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A New Art on Call Tour That Focuses on Deep Description

Are you familiar with the Walker’s Art on Call program? It’s a way to access information about works of art—piecing together a personalized audio tour—through your mobile device, home phone, or computer.  The content varies, but frequently the stops feature the voices of artists and exhibition curators telling stories of objects or unpacking ideas. This […]

Are you familiar with the Walker’s Art on Call program? It’s a way to access information about works of art—piecing together a personalized audio tour—through your mobile device, home phone, or computer.  The content varies, but frequently the stops feature the voices of artists and exhibition curators telling stories of objects or unpacking ideas. This summer we introduced an alternative stop: visual descriptions of select artworks in the exhibition Midnight Party and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Visual description uses non-visual language to convey the visual world and offers an intense study of a work of art. The key physical components of an object are boiled down including how it exists in space, its surroundings. Take the opening lines from the visual description for Spoonbridge and Cherry:

“Enormous in scale, this fountain-sculpture offers a utensil and piece of fruit fit for a giant. Weighing around 7,000 pounds and stretching almost 30 feet into the air, Spoonbridge and Cherry is situated in the center of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The spoon spans a small pond ringed with native prairie grasses. During pleasant weather the grasses sway gently in the breeze, giving a sense of movement to the overall installation.”

The analysis isn’t targeting meaning or art history, but rather it’s a concentrated look at the anatomy of the object. Take a listen to the entire description: Visual description for Spoonbridge and Cherry.

Visual description is a particularly good access point to the visual arts for people who are blind. In fact, the visual description Art on Call stops originated from work the Walker was doing around its Open Door Accessibility Initiatives. Members from the Walker’s access advisory group along with education and curatorial staff selected objects to include in the project and tested the scripts penned by Lara Roy, a longtime museum educator and art historian with experience in the accessibility field.  Lara, now Director of Continuing Studies at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, worked at the Walker several years back, so her familiarity with the collection runs deep. Once our advisors signed off on the scripts and they were edited by our in-house editors it was time to bring them to life.

The voice for the stops is local actor, Stacia Rice. Stacia is a long-time access advocate, founder of Torch Theater, and regularly graces the Guthrie’s stage(s). She’s also hysterically funny and possesses a truly collaborative spirit. Tom Hambleton, sound magician at Undertone, produced the stops. The shots you see below show Stacia and Tom at work in Undertone’s Washington Avenue studios.

Stacia in mid-description

Stacia taking a break for a smile

Tom at the controls

Eager to listen to the end result, aren’t you! Here’s how…

Dial 612.374.8200 to enter the Art on Call program and then dial one or more of the following codes to access the content attached to them:

Introductory Stops

1465    Introduction to Open Door Accessibility Initiatives at the Walker

1466 Introduction to Visual Description

1467    General Introduction to the Walker Art Center

Midnight Party

1490    Introduction to the exhibition

1491    Francis Bacon, Head in Grey

1492    Matthew Barney, DRAWING RESTRAINT 7

1493    Frank Gaard, Untitled

1494    Robert Gober, Untitled Door and Door Frame

1495    Yayoi Kusama, Oven-Pan

1496    Kiki Smith, Kitchen

1497    Jana Sterbak, Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic

1498    Angela Strassheim, Evidence No. 6

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

1051       Mark di Suvero, Arikidea

1057       Barry Flanagan, Hare on Bell on Portland Stone Piers

1041       Frank Gehry, Standing Glass Fish

1042       Dan Graham, Two-way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth

1049       Jenny Holzer, Selections from The Living Series

1489       Sol LeWitt, X with Columns

1036       Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Spoonbridge and Cherry

1045       George Segal, Walking Man

You can also go to newmedia.walkerart.org/aoc/index.wac and type in the work’s title in the search box to bring up the above stops and then listen.

While the initial intention was to offer this tour as a resource for our visitors who are blind or have low vision we believe this approach to viewing the art will appeal to all visitors. Tell us what you think. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue adding to our visual description library.