David Griffin participating in a visual-literacy research project

Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - 10:00am

Albright-Knox’s Collaborative Project Recommended for NEA Research Grant

Buffalo, NY – The Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s Innovation Lab and its partners have been recommended by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Research: Art Works program for an award of $85,000 for the Art of Visual Comprehension project. The project is a scientific study testing whether visual art training can enhance visual perception and visual cognition skills. The museum’s Innovation Lab has played a key role in bringing together leading experts in visual arts education, visual perception and visual cognition, and vision. The project is a collaboration with Vanderbilt University, the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U), and the State University of New York at Buffalo, including the Ross Eye Institute.

This award was one of fifteen, totaling $724,000, announced by NEA Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter to support research projects that investigate the value and impact of the arts, either as individual components of the US arts ecology or as they interact with each other and with other domains of American life.

Cognitive neuroscientist Isabel Gauthier, one of the co-investigators at Vanderbilt University and head of the institution’s Object Perception Lab, remarked: “Vision science has only recently begun to reveal great variability in people’s ability to recognize objects, and we still have little knowledge of where these differences come from and how they can be improved. Asking whether visual art training is an important influence on these abilities is a critical multidisciplinary effort in that direction. Visual ability is important to many occupations aside from the visual arts, including medical diagnosis, forensics, and most sciences.”

The project will simultaneously enrich museum programming while advancing scientific understanding in the fields of visual perception and visual cognition. The team of interdisciplinary partners seeks to combine an art-historical approach to understanding images with a scientific understanding of high-level vision. An arts training program, developed in consultation with OCAD U, will draw from existing museum programs and workshops, as well as basic principles taught in introductory visual studies and visual arts courses, in a series of lessons featuring artworks from the collection of the Albright-Knox. In collaboration with the museum, Vanderbilt University will test the impact of the training program on visual perception and visual cognition. The team hopes to use the results of these tests to help shape a curriculum for enhancing high-level visual skills for people from all walks of life, establishing an even more vital role for the visual arts and arts organizations.

The constant bombardment by visual information that characterizes contemporary society demands a highly developed critical ability to observe, memorize, and understand the images around us. Past research has found that most current visual training focuses on a single goal, such as learning to identify similar objects in one category. However, many art museums believe that they are uniquely equipped to offer alternative models of training to help people develop the skills needed to navigate, understand, and analyze our increasingly visual world. The potential impact of more diverse and varied visual training programs, like those used by museums, has never been studied. The Art of Visual Comprehension team seeks to test scientifically whether the kind of visual arts training museums are well-equipped to provide can improve visual perception and visual cognition.

The project, and NEA support, are scheduled to take place over the next two years. Since little is known about individual differences in visual perception, the findings from this project will garner attention from practitioners and researchers in a variety of fields. If the findings are positive, the team plans to use this information to develop a curriculum for enhancing high-level visual skills for the general population.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is recognized as home to one of the world’s leading collections of contemporary and modern art. With more than 7,000 objects in its collection and a dynamic series of exhibitions and public programs, the Albright-Knox continues to grow and to fulfill its mission to acquire, exhibit, and preserve contemporary and modern art in an enriching, dynamic, and vibrant environment.

MUSEUM HOURS: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY takes place on the first Friday of every month from 10 am to 10 pm. Closed Mondays and Independence, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Days. Admission is $12 for adults; $8 for seniors and students; $6 for youth ages 6 to 18; FREE for Albright-Knox Members and children 5 and under. Additional fees may apply for certain special exhibitions. For additional information, please visit www.albrightknox.org.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s annual operations are supported, in part, by public funds from the County of Erie and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and by the generosity of our Members. M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY is made possible by a generous grant from M&T Bank; media sponsorship is provided by Kiss 98.5. The Art’scool program is presented by BlueCross Blue Shield of Western New York with additional support provided by an anonymous donor, the Robert J. & Martha B. Fierle Foundation, and Lawley. Access AK is made possible through the generous support of the James H. Cummings Foundation, Inc. Endowment; National Fuel; the Vogt Family Foundation; and an anonymous donor. AK Teens is presented by KeyBank. The AK Innovation Lab was founded with leadership support from The John R. Oishei Foundation, The Seymour H. Knox Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The Public Art Initiative was established and is supported by leadership funding from the County of Erie and the City of Buffalo.