Students Create Accessible Art for Broad Exhibit

"Accessible Art Event" written in white on a painted background featuring both black and bright colors

A one-day interactive exhibit at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, focusing on art accessibility across the visual ability spectrum, will feature creative work by MSU students in literature and art combined with renowned speakers in disability studies. The public is invited to attend and engage with these dynamic works of art.

Titled Sense of Self: Accessible Art and Disability Studies, the event, which takes place Friday, November 10, unites students and faculty from across Michigan State University to reimagine the art museum as an inclusive space.

The day-long event, made possible by a grant from the College of Arts & Letters and matching funding from the Broad Art Museum, was spearheaded by the MSU Digital Humanities & Literary Cognition Lab (DHLC) and Exceptions, a student-led journal at the DHLC dedicated to publishing artistic and literary works for and by people in the visually impaired community.

Sense of Self written in white on a blue painted background with silver garland
Sense of Self: Accessible Art and Disability Studies

The public exhibition portion of the event, open from 5 to 8 p.m., will showcase a wide range of outstanding creative and theoretical work by graduate and undergraduates at MSU, including original literary compositions and innovative tactile artworks created by students in classes by Associate Professor of English Natalie Phillips (ENG 211H – Intro to Literary Studies and ENG 819/481 – Literature and Mind) and interactive paintings by students in Studio Art led by Professor Alisa Henriquez (STA 320 – Beginning Painting).

At 6 p.m., Michael Hudson, Director of MSU’s Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD), will offer remarks.

“Michigan State University is committed to fully including people with a range of disabilities, and we are excited to see this forward student-driven momentum of accessible art,” Hudson said.

Bridging painting and literature, the student-generated art incorporates both academic theory and hands-on creative engagement. Guests will be invited to experience the artwork with their eyes and hands as each piece contains tactile elements inspired by excerpts of literature and poetry.

“The exhibition features collaborative creative work by MSU’s own students that invites an immersive, multi-sensory museum experience,” Phillips said. “This hands-on outreach component—student art you can touch inspired by poets and literary students from English, Education, Business, Nursing, the Honors College, and beyond—is amazing, especially with the tactile (art you can touch) being combined with braille and audio renderings of the literature, as well as student interview videos online.”

The DHLC and Exceptions commissioned literature selections from students enrolled in English courses with Professor Phillips. The selections include excerpts from novels, short stories, poems, and even some original works – all united by the presence of multisensory imagery.

In honor of Veteran’s Day, a number of the literary works illustrate experiences of war including war poetry and short stories by Wilfred Owen, Brian Turner, and Tim O’Brien, as well as original student poetry and soundscapes inspired by war memoir.

These writings served as inspiration for students enrolled in Professor Henriquez’s Studio Art course. The resulting works display a wide range of interpretations and appeal to people who are both sighted and blind.

The Sense of Self: Accessible Art and Disability Studies event will begin with a morning symposium, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., which will bring together two national leaders in accessible art, museum outreach, and disability studies – Georgina Kleege and Lucas Livingston – to share their insights and expertise.

A woman with short white hair
Dr. Georgina Kleege

Kleege is a Professor of Creative Writing and Disability Studies at University of California, Berkeley, as well as an established author and pioneer in Disability Studies. An invited consultant for art institutions around the world, Kleege’s work on literary representations of disability and disability memoir have become required reading in literary and disability studies, as well as visual culture, education, public health, psychology, philosophy, and ophthalmology. She will speak from 10 to 11 a.m. about “Blind Self-Portraits: Remaking the Image of Blindness.”

Livingston is an Art Educator and Museum Specialist at the Art Institute of Chicago. He will speak from 11:30 to 12:30 a.m. about his work in accessibility, wellness, and health outreach at the Art Institute.

This is the third year the DHLCExceptionsDepartment of EnglishDepartment of Art, Art History, and Design; the RCPD have collaborated to organize an Accessible Art event.