Organizations for Blind Artists
"A man paints with his brains and not with his hands."
"Painting is a blind man's profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen."
As these two famous artists indicated, one does not need to be able to see to create meaningful art. There is no consensus on what makes something "art." We would be here all day if we started talking about the aesthetics and definition of art. However, most artists, critics, and patrons of the arts would agree that an important aspect of art is the emotion or feeling an artist conveys in her or his work. A person can learn the techniques of light, shadow, shape, color, and style, but an artist will transmit some feeling, emotion, thought, or purpose into the work, which will then be transmitted to the viewer. One does not need to be able to see perfectly to be able to transform abstract concepts into physical form, whether it is a painting, sculpture, photograph, sketch, or other visual media.
This being said, being a blind artist has its issues and difficulties. Painting, photography, or drawing is especially difficult because they traditionally rely heavily on sight. Artists who are blind or visually impaired need to develop techniques for choosing colors and tracking brushstrokes. And, like any artist, they communicate with each other about new artistic styles and tools to use. They also exchange information on collaborative exhibits of their work, how to advertise, and where to buy each other's works.
If you are an aspiring artist or know someone who is, there are some great resources out there for artists who are blind and visually impaired. Here are a few of them.
VSA Arts, formerly Very Special Arts, is an international organization devoted to increasing accessibility in the arts for people with disabilities. Originally founded in 1974, their four guiding principles are 1) all people with disabilities deserve quality arts education, 2) art educators should be able to accommodate students with disabilities, 3) cultural institutions should be completely accessible for people with disabilities of all ages, and 4) aspiring artists with disabilities should be able to develop their skills just like people without disabilities. Their website includes resources for educators, artists, and students, including publications, information on programs, awards, and exhibitions, affiliates, career development, and much more.
Founded in 2004, this UK-based charity organization hosts exhibitions that aim to "dispel the notion that sight is essential to creating or enjoying exceptional art. The overall message of BlindArt is artistic excellence regardless of visual ability." In addition to hosting exhibits, BlindArt maintains a permanent collection of works by blind and sighted artists, and runs art education programs for children.
The BAS is an online artist's community dedicated to promoting blind and visually impaired artists. The online community displays its artworks online and periodically exhibits works collaboratively. Artists can exchange information on tips, techniques, and tools of the trade. The BAS also serves as a support group for these artists. Other artists who are not blind but wish to support blind artists are also encouraged to join.
This is a group, found primarily on Flickr, of blind and visually impaired artists. They share information and their work with each other as well as promote blind and visually impaired artists nationwide.
Friends in Art (FIA)
Affiliated with the American Council for the Blind, this organization promotes accessibility to the arts for people who are blind and visually impaired. Among many other things, Friends In Art offers an annual scholarship to burgeoning artists in college or art/design schools. During the ACB annual convention, FIA offers an "art parlor" in which artists can exhibit their works. They also offer workshops to hone artistic skills.
Several other organizations focus on access to the arts for people with disabilities in a broader sense, but that is a topic for another day.
If you're an aspiring artist or know someone who is, please check these resources out and don't be afraid to paint what you feel!