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The Educator’s Lair: Helen Keller Art Show

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” This quote was written by a woman who, despite her inability to hear, see, or even speak, managed to see not only beauty in the world but vast possibilities as well. That woman was the awe-inspiring Helen Keller. Born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Keller suffered from an illness when she was almost 2 years old that left her blind and deaf. Through extensive schooling across the country, most notably with her teacher and mentor Annie Sullivan (Macy), Helen Keller managed to accomplish incredible things throughout her life. She was the first blind and deaf woman to graduate from college in the United States. She wrote books and over around 500 speeches and essays.  Keller also co-founded the American Civil Liberties Union with American civil rights activist Roger Nash Baldwin and others in 1920. Helen Keller left an incredible legacy behind.

To pay tribute to Helen Keller’s impressive legacy and tenacious spirit, The Helen Keller Art show was created. This show displays work created by Alabama students with visual impairments, blindness, and deafness. The exhibition is juried statewide, travels from Birmingham to Mobile, and select pieces are also shown internationally. The Helen Keller Art Show of Alabama emphasizes creativity, color, and tactile media in the arts. The winning entry for the grand prize is selected by the Helen Keller Festival Board to receive the Patty Johnson Award, and will remain in the permanent collection at Ivy Green in Tuscumbia, AL, the birthplace of Helen Keller. Information about the opening reception in Birmingham as well as a complete list of winners can be found here.

For over a decade, The Wiregrass Museum of Art has hosted the Helen Keller Art Show. It is a tradition we are proud to continue. Because we are under state orders to remain closed through April, we are bringing the exhibition to you in the comfort of your homes. Be on the lookout for an interactive virtual tour of The Helen Keller Art Show coming soon!

In the meantime, here are two works from the exhibition.

Pay attention to the artists’ use of TEXTURE. Texture refers to the surface quality in a work of art. We associate textures with the way that things look or feel. There are two types of texture: real and visual/implied texture. Real texture is real. Think of a tree branch. How does it feel? Visual or implied texture can be simulated or invented. Think of a PAINTING of a tree branch. Artists use techniques to imply texture, but the painting would likely not feel like an actual tree branch unless the artist manipulated the medium or added additional elements. Many works in the Helen Keller Art Show have tactile, textural elements. Though hard to truly capture in a photograph, you can still see how these works appeal to the sense of touch.