Sensory Friendly Arts

Movie theatres have been offering sensory friendly experiences for families with autistic children. They turn down the volume a bit, and leave the house lights up a bit. Here’s a news story from Indiana that tells a bit of value by the families.

It’s more than just seeing a movie or a show – it’s being a part of a community and sharing an experience just like other “normal” families.

The performing arts are responding in kind. Perhaps motivated by the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, our local arts council launched an “Arts and Access” program that encourages local arts organizations to adapt experiences for people with special needs. Museums, theatres, and concert venues are putting time into understanding the needs and “retraining presenters in how to adapt their work for audiences with a variety of disabilities and promote accessible arts experiences for people with disabilities and for their families.” (quote from this 7/25/2015 Lehigh Valley Express article by Ryan Kuna)

As a docent for LUAG (the Lehigh University Art Galleries), I can happily report they have taken a lead in offering visually impared expereinces that include narrated tours. Working with the campus’ Fabrication Lab, they are offering objects from their Teaching Collection in an Audio Description and Tactile Description for the visually impaired. It’s ongoing work that I can’t wait to dig into more myself. (Note: I’m overdue for a narrative script of a Diego Rivera piece in the collection. There is no simple approach to a complicated artist like Diego Rivera – and his relationship with Frida Kahlo is so interesting….. See what I did there? Another rabbit hole.”)

avner_curtain_poster_thumbnailThe Zoellner Guest Artist series is also responding with one family friendly show, Avner the Eccentric. In early March, this show will be offering two different presentations of this show. The 1pm time will be an experience for families with children on the Autism spectrum. The 4pm show will be the traditional presentation.

Here’s a screen show of how we are informing audiences of what the sensory friendly environment will be:

Avner special copy

Why blog about this now? In my social media scans yesterday, I saw a link to an article about a Broadway actor’s Facebook post about an audience member who was having a difficult time with a particular scene in The King and I. The actor was fully compassionate about the family’s situation and expressed his sadness of the lack of understanding from the rest of the audience.

It means this actor – and slowly, the rest of our communities are coming to terms with people who have sensitivities to environmental or situational stimuli.

Are we becoming more understanding? Perhaps in this case, art will eventually reflect life, instead of assume that everyone coming to art has the same capacity to experience it.

10522436_263624720495360_4963811753025462849_nKelvin Moon Loh’s FB post:


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