Most art exhibits carry signs warning you not to touch them, but an installment opening next week in Des Moines encourages just the opposite. Tracey Morsek, director of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, says the exhibit is called “More Than Words: A Tactile and Audible Poetry Experience.”
Morsek says it was created through the guidance of Iowa’s poet laureate, Mary Swander. “This exhibit will have poetry that has been written by Iowa State University students,” Morsek says. “In addition to their poems, they are also bringing tactile art to express some concept that comes through in their poetry as well.”
One poem about autumn will include a container that’ll hold things like leaves or mittens, which the observer can touch while listening to the words of the poem. Another will include raised pegs and bumps that depict different stars and constellations represented in the poem.
Morsek says the I-S-U students were very interested in determining what types of touchable items might have the most impact on people who are visually-impaired. “The class interviewed a few blind readers who work for the Department for the Blind about those kinds of things,” Morsek says. “They’ve really studied this and I hope that they’ve integrated it in different ways because there are a number of students working on it. I have a feeling each piece will be different and unique.” She says some of the students are musicians and singers, so she also expects some of the poems to have both tactile and audio components.
While the exhibit is being created specifically for visitors who can’t see, she predicts people with 20-20 vision will also be drawn in — to experience it with all of their senses. “We found that out this summer when we unveiled some permanent installations of tactile art that were done for us by an artist from Colorado,” Morsek says. “We have a tactile version of ‘American Gothic’ that has proven popular with both sighted and blind visitors alike.”
The exhibit opens December 1st at 7 PM in the Iowa Department for the Blind’s Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, fourth floor. To learn more, visit www.idbonline.org and click on the “More Than Words” link.