramps, wheelchair friendly toilets, signage and other potential interventions. Nonetheless, I do not stop here and my efforts have always been to push the discussion beyond ramps and have dialogue about intellectual and social access, something that is still in a nascent stage. There is an immense scope for various involvements to make the public spaces and services more accessible. For example, a graphical map that I designed for Jaipur’s Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum brochure, with only icons (comprehensive disabilities), color coding (works for those with low/ partial vision) and a simple key reduces the pressure of space negotiation and address multiple access related issues. Thus, in my opinion, ‘Accessibility’ refers to all the aspects of ‘DESIGN’ of products, strategies, services, or environments for people; be it abled or specially-abled.

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Anubhav: A Tactile Experience

A Gallery with Enhanced Access for Visitor

Anubhav is a special tactile gallery that aims to expand access for all visitors, particularly visitors with disabilities. It has on display 22 tactile replicas of museum objects, carefully chosen from the vast collection of National Museum by its curators representing 5000 years of Indian art. The idea is to provide a rich and engaging experience to visitors aesthetically, historically and intellectually. The objects range from archaeological finds, sculptures, tactile impressions of paintings, utilitarian objects, ethnographic objects and decorative arts.

Partners

The Gallery has been developed with the help of Unesco, Saksham (an NGO working with blind persons), Open Knowledge Community (OKC), Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT) and the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD). The Gallery allows full tactile access accompanied by an audio-guide and Braille labels. It has been designed completely pro-buono by Mr. Amardeep Labana and his team who is an architect and a volunteer at National Museum. The Audio-guide and other interpretations have been developed with assistance from Mr. Siddhant Shah who also works with Museum and access. The Museum is committed to further enrich the experience by training and sensitizing its staff and volunteers.

Why this Gallery?

National Museum continuously works towards improving its facilities for visitors – children, tourists and cultural enthusiasts. The overall objective is to make the Museum inclusive for all. While a small percentage of the Museum’s visitor base comprises of people with disabilities, in the past one year the Museum has succeeded in increasing its visibility among this section by collaborating with organizations working for people with disabilities and developing programmes which are specially designed for visually impaired visitors. Programmes, such as storytelling sessions for visually impaired audiences, tactile exhibition displays, workshops/seminars, and touch tour of select museum objects for museum walk-ins are a few tailor-made programmes which were developed and implemented in 2014 to increase participation of visitors from all sections of society.

This endeavour is also in line with the initiatives started in the last year. In October 2014, National Museum was invited to a National conference and Exhibition on ICTs for persons with disabilities: Taking Stock and Identifying Opportunities. The conference was organized by UNESCO. At this conference it was decided that National Museum will examine its museum’s accessibility – physical and intellectual.  As a follow up, National Museum’s Education department and Outreach department met members from the Cultural Sector of UNESCO, Saksham and National platform for the rights of the disabled (NPRD).

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Kudos! India Art Fair Opens Art to Touch of the Visually Impaired

9-year-old Nidhi Gupta (name changed) is ecstatic. She has finally got to experience an artwork by Jamini Roy – an artist whose career trajectory she knows by heart now. “One of my friends is an art student and she talks endlessly about him,” gushes Gupta, a Political Science student. However, before today, Gupta had never got access to his work. The reason?

Her sight is partially impaired.

Lack of tactile aids at museums and galleries in India have denied an entire section of society the pleasure of experiencing fine art. However, change is on the anvil, and it’s all happening at DAG Modern’s two booths at the India Art Fair.

Here – for the first time in India – a tactile artwork viewing experience has been created for the visually impaired. It means you can actually touch, feel and sense the painting, the material used and the form of lines through palpable reproductions of the artworks.

Of Practical Solutions – Beyond the Romantic

Aptly titled Abhas, this pilot project has been created by Access Logic and Logistics (ALL) for the DAG. The team of Siddhant Shah and Elizabeth Forrestall has been working on creating similar experiences at the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, Jaipur City Palace.

Sometimes people get romantic about the idea of making spaces accessible for the physically challenged. But we have tried to offer practical solutions,” says Forrestall, who has a masters degree in gallery and museum education from Canada.

Abhas has helped visitors like Gupta experience four selected artworks – two paintings and two sculptures, including the masterpiece Jala Bindu by S H Raza and the 1933-woodcut work by Roy.

The tactile work for Three drummers, yet another landmark work by Roy, is proving very popular as well. Shah, a heritage architect and access consultant, leads groups from various Delhi-based associations for the blind through the aids.

One – a board tinged with yellow – allows the group to get a sense of earthiness that is synonymous with Roy’s depiction of rural Bengal. Another aid – gouache on cardboard – features the same material used in the original artwork.

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Tactile Art and Bridging the Gap Between Cultural Heritage and Disability

A super energetic girls’ group from CBWDS (Centre for Blind Women and Disability Studies),New Delhi, shared their experiences with Siddhant Shah, after the tactile walk ‘Abhas’ at DAG Modern (a Modern Art museum in Delhi). Gudiya – as she is popularly called by her teachers, thanked Siddhant Shah and the team from DAG Modern who assisted them during the walk. She shared with the team how she and her friends were amazed to ‘touch and see’ the artwork. It was a first time experience for them to be invited to an art gallery and the opportunity to actually feel the objects, which was something that none of the other galleries offer. They are not equipped with the infrastructure that can make their space accessible to those with visual impairment.  When the girls were asked about their favorite art work, there was a unanimous vote for the 3D tactile reproduction of the artwork by Eric Bowen. As they had fun touching the replica and exploring various shapes, lines and surfaces of this black and white strip artwork.

Their second favorite is the reproduction of J. Swaminathan’s, Bird, Mountain and Tree series, where they not only enjoyed touching and experiencing the artwork but also appreciated the element of smell in this reproduction.  Ishrat Jahan, who hails from Banaras, is the youngest member of this group who receives and undertakes training in areas of crafts, candle making, braille reading and other skills. She made a remarkably interesting observation with reference to burnt wood Tactile Aid for Jeram Patel’s Art work, commenting on how amazed she was to learn that creating something did not always involve sticking things together – but one could also burn to create something new.

Siddhant Shah, who is the creator of ‘Abhas, a Tactile Experience’, feels that his work is successful when he hears comments like these. It fits the main aim of this initiative – allowing one to experience art with multiple senses  and being aware of the ideas and concepts that exist in the art-scape.  The students of CBWDS concluded the discussion with a round of chai or Indian tea, essentially with milk and sugar, while Gudiya made a parting statement, saying that sensing the various materials through touch, had helped her think about other unique ways of using paper, strings and sand for her handicraft training sessions.

Siddhant Shah, a Stavros Niarchos Scholar finished his MA in Heritage Management from the University of Kent (Athens Campus, Greece). His first degree is in Architecture with a Pg. Dip. Indian Aesthetics, and is an Access Management Consultant who specializes in bridging the gap between Cultural Heritage and Disability. He works with museums, art-events,  art galleries and cultural sites to make them more accessible through educational and multi-sensory experiential activities, focusing on kids and groups with special needs. He has designed books in Braille for cultural organizations in India and Pakistan along with Tactile Art & Heritage Walks. He has written and designed India and Pakistan’s 1st Open Braille guide book with large script font and tactile plates. Shah consults national and international museums like National Museum, Jaipur City Palace Museum, State Bank of Pakistan Museum and other organizations like DAG Modern, Art1, India Art Fair amongst others. His is driven with a focus to either ‘Get a Person to the context or get the Context to the person’. 

Art exhibition for the visually impaired

In a bid to make art accessible to the visually impaired, Delhi Art Gallery (DAG) Modern is hosting an exhibition with tactile replicas of works from the artist collective ‘Group 1890’.

The initiative titled ‘Abhas’ has been executed by architecture and access consultant Siddhant Shah, who has reproduced the artworks in the form of embossed abstracts to allow blind people to touch and feel them.

“Through such initiatives we aim to overcome the physical and mental barriers for individuals and make art inclusive for all.

“For visually impaired people, art ends up in making chairs by weaving. So painting or others forms of art are still new for them. The idea is to create abstracts of the original artworks by using similar materials,” he says.

Shah has recreated nine out of 12 paintings exhibited at the show titled, “Group 1890- India’s indigenous modernism” by using sand and bee wax among several others products.

“By touching these tactile replicas which have the same texture and surface as the originals will help them understand what the painting is about and what materials the artist has used in his painting,” he says.

The exhibition features artworks of artists like J Swaminathan, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Himmat Shah, Jeram Patel, Ambadas and Jyoti Bhatt among others from the ‘Group 1890’.

“We want to ensure that an understanding and appreciation of art becomes part of the mainstream lexicon and make it accessible to everybody at a level they can appreciate, and we hope the learning from these will become part of the everyday space for Indian viewers.

“We hope this sensitisation will help the majority understand the importance and relevance of art education and assimilation for the marginalised, who have as much of a stake in art and culture as we do,” says Kishore Singh, President, DAG Modern

To replicate Bhatt’s ‘Face Profile’, that showcases a human face featuring text in Tibetan, Shah has used a moulded motif of a peacock feather which can be felt with hands.

An ‘Untitled’ artwork by Eric Bowen has been reproduced by using Plaster of Paris.

Shah has also designed a book in braille which provides information about the exhibition and the artists whose works have been exhibited.

Special Tactile Experience for Visually Disabled Tourists in City Palace Museum

The Indian state of Rajasthan is known for its rulers, glorious past and the number of historical monuments that feature stunning architecture. But the ones who are visually impaired cannot see and experience the monuments’ beautiful architecture or the artifacts that have been kept in museums here. They aren’t even allowed to touch and feel the carvings.

Siddhant Shah working on creating a ‘tactile experience’ in City Palace Museum

Mumbai’s Heritage Architecture and Access Consultant, Siddhant Shah is currently working on creating a ‘tactile experience’ for visually disabled people. He is creating tactile reproductions of the artifacts displayed in the City Palace Museum. Visually disabled people will be able to touch and feel these tactile reproductions. They can then understand the art in their own special ways.

The museum will also have guide books written in Braille script at all gallery counters so as to guide the disabled. This facility would be available from July in City Palace’s Textile Gallery as well as in its Painting and Photography Gallery.

The idea came from Greece

It was in Greece that Siddhant Shah first encountered disabled-friendly museums, a few years back. He was studying heritage management there. In Greece, all artworks and monuments are accessible to the visually impaired. But here in India, we don’t have such facilities yet, even after having so many historic locations. Siddhant’s mother also has partial vision impairment. This fact inspired Shah to provide the visually impaired an access to the art and architecture of India.

He has already started creating tactile reproductions of some special artifacts of the Textile gallery and the Painting and Photography gallery of City Palace Museum. Some of the artifacts that have already been reproduced for providing tactile experience include a map of old city Jaipur, Raja Ram Singh’s photograph and photographs clicked by him, Hawa Mahal’s ancient picture, etc.

This is going to be the first ever tactile museum in Jaipur. Delhi’s National Museum already provides tactile experience to its visually impaired tourists.

Jaipur City Palace Museum Now Has Guide Book In Braille

The Open Braille Guide book to the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II (MSMS II) Museum by the Trustee Secretary of the museum and MLA, Sawai Madhopur, Princess Diya Kumari on March25. The curtain raiser media briefing had been organized on the occasion of the launch of the 4 day long workshop ‘Access in Museums in South Asia’ which will begin today at the Museum. The event has been organized by Commonwealth Association Of Museums (CAM) and MSMS II Museum.

The Princess said that the book is designed to cater to a wide range of visual impairments, with open braille, large script font and tactile images. It is a pioneering effort by one of the most visited Palace Museums in India. The museum worked closely with ‘Rajasthan Netraheen Kalyan Sangh’ for developing the book. She further added that the book is part of a wider series of initiatives that the Museum is in the process of undertaking towards universal access. She complimented Siddhant Shah and Mrinalini Venkateswaran for having designed and written the book.

The Princess Diya Kumari said that the objective of the workshop is to is discuss on making buildings and collections physically and intellectually accessible for the disabled with a special focus on historic properties.

She further added that the workshop will sensitize museum professionals to the needs of differently abled audiences, help them acquire the knowledge necessary to facilitate better access, and use activity-based workshops to develop a set of practical suggestions as a reference tool.

Earlier, Consultant Director, MSMS II Museum, Mr. Giles Tillotson, informed that the interactive workshop does not only include theatre lectures but also visits to sites in and around Jaipur, such as: Jaigarh Fort, Anokhi Museum, Government Central Museum (Albert Hall), and General Amar Singh Kanota Library & Museum. Simulation exercises for the delegates will be a special feature of the workshop, said Tillotson.

The Secretary General of the Commonwealth Association of Museums, Ms. Catherine Cole expressed her satisfaction for having associated with MSMS II Museum for this unique workshop.

The Senior Curator of the MSMS II Museum, Mr. Pankaj Sharma and the Convener of the Workshop, Ms. Mrinalini Venkateswaran also spoke on the occasion.

The workshop beginning today evening will have Shivani Gupta as the keynote speaker. Other eminent speakers who will participate in the workshop include Ms Catherine Cole, Dr Rachna Khare, Ms Poulomi Das, Dr. Asma Ibrahim, among others. Later, post the workshop they will also visit Nagaur and Mehrangarh Forts on 29 and 30 March respectively.

Art Exhibition For The Visually Impaired In Delhi

In a bid to make art accessible to the visually impaired, Delhi Art Gallery (DAG) Modern is hosting an exhibition with tactile replicas of works from the artist collective ‘Group 1890′.

The initiative titled ‘Abhas’ has been executed by architecture and access consultant Siddhant Shah, who has reproduced the artworks in the form of embossed abstracts to allow blind people to touch and feel them.
“Through such initiatives we aim to overcome the physical and mental barriers for individuals and make art inclusive for all.

“For visually impaired people, art ends up in making chairs by weaving. So painting or others forms of art are still new for them. The idea is to create abstracts of the original artworks by using similar materials,” he says.

Shah has recreated nine out of 12 paintings exhibited at the show titled, “Group 1890- India’s indigenous modernism” by using sand and bee wax among several others products.

“By touching these tactile replicas which have the same texture and surface as the originals will help them understand what the painting is about and what materials the artist has used in his painting,” he says.

The exhibition features artworks of artists like J Swaminathan, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Himmat Shah, Jeram Patel, Ambadas and Jyoti Bhatt among others from the ‘Group 1890′.

“We want to ensure that an understanding and appreciation of art becomes part of the mainstream lexicon and make it accessible to everybody at a level they can appreciate, and we hope the learning from these will become part of the everyday space for Indian viewers.

“We hope this sensitisation will help the majority understand the importance and relevance of art education and assimilation for the marginalised, who have as much of a stake in art and culture as we do,” says Kishore Singh, President, DAG Modern To replicate Bhatt’s ‘Face Profile’, that showcases a human face featuring text in Tibetan, Shah has used a moulded motif of a peacock feather which can be felt with hands.

An ‘Untitled’ artwork by Eric Bowen has been reproduced by using Plaster of Paris.

Shah has also designed a book in braille which provides information about the exhibition and the artists whose works have been exhibited.

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