Sunday, November 23, 2008

Touching art, an experience for the visually impaired

A small girl handed her cane to her friend for safekeeping and climbed a ladder to touch the cool, bronze face of a giant.

Blind and visually impaired children from Las Cruces elementary and middle schools got a special tour of the Rodin exhibit Wednesday at the Las Cruces Museum of Art.

Valley View Elementary School students Yasmine Mansouri-Rad, 7, and Raquel Pierce, 6, donned gloves and explored several masterpieces, from larger-than-life towering sculptures to tiny tableaus and bronze body-part fragments.

"Now he's happy. He feels better now," said Yasmine, giving a reassuring pat to "Andrieu d'Andres" after touching the head-in-hands, grief-stricken figure and inquiring, "Why is he so sad?"
Raquel eagerly touched all accessible surfaces, from hats to feet and pedestals, with the help of volunteer docent Toby DeVoss and her teacher Sharon Thummel.

"I like this. This show is good," said Raquel, who perked up when she heard the exhibit includes an angel.

The exhibit features more than 30 works by world-renowned French sculptor Auguste.

Rodin, (1840-1917), in a traveling show, "Rodin: In His Own Words; Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation," which runs through Saturday at the museum.

Wednesday's tour also included visually impaired and blind students from Vista, Camino Real, Picacho and Lynn middle schools. Earlier, a group from the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Alamogordo also enjoyed a special touch tour.

Volunteer docents and staff had special training to lead the tours and found the experience moving, said Julia Hansen, volunteer coordinator for the city's museums.

"These kids have such insight. Some of us were almost in tears by the time the kids left. Really, these kids "see.' They just have a different language," Hansen said.

She said several students from regional elementary, middle and high schools have visited the exhibit.

"The Cantor Foundation required that touch tours occur outside of regular gallery hours, I guess so that no other patrons get the idea that they can touch the pieces," Hansen said.

Unlike the students in Wednesday's special tour, the general public is not allowed to touch the sculptures, but you still have time to feast your eyes on the show, during its last three days, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Las Cruces Museum of Art , 491 N. Main St., on the north end of the Downtown Mall. Admission is free.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

If you go

What: "Rodin: In His Own Words; Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation"

When: Today through Saturday

Where: Las Cruces Museum of Art, Downtown Mall

Cost: Free

Information: (575) 541-2137,


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