Wednesday, May 22, 2019

ArtABILITY: Accessible After-Hours Discovery at the Library

view of open air lobby with sky lights and brown tile and carpet floor. There is a poster stand with a blue poster inside reading ArtABILITY next to a wood table with handouts and pencil holder. Ranges of shelving to the left and a service desk are in the background.

I love the month of May because that means our library is going to be filled with the wonderful artistic expressions of students in the Bloomfield Hills School District Art Show. We really wanted to make this fantastic art accessible for everyone in the community, so we held a sensory-friendly after-hours art appreciation event this past Friday. As with other sensory-friendly after-hours events we have held on Fridays, we kept the doors open upon closing at 6:30 pm exclusively for children, teens, and adults with disabilities along with their families. This gives people of all ages with disabilities the chance to explore the library and/or experience our sensory activities in a less crowded, low-stress, sensory-friendly environment, with visuals and a calming space in case of overstimulation. This is also a time when many feel more comfortable attending, as they can just be themselves. Whether it's stimming, loud tics or excited voices, this is a "no judgement (or shushing) zone." As one group of adults with intellectual disabilities was headed through the door and one of them spoke loudly in her excitement, the caregiver and others in the group looked at me with an apologetic glance. "No worries, that's what this night is for!" I said with equal excitement. 

We provided a visual guide to the evening's activities in the lobby, along with a survey and handouts to help attendees explore our two pieces of touchable library art: our sculpture "Quest" (an adult sitting on a bench peering at an excited child holding a book over head in the background of the top image in this post) and the Conant Elementary School Legacy Project tile mosaic.

table with 4 paper handouts and pencils in pencil holdersAn older child in wheelchair, next to an adult female, is touching a colorful tile mosaic with floral motif hanging on a brick wall.

We also provided an ASL interpreter, a tour of selected works in the art show with verbal description for attendees with visual impairment, sensory activities, and more tactile art activities. Tactile art included this fantastic flannel book of tactile representations of four works of art from the neighboring Cranbrook Art Museum. Our incredibly creative library intern, Lauren Aquilina, wrote to Cranbrook for permission to recreate these pieces from their collection for our ArtABILITY event and then created this tactile masterpiece using fabric, foam, glue, puffy paint, buttons, pipe cleaners and yarn.

a sign with visuals and instructions to touch tactile representations of 4 works of art from the Cranbrook Art Museum is in front of a red flannel book that has a sparkly hand over a blue and yellow square background. The top of the book reads 'Touchable Art.'

a two page layout with printed image of art by Alfred Jensen, titled Atlantis, Per II, 1965, on the left. On the right side is a tactile representation made of woven string in vertical lines of yellow, black, blue and reda two page spread with a printed image of the art work by Roy Lichtenstein, titled Modular Painting with Four Pencils, No. 7 from the Modern Series, 1970, on the left. There are images of 4 pencils. On the right side is a tactile representation made from puffy paint and flannel pieces in red, black, and blue to create a pencil shape point up

a two page spread with a print of the art work by Victor Vasarely, titled Toll (from the Permutations Series), 1965. There are 4 squares with yellow dots and small square shapes of yellow inside, arranged in a pattern. On the right side is a tactile representation with grey flannel square in the background and buttons in yellow, green, and black sewn in a square pattern
 a two page spread with a print of the artwork by Nicholas Krushenick, titled The Battle of Bull Run, 1963, on the left. It is an image with arcs of blue and yellow at the top with an orange, yellow lines crossing each other with red looping shapes in an arc over the lines. On the right is a tactile representation of this image using pipe cleaners in the same colors and patterns

Our activities in the Youth Services Room included light table play, a very cool sensory painting activity from librarian Patricia Ballard, spring time discovery bin and textured paint play from librarian Andy Lebeck, and a cool-down space for those seeking a little sensory break.

A poster titled Youth Services Highlights, with 4 visuals in squares: arts and crafts, sensory activity, browsing collection, and person relaxing in cool-down spacewood light table with colorful translucent blocks, letters, numbers, and pyramid shapes

arms and hands shown working on paintings, using paint tools at a table with glue, paint, and tools in the centertwo black frames with colorful paint in swirl patterns

two-sided sensory bin. The left side has black beans, plastic bugs and plastic flowers. The right side has water, foam fish, and small nets

We turned our story room into a cool-down space for sensory breaks. 
The lights are dimmed and there are some tools provided to help with self-regulation, such as fidgets and weighted lap pads for people seeking sensory input and a pop-up tent (tall enough for adults) and sound-cancelling headphones for sensory avoiders. 

metal stand with poster of figure reclining, with the words Cool-Down Space written above

looking down long blue folding table with lap pads and fidgets on top, beside wall of various geometric shaped windowsround blue folding table with 4 sound cancelling headphones and sign saying "Too Much Stimulation?" on top

sign on top of blue table saying "Need to cool down? Choose a fidget or lap pad to help. There are also four images: fidget, person with lap pad, person saying "I'm okay," and hand squeezing a yellow ball

long blue table with fidgets and timer on topblue pop-up tent with yellow stars on carpeted floor next to 3 orange and pink pillows to the left and a green cushion to the right

Our special guest Caroline Braden, Accessibility Specialist at The Henry Ford, brought tactile activities to learn about the art of "Things That Go." People could wander into our Magazine Room to touch/feel miniature versions of the famous modes of transportation housed at The Henry Ford Museum, put together automobile pieces in a small assembly line and then put together an automobile craft to take home.

Poster in stand with words at the top: The Art of "Things That Go." There are four squares with images inside: The Henry Ford logo, a person pointing to red box, images of 3 modes of transportation, and arts and crafts tools

wood table with small figures of transportationa set of hands working with small plastic parts of an automobile model

four sets of hands working with various art materials to create automobile craft at wood table

People could wander into the Adult Services area to design marshmallow structures, provided by Adult Services librarian, Ed Niemchak, who I will be introducing as a blog partner on here very soon!! Ed will be blogging about adaptive programming for teens and adults, including his monthly sensory story times at the BTPL. Yeah, Ed!

two children creating structures with marshmallows and toothpicks at a white table

At 7 pm, a group of 8 met me in the lobby to head to our Community Room for a tour of 10 selected works in the student art show. I provided detailed verbal description to be inclusive of those who are blind or have low vision. 

looking into a large open room with panels of art work in frames and pedestals for sculptures

Here is one of my favorites from the students at the Wing Lake Developmental Center:

Image description: "Recycled Cap Flower" Medium used: cardboard with plastic bottle and jar caps. 18 x 6 inch rectangle cardboard background presented vertically and centered over vertical black board frame. The cardboard is spray painted green and blue. Over the cardboard background is a 3 dimensional flower shape. Creating the shape of a flower at the top are 23 yellow bottle caps in various 1 - 1 1/2 inch circular shapes with a large 3 inch white jar top in the center. Moving down from the flower top, there are 17 green circular bottle caps, 1 to 2 inches in diameter, trailing down to create a stem shape.

And of course, our attendees could also check out materials with our Head of Circulation, Anna Pelepchuk, at the Circulation desk! 

person peering over computer at desk with the word circulation on the front. In front of the desk is an easel holding a poster with an image of a person checking out a book at the desk with a librarian

Thanks also goes to Head of Youth Services, Marian Rafal, for greeting our attendees at the door and Pages Heather Coffee-Borden and Jessica Doroslovac for assisting with our activities! These after-hours events may not draw in big attendance numbers, but we are so glad to see the faces we don't see on a consistent basis. This was their time to explore art, literature and more in an accessible, low-stress environment.