Greetings From Wisconsin

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I have been having a great time in the North Woods of Wisconsin. I am not sure this is officially the North Woods, but it certainly is woody and beautiful. Charlie and I left Golden in a 16’ truck full of artwork and arrived in Wausau about noon on the November 30th.

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Andy McGivern, Joe and Dave, staff members at the Woodson Art Museum, pitched in and we had the artwork out of the truck and into the gallery in short order.

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Andy and I took a few minutes to decide how to turn this space into a fairy tale forest and then we got to work. Soon it was completely transformed.

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Installing trees,

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Installing trees,

By the end of the week we had the exhibit up and running and were ready to invite the public in to see and touch! I would like to invite you to go to the Woodson’s Facebook page and see all the wonderful images Rick Wunsch has taken for the museum.

The Woodson Art Museum is fantastic! It is a beautiful museum and I get to stay in the little house next door. This makes it easy and relaxing, that is once I get home each day. During the day it is quite another matter. We, the staff and I, are calling it “The 700,” referring to the 700, 3 to 6 year old school children scheduled to participate in art making activities between December 8th and the 17th. On the evening of the 17th, all the families are invited to the museum to view the walls covered with  1,400 works of art that the children have made. This is a photo of three days of work!

Woodson Children's workshop

A white marble ptarmigan is at the entrance of the workshop room set up for the children. 6″ x 6″ tin tiles line the walls from floor to ceiling.


Hard straight lines express this child’s “grumpy.”

The project is to express emotions, we are focusing on grumpy and happy.
All the children are also invited to explore Forest Folklore. The exhibit has been getting a lot of exposure. Members Night kicked it off to a very good start and since then we have had many special interest groups, including children, teens and adults, as well as the regular museum visitors.
Remember to visit the Woodson Facebook page if you would like to see people interacting with the artwork. When I am taking pictures it is only because no one is around. When someone is at the exhibit I forget about the camera and talk to them!
This museum thrives under the direction of Kathy Foley and I would like to thank the entire staff and all the volunteers for making this exhibit and  residency such a wonderful experience.
Woodson Wolves in stiu

A wolf-pack is central to the exhibit. All signs are in large print and Braille.


Almost Ready to Go

Not much time to write this week. Things are kicking into high gear in the studio/shop getting everything ready to load out for the exhibit. Thought I would just post some photos of us while we are moving as fast as we can.

Ann is reaching through arm holes to work inside a booth that holds the stone artwork. It has a large window and light making it easy to see.

Working in the enclosed booth cuts down on dust but I still have to suit up to make sure I am not breathing fine particles that escape.

Ann is standing beside a 7’ x 2’ bas relief sculpture of birds on a mountain top.

I need to decide how to finish “On the Divide.” So many decisions.

Wooden easels are stacked up outside.

We are pulling all the display easels out to evaluate.

A hodge-podge of plants, a skeleton, drawings hanging from the ceiling, stacks of paintings, and a sculpture stand with chalk and charcoal.

My upstairs design and drawing area.

Bas relief wolves leaning against the wall next to my desk.

Stacks of wolves waiting for their finish coat.

Charlie is reaching up to shelves in the shop above her work bench.

Charlie selecting wood for frames.

Ann leaning over the sculpture as she applies gold leaf to the net.

Gilding the net on Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

Mike is working at his computer surrounded with sculpture, including a bunny right by his keyboard.

Mike is working on getting the word out, helping with communications.

Artwork is stacked up all around the studio.

Sequence is stacked in front of a panel from Golden Goose.

I am very excited to work with the Woodson Art Museum staff since we have so much scheduled. First week of December, I will be working with fine craftsmen on staff to install the artwork and create the forest. The following two weeks I will get to work with the educators on programing for 600 kids! Should be a lot of fun.

A Braille Trail Adventure and a Tactile Art Exhibit

Hello, my name is Jenny Callahan and I am one of Ann’s art students at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Today, I am going to share with you about the Braille Trail in Aspen, Colorado. I love braille both as a form of communication and also as a tactile art-form. I love incorporating braille in art projects, especially clay and acrylic painting.

What is the Braille Trail? While today there are more than 100 braille trails throughout the country, in 1962 the concept had yet to be created. A science teacher by the name of Bob Lewis happened across a book his 12-year-old daughter had brought home, that described the code invented by Louis Braille. This inadvertent inspiration prompted Bob to conceive the idea of the trail.

This began a five-year process to secure an area from the Forestry Service. In that time he also designed the trail and organized the installation of the signs with descriptions of spots on the trail written by a naturalist.  The metal signs are in both braille and print. The trail has a guide rope along one side of the path. This makes navigation with dog, cane or sighted guide very easy over the rough terrain.  On this trail, Braille is used to allow a closer inspection of nature through the senses of touch, smell, and hearing. The path itself is on rocky terrain in a forest.

A friend described it as a very informative experience with the signs describing the flora of the forest. An interesting side note, bird droppings had to be removed from some of the braille signs (extra dots). The trail itself is not very long. However, the upkeep and maintenance on the trail is quite expensive. The trail is maintained by the Independence Pass Foundation.

When Ann told me about her random stop – when driving to Aspen, upon seeing a sign for the Braille Trail – it reminded me of many of my own road trip adventures.  And, it reminds me how, just as how Bob Lewis saw an opportunity to merge art and science, in the absence of a sense, being open to new roadside adventures can also help us create new types of art.

The braille trail also reminds me of the sacred mountains in China. That even though I can’t see now, I can picture them so vividly in my mind with the trails clinging to the sides of the mountain with just one or two boards and the ropes climbing up the side of the mountain into the clouds. And this is how I picture the Braille Trail, rising into the clouds, up the craggy rocks, dripping in pungent leafy smells.

– by Jenny Callahan, 2015

Independence Pass Braille Trail Station #1. Welcome to the Braille Nature Trail. This trail was designed by Bob Lewis to give all visitors an opportunity to use their senses to better understand and enjoy nature. The guide rope along the left side of the path will help visitors stay on the trail. A single knot in the rope indicates an upcoming interpretive sign. The trail length is equivalent to one city block and traverses some uneven terrain. Please enjoy the Independence Pass Braille Trail.

Beautiful rock-lined woodland path, receding into the pine forest

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Come experience what we can do when we combine our creative forces! The new exhibit at the Colorado Gallery of the Arts at the Littleton Campus of Arapahoe Community College features a unique combination of tactile and multisensory artworks created by ACC painting and ceramics students as well as our neighbors at the Colorado Center for the Blind. The second annual “Shared Visions” exhibit is full of artwork you can touch. The opening on Thursday, November 19th from 5-9 pm will be a truly memorable event. Everyone is welcome!

– by Nathan Abels

Katie and Cindy demonstrate wheel throwing techniques for the students from CCB.Jenny Callahan and 7 other students from The Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) joined Katy Carons ceramics class at Arapahoe Community College. CCB will exhibit the bowls they created in this class, along with other works of art at Shared Visions. I hope you will join us on November 19th at Arapahoe Community College for our opening event.

Students interacting with the teachers during the demonstration.Yolanda, staff from CCB, takes off on her own.

Julie Deden, Director for Colorado Center for the Blind, looks at a tactile work of art in last year's tactile exhibit.

Sensational DraftingBoard – A Tactile Tool for Technical Drawings


You have all seen my buddy, Dan Burke, in action tactually looking at pictures on this blog, but today he is going to learn how to draw an isometric cube. This clip is about two minutes long, highlighting a process that actually took about 20 minutes. This is his first time using these tools and drawing this shape using this type of perspective.

The tools are:

  1. A Sensational DraftingBoard, 18″ x 24″ with an adjustable horizontal bar. The surface allows the drafts-person to draw on copy paper, tracing or polyester film.
  2. The tool he uses is a 30° 60° 90° plastic triangle notched at one inch increments.
  3. He also uses a medium ball point pen.
  4. We used copy paper for this drawing.

It is evident that he quickly learns how to manipulate the tools and understands basic concepts underlying isometric perspective.

It makes me happy that the techniques we used at the National Federation of the Blind EQ program last summer are going to be so easy to share with other students. And we had fun!

How A Rabbit Runs – part 1

One of my goals this year was to see if I could sculpt an image that could create an animation in a person’s mind through touch. Can I carve an image that makes it seem like a moving picture?

I have to have a strong curiosity in my subject matter because it has to be sustained through many weeks of carving. For this sculpture I chose rabbits.

Near my neighborhood is a trail that follows a stream flowing through some wetlands.A sidewalk / bike path curves around a wetland swamp. The path is lined with trees and lawn. From one year to the next the rabbit population seems to boom and then diminish in direct proportion to the number of coyotes in the area. This year there seem to be fewer, but bolder, coyotes. The result is that the coyotes are well fed and we still have lots of bunnies.

A photo of a rabbit that I crossed paths with on a walk one morning.

A rabbit resting on the trail.

Directly behind the swamp is a large field with a coyote den. A coyote is standing dead center.

A coyote is right in the middle of this picture.

As I walk along I can’t help but think about the place rabbits hold in the food chain. Each rabbit’s life seems so tenuous, their situation so vulnerable. But as a species they flourish. When I see them running they actually look strong and free. I can’t help wonder how they see themselves. I wonder how similar our perception of our own life is…

I love drawing animals that I haven’t drawn before because I get to learn how they are put together. I start with a gestural drawing just to capture the “feel”, the motion and emotions, of what I want to sculpt.

Messy red chalk drawing of three running rabbits. The rabbit pushes off from both of its large back feet and, stretching forward, launches itself into the air. As it arch back to earth it lands on its small front feet. It pulls its hind feet up past its front feet, on the outside, as it readies itself for the next stride. Placing both back feet on the ground again it repeats the sequence.

Once I have that picture, I cutout a skeleton to see if what I am thinking of drawing is even something a rabbit could do. I fit the skeleton into each rabbit and use that as a guide as I draft my working drawing.

Chalk drawing in background with a cut out paper skeleton of a rabbit positioned on top.

The working drawing is the sketch that gets blown up for sandblasting. (See July 1, 2015 blog: Stone Carving – The First Step Is a Blast)

A graphite drawing of the rabbits in

I love seeing how a rabbit uses its body as compared to how I use mine. Rabbits and humans have homologous parts but use them in very different ways. When I get down to the bones I can see this and feel it as I sculpt. I find myself imagining what it would feel like to be able to run like a rabbit. I wonder what it would be like to see out of the sides of my head. How much more could I hear with those ears!

The finished slate sculpture illustrating a rabbit's stride.

“Sequence,” by Ann Cunningham 2015 slate 14x 60x 3/4″

Next week, when I teach class at the Colorado Center for the Blind, I will be able to give this baby a test run. I’ll post video results.

Photo close up of rabbits head, the eye is the shape of a sunflower. Parts of the rabbit are very smooth and other parts have the rabbits fur in fine detail.

DAM Docents

Denver Art Museum Docents

This September, Cincinnati will be Hosting the National Docent Symposium. The theme is:

 “Bridge to the Past….Path to the Future”

The Denver Art Museum docent team of Sharon Rouse, Carol Hamilton and Marty Corren, led by Carolyn Strand, will talk about the 15 year history of Tactile Tables, as a way to make information accessible at the Denver Art Museum. I have had the honor of working with the incredible docents and amazing staff since the beginning of the Tactile Tables program.

Just last weekend Channel 9 News came to see how the tactile images work and to talk to visitors about their experience.

Over the years I have had an opportunity to explore a lot of different way to make information accessible to touch. The docents have been essential to collecting good information so that our tactile images could evolve into something better.

I would like to describe one of the techniques I used to create a tactile interpretations of one of the paintings featured in the news clip.

click on this link to see the Denver Art Museum’s image of Water Lily Pond by Claude Monet, 1904

I start by breaking down the subject matter into categories:



Lily pads

Shoreline plants

I then assign each category a distinct texture.

Water – self leveling gel

Left side: underpainting of water areas. Right side: self leveling gel texture to represent water.

Left side: underpainting of water areas. Right side: self leveling gel texture to represent water.

Flowers – bead texture

Left side: detail of lavender colored paint with small glass beads. Right side: jar of Golden Glass Beads

Left side: detail of lavender colored paint with small glass beads. Right side: jar of Golden Glass Bead Gel

Lily pads – pumice, fine texture

Left side: jar of Golden Fine Pumice Gel. Right side: brown colored paint mixed with pumice sample.

Left side: jar of Golden Fine Pumice Gel. Right side: brown colored paint mixed with pumice sample.

Shoreline plants – matt medium extra heavy gel

Left side: brown sample of paint mixed with Golden High Solids Gel, matte. Right side: image of jar.

Left side: brown sample of paint mixed with Golden High Solids Gel, matte. Right side: image of jar.

I paint an approximation of the painting so that the docents can discuss color with visitors but the images are also fully accessible tactually.

Three people who are blind are sitting around a tactile picture of Claude Monet's Water Lily Pond, collection of the Denver Art Museum. Another visitor who is blind is discussing the original work with another docent.

Visitors who are blind and visually impaired talk to docents who are happy to share their love of art through tactile images and discussion.

Putting the STEAM into STEM

Including Art as a critical educational element.

Educators know the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are getting a lot of attention these days. But many educators are now also recognizing that we need to add Art to the equation to better understand concepts and share new ideas.

The National Federation of the Blind is on that list and they just hosted a week long event at which 19 high school students from across the United States came to Baltimore to design and make boats, water filtration systems and learn the skills to illustrate and share their ideas.

This photo shows the front of the Jernigan Institute. It is a four story structure featuring a red brick and green glass facade. A large billboard with the name of the NFB that can be seen from the highway is on the roof.

We worked, slept and ate on site making it easy to accomplish a lot.

The event was organized by NFB Educator Natalie Shaheen.

The event was organized by NFB Educator Natalie Shaheen.

I taught alongside two engineering professors from Utah. Dr. Idalis Villanueva from Utah State University, was the leader of this program and also led the water filtration design track. Dr. William Clapp, from Weber State University led the boat prototyping  and construction track.

Four students were assigned to each of our five teams. (Yes, one team was short a member.)

Two of the four students took the lead on building a boat that they could get in and paddle! Every team managed to get a boat into the water and paddle it through some choppy waves towards the finish line.

A boat made of pvc pipe and wrapped in blue tarp and secured with tape sits high in the water as the sleep-shaded paddler prepares to race.

Team members position their boat at the start line.

One student from each team learned a number of different methods to clean and desalinate water that was very muddy and salty. They then tested their water filtration designs and competed against each other on race day.

They accomplished this under a unique flag designed and constructed by their team artists. These designers also had a hand in designing the other deliverables as they brainstormed and sketched ideas with their team members. Race day was great but the four days that led up to that event were even more amazing.

A flag with a green background and red and orange abstract designs surrounds a white tactile wolf in the center.

White Wolf Flag

Imagine walking into a room full of boat making supplies, PVC pipes and connectors, glue, duct tape and tarps. The next room held hundreds of empty water bottles, buckets, stacks of toilet paper, containers of charcoal, and duct tape ready to be configured into a system that could turn dirty water into clean. Or you may have been assigned to my area full of tactile drawing boards, modified triangles, french curves and tactile rulers along with all sorts of papers and materials to create technical drawings of real objects and imagined designs.

A large pile of long sticks of inch diameter PVC pipe and a wide variety of connectors are organized in preparation for the EQ activities.

Boat Making Materials

Ten students were in the construction area learning engineering principles and tool and material handling from Dr. Bill. Five students became our water specialists and focused on how water filtrations systems work under the instruction of Dr. V.

empty pop bottles, caps, toilet paper and scissors are tools and materials organized on a tabletop for one type of water filter.

Water Filtration Materials

I had five student designers in my area. First I taught the designers how to use the basic Sensational Black Boards and papers along with a variety of tools. They also had other boards and an electronic eraser for plastic paper that they could try out.  These same students then took the lead in teaching the rest of their team about drawing basics.

Two different styles of boat models were made for this event and were on the table in front of boards used for drawing, including the Sensational BlackBoard!

Models to Draw

The next three days we explored how to use a drafting board fitted with a tactile drawing surface to draft orthographic and isometric perspectives. Everyone was able to confidently complete this task by day four, even students who had never drawn before. I was extremely happy to see this as we broke new ground together.

Oh and they each made team flags that symbolized their goals and inspiration.

I am excited to take this curriculum back to my art classes at the Colorado Center for the Blind. One way students can immediately use these skills will be on shop projects. Students will be able to design on paper before they begin to cut wood.

We used modified triangles and accessible straight edges.

A student just completed an isometric perspective drawing of a cube on a Sensational DraftBoard.

This image shows a student working on a drawing of a complex block of wood with a hole drilled through it. This is preliminary step to the isometric drawing.

Orthographic projections of a complex block.

In art class we will be able to take these lessons and forge ahead into CAD drawing. I think that by translating tangible objects into sensible drawings that we can predictably assign accurate plot points to we will be able to make sense of computer drafting. My hope is that this will lead to students creating original computer drafting files for 3D printing.

A variety of tools including a protractor, french curves, a 30, 60, 90 degree triangle with circle templates and straight edges.

Some of the tools we used.

I had a great time and one of those, “Dream Moments” when one student drew with clear understanding her first cube. All my work of years seemed to coalesce in that instant. For that opportunity I will be forever thankful.