Carmen Papalia leading
Carmen Papalia leading "The Blind Field Shuttle"

Most people are accustomed to going to a museum to see art. But a new exhibition titled “Let’s Keep in Touch,” opening Aug. 25 in Schneider Galleries, asks participants to experience the beauty of art through other senses – particularly touch. 

Whitney Mashburn
Whitney Mashburn

For the exhibition, Whitney Mashburn, a graduate student in Hite Art Institute’s Critical and Curatorial Studies program, worked with Carmen Papalia, a visually-impaired Canadian artist who has gained international attention for encouraging museums to rethink accessibility.

Mashburn chose 16 artists whose work had a “tactile aesthetic – work that has a sense of beauty in touch.” Papalia is reaching out to those artists and asking if they would allow people to touch their work.

Artists Christina Warzecha and Corey Patrick Dunlap have agreed and their sculptural installations will be available to see and touch at Schneider Galleries through Sept. 23. Papalia is working with the other artists, who are based around the world, to make their art available for touch in their home galleries and museums.

“‘Let’s Keep in Touch’ is an inherently political project which challenges the systematic oppression of visual primacy in art institutions,” Papalia said.

Papalia, a social practice artist who identifies as a “non-visual learner,” has worked with venues such as The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, MoMA and the Columbus Museum of Art. He is best known for “The Blind Field Shuttle,” a walking tour in which he leads groups of people with their eyes closed. 

Carmen Papalia
Carmen Papalia

“I’ve done these walks in about 12 different cities. It’s to introduce people to a new way of being in the world, one that doesn’t center around vision,” Papalia told CBC News.

Mashburn and Papalia will hold a question and answer session from 4-5:30 p.m. Aug. 24. On Aug. 25, from 4:30-6:30 p.m., Papalia will lead a workshop and a participatory performance.

“He’ll ask people to close their eyes and open awareness to their non-visual senses,” Mashburn said. “What does the air feel like? What do you hear? What do you smell? We’ll be asking people to shut down their sense of sight temporarily to become more sensitive to our other senses. With this exhibition, we’ll especially be thinking about the sense of touch and tactility.”

An opening reception will immediately follow the performance from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Schneider Galleries, 2300 S. First Street Walk.

At a Glance

What: “Let’s Keep in Touch” exhibition

Where: Hite Art Institute’s Schneider Galleries, Belknap Campus, 2300 S. First Street Walk

When: Aug. 25-Sept. 23

Q&A with Papalia and Mashburn: 4-5:30 p.m. Aug. 24.

Workshop and Participatory Performance: 4:30-6:30 p.m. Aug. 25

Opening Reception: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 25

Niki King
Niki King Jones is positive she has the best job at the University of Louisville, serving the communication needs of the departments of fine arts and theatre, the School of Music, University Libraries and Alumni – all the fun, creative stuff. Before coming to UofL in 2015, Niki held communication positions in both private and nonprofit sectors in Louisville, Ky., including at Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Jewish Community of Louisville. For 10 years prior, she was a reporter at various newspapers across the country, most recently The Courier-Journal. Niki graduated from the University of Memphis with a BA in journalism and has a masters degree in community and leadership development from the University of Kentucky.