OCAD U brings multisensory project to the AGO

Friday, January 4, 2019

Gallery visitors with vision loss have a new way to enjoy some iconic paintings at the AGO: using multisensory aids that allow them to “feel” the works on the wall.

The AGO already has multisensory tours that allow people with low vision to touch certain sculptures and listen to audio descriptions. Now, OCAD U students have designed 3-D replicas, or “translations,” of paintings to give visitors a sense of the mood and shapes in the images through touch.

Students in OCAD U’s Multisensory course chose four paintings for the project: Tom Thomson’s The West Wind, Otto Dix’s Portrait of Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann, La demoiselle de magasin by James Tissot and Jar of Apricots by Jean-Siméon Chardin. An electric fan, fruit and cold “slime” also help convey the experience of the paintings.  

The Multisensory course is offered to senior students (undergraduate or graduate), and is a partnership between the AGO and OCAD University. Lectures by various academic and museum experts, including Professors Peter Coppin and Beverly Dywan and the AGO’s Melissa Smith, teach students theories of sound and other senses for their translations.

“The translations are very effective for people with vision and other sensory impairments, but also helpful for others to find greater depth in their understanding of the chosen artworks. These provide better engagement from the visitors, which is a desirable quality for visitor experience at museums,” says Dywan.

You an read the Toronto Star's coverage of the project online.