Kentucky is home to many nationally important organizations like Actors Theatre and Appalshop. We tend to think of them as “ours,” but it’s important to remember the impact many of these places have beyond the borders of the Commonwealth. The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is one of these Kentucky organizations with great reach, and it has served blind Americans since 1858 as the national leader in providing accessible media, training and products.
APH serves artists who are blind or have vision loss through InSights, an annual juried visual art competition and exhibition. Each year the contest receives about 350 national and, sometimes, international entries. Judges from Louisville’s education and art community select pieces for display at the APH annual meeting in October, which took place on Oct. 16-18. “Prize winners are invited to come to Louisville to receive their awards at an evening banquet. Artwork from entries may also be reproduced in the annual InSights calendar and as images on greeting cards.”
I had the pleasure of viewing the exhibit this year. Now in it’s 30th year, the APH has a solid process and guiding philosophy for InSight. Artists must be legally blind by the federal definition. The judges come from diverse backgrounds — they are artists, gallery owners, educators, etc. Each piece is judged on its own artistic merit with first, second and third places awarded in several school grades, an ungraded school-age category and an adult category. The show is also further curated by adding pieces that did not receive awards but contribute to the aesthetic of the exhibit.
I had many favorites, but I spent extra time on the following quilt. The piece came from a group of 17 students at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., in the ungraded school-age category. Each square was developed on the theme of “What Growing in Your Garden” and comes with an accompanying Haiku. Flowers, fruits, grains and vegetables are all hanging out in a quilt that remind the viewer of farmer’s market stalls. The result is powerful, colorful collaborative art.
Sarah Schmitt, arts access director