Making an art gallery accessible is more than providing a ramp for people to enter, an accessible art gallery ought to include accessible art. The bare minimum a gallery or performance space can do is follow the guidelines around accessible buildings (ramps, floor space, etc.). Over at Art News, Sara Reisman, executive and artistic director of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation in New York, argues that 2021 should be a turning point for the art world to make the entire field accessible so more people can create and appreciate art.
During our talk, Papalia presented examples of sensory experiences that diverge from the art worldâ€™s focus on visual art and its bias toward sighted audience members so frequently referred to as â€œviewers.â€ In the past few years, he has become known for participatory performances that he describes as â€œnonvisual walks,â€ using his cane (and sometimes a megaphone or even, in the case of a special event on the High Line in New York, a marching band) to lead groups in daisy-chain-like formations that enact the kinds of interdependencies articulated in the principles of â€œOpen Access.â€ Like Papaliaâ€™s approach to conversations around accessibility in general, instructions for the walks avoid medicalizing terminology and frame the experience as a function of embodiment instead.
I have participated in three such walks, and each has recalibrated my relationship to the environment and people around me. In a rural setting, I felt rocks and dips in the dirt road under my feet. In an urban landscape, I felt pavement, curbs, and the presence of vehicles in constant motion. Each time, I have experienced the world with a heightened sense of perceptionâ€”and my understanding of the sensorium has been further transformed.