Creating with Blind Abandon Goes to the Houston Art Car Parade

Authors: Katherine Trimm, TVI in Houston, TX

Keywords: Community, Creating with Wild Abandon, Blind, Visually Impaired, Artist, Art, Houston, Tactile and Visual Art.

Abstract: Kathy Trimm describes the after-school art program she has begun with students who are blind and visually impaired, “Creating With Blind Abandon,” and the group’s participation in the Houston Art Car Parade.

We were so excited to have participated in the Houston Art Car Parade this year! It was not a planned experience – we sort of fell into it. Read on to find out how!

In my experience as a teacher of students with visual impairments, I have found that so many of my blind and visually impaired students love art! Like many sighted people, I was surprised by this. I have encountered some very talented blind and visually impaired student artists over the years. One of the major inspirations for our art program was a student named Zack, who has very low vision, and whose art later became our group logo. More important to him than sheer talent is the real joy he finds in drawing and creating art! His interest in art inspired me to seek out art for him to experience tactually.

Living in Houston, I assumed I would find accessible art venues that my students could enjoy. I worked with Linda Brown, Braillist, to try to find sources of art for Zack and other students. Much to our dismay, all we found were dead ends. Every museum and art exhibit we could find was strictly hands-off. We knew there had to be something more for our students! That is when we got the idea for Creating with Blind Abandon –a tactile art program for students with visual impairments. With the help of some fantastic volunteers, we solicited students from multiple school districts to join our program and began meeting monthly at the local library.

During my continued quest for tactile art exhibits for my students, I came across an internet article about a local artist, Bonnie Blue, who has an art car and participates in the Houston Art Car Parade. I learned from the article that prior to the actual parade, the art cars go into the communities in the “Main Street Drag,” and that Bonnie loves to be on the route that goes through the Houston Lighthouse for the Blind so she can give the patrons who are visually impaired the chance to TOUCH her car! I immediately contacted her and asked how our kids could get in on the fun. This lovely woman took us under her wing and guided us through the process of creating our own “ARTomobile” for the parade.

One of our parents, Jason Thompson, offered to let us use his truck and trailer for the parade. Students worked diligently to produce a great deal of art for our trailer in a very short period of time. We had donations of broken as well as unused musical instruments that the student artists turned into works of art including guitars, a trumpet, drum heads, and a bongo. We also had vinyl records that became art pieces. The truck was decorated to look like a guide dog, complete with Mario on the roof holding the harness! The local news, ABC Channel 13, filmed and interviewed our group in preparation for the parade.

Our entry’s theme was Helen Keller’s quote, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing!” It was a mobile depiction of the “can do” spirit! This entry description explained our mission:

“Although the art community is generally closed off to those who use their hands as their eyes, we are daring to bend those rules and show the world that art can be touchable! Although art is generally considered to be a visual experience, we are daring to show that it takes more than sight to have artistic vision! Although blindness and visual impairments are considered to be limiting, we are daring to create with blind abandon!”

One of the students, Madi Hayes, wanted to do something special for Bonnie Blue for helping us. We decided to decorate an album with bottle caps and rocks to make the words, “Bonnie rocks” in Braille. She presented this to Bonnie at the parade site.

The students had a great time participating in the parade! One of the students, a second grader named Caylen, said that she thought “it was really cool and fun!” She said that she would do it again because she liked “being on a trailer and having fun with [her] friends!” As for the art program itself, she liked getting to meet new people and painting and stringing beads.

We are excited about Creating with Blind Abandon for the opportunities it gives these kids. They are forming friendships and experiencing art in a way that is all about them. They have real-life practice in multiple areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum, all while having fun in a way that makes sense to them!

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