I’m talking about our exciting new sculpture project for children with visual impairments, which got under way on 30th September at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Our first partner for this project was a national funding organisation we’ve all heard of – Children in Need. They provided the funding to enable us to create a unique opportunity for visually impaired children to appreciate and create, sculpture.
Step up our next partner – the Royal National Institute of Blind People or RNIB. You’ve probably heard of them too!
We knew that the Leeds branch of RNIB is very active, running lots of events for families, including residential holidays and sporting activities. We thought they would be a good place to get in touch with families of visually impaired children who might like to participate in our sculpture project. And we were right! Within half a day of RNIB Leeds spreading the word in July, 50% of the places had been taken up. It seemed our project had found a gap in artistic activities for children with visual impairment – we could have filled the places twice over, such was the interest. And every single one of the 10 families who signed up in July, turned up for our first event in September.
Which brings me to another vital partner in the project – Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Emma Spencer, Family Learning Co-ordinator for the park, embraced our project enthusiastically from the very beginning. She liaised with our sculptor Lynn (more of her later), led a sculpture tour for us and the families, arranged learning and filming space, and ran an outdoor sculpture creation activity with great cheer, despite the very Yorkshire weather which descended upon us!
I felt it was really important that the visually impaired children experienced sculpture in a way that was meaningful to them. That meant the project needed to be led by someone who could understand what it meant to have little or no sight, yet also had the required artistic skills and experience. A nationwide hunt (truly) for such a person led us to Lynn Cox. Lynn is unusual in being highly qualified across both the arts and the sciences – she holds a degree in computing and maths, and a Masters degree in fine arts. Oh, and she’s a professional sculptor too!
Lynn’s vision is severely impaired and so that brings us to our canine project partner – Danny, Lynn’s guide dog. He has accompanied Lynn on the train journey from London to Halifax four times now, as well as her familiarisation visits to Eureka!, and the sculpture tours at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. He’s been patient and supportive all the way (not sure what he thought of the sculptures though!)
So, there are our partners. Together we’ve taken the first step of appreciating and interpreting sculpture – you can see from the photographs what a fantastic time we had at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Our project enters its next phase at Eureka! where the children will start to create their own sculptures, which will ultimately go on display at the museum, where all our visitors can see and appreciate them.
Watch this space to see the project unfold!