High Museum of Art
Jul 26 · 4 min read

Learn how tactile replicas and specially-designed tours are making our museum more inclusive for all.

By Kate McLeod, Head of School and Teacher Services, High Museum of Art

“You mean an artist made this for us?” A student with a visual impairment is seeing a work of art for the first time at an art museum. The student had just been told that a visual artist re-created Native American on Horseback by Ronald Lockett especially for their group.

The group is part of a program called STARS (Social, Therapeutic, Academic and Recreational Services) at the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta, Georgia.

A young boy feels the surface of a tactile recreation of an artwork depicting a man on a horse.
A young boy feels the surface of a tactile recreation of an artwork depicting a man on a horse.
Students touch a tactile version of a Ronald Lockett artwork depicting a Native American on horseback.
Students touch a tactile version of a Ronald Lockett artwork depicting a Native American on horseback.
A tactile replica of Ronald Lockett’s Native American on Horseback sits in front of the original artwork. This specially-crafted replica provides a way for students with vision loss to use their hands to experience the artwork’s forms, textures, and colors.

The yearlong program is for students with visual impairments and helps them “gain the self-confidence and skills necessary to thrive.” The Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) is in midtown Atlanta, less than two miles from the High Museum of Art.

CVI and the High began an official partnership in 2016 through a Museum Access for Kids contract from the Kennedy Center VSA. One of the High’s overarching goals in the past few years has been to expand inclusive programming for all visitors, including students on the autism spectrum and students with visual impairments. And who better to partner with than our next-door neighbors, CVI?

Interested in supporting the High’s efforts to expand inclusive programming? Your tax-deductible contributions to the Annual Fund make a difference.

Two women stand on either side of a woman using a wheelchair holding a box of tactile materials.
Two women stand on either side of a woman using a wheelchair holding a box of tactile materials.
The High’s teaching artists work to utilize and hone their talents to serve all students.

Through this partnership and others, High Museum staff have received training on working with visitors with various disabilities.

For the program with the Center for the Visually Impaired, the High consulted with educators who have experience working with students with visual impairments, including one High Museum docent who earned her doctorate in art education and wrote her dissertation on best practices around students with visual impairments in museum settings.

Three children crowd around a visual legend that links colors with textures.
Three children crowd around a visual legend that links colors with textures.
Students explore the visual legend, which gives them reference points for interpreting the tactile version of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s oil painting.

Part of this museum educator’s dissertation was to provide replicas of four works of art from the High’s collection.

She learned through her research that each replica should use large type for the text and incorporate Braille text about the art and the artist, a “visual legend” along with the replica, a visual reproduction of the artwork, and additional touch objects for students to experience. The docent then trained the Museum’s education staff in these best practices.

Our path was also paved with the generosity of CVI, who trained our staff on how to work with students with visual impairments, created Braille texts, and provided additional best practices for assisting visitors with visual impairments.

From this starting place, the High collaborated with and commissioned four teaching artists to create replicas of four works in its collection. We partnered the replicas with appropriate texts and visual legends.

On the day of the first tour for students with visual impairments, the objects were placed by the artworks, and the tour allowed students to see the objects and feel connected to the Museum in a way they had never experienced. Students also worked with professional teaching artists to create wearable art inspired by one of the artworks on the tour.

Nick Cave’s Soundsuit, made of highly textured materials.
Nick Cave’s Soundsuit, made of highly textured materials.
A student tries on a replica of Nick Cave’s textured Soundsuit.
A student tries on a replica of Nick Cave’s textured Soundsuit.
Nick Cave’s exuberantly textured Soundsuit begs you to touch it. With a replica artwork, students with visual impairments can do just that.

Both organizations are committed to working together in the coming years to provide access to museums, art, and artists for all students.


Your contributions to the High’s Annual Fund support these programs. Consider giving today.

High Museum of Art

Stories from the High Museum of Art in Atlanta

High Museum of Art

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The High is the Southeast’s leading art museum, bringing creativity to your everyday. Our collections, exhibitions, and programs are always here for you.

High Museum of Art

Stories from the High Museum of Art in Atlanta

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