50 Stories 50 Years: NewView Oklahoma
NewView Oklahoma, Oklahoma City | Non-profit 501(c)(3) | www.newviewoklahoma.org
NewView Oklahoma provides year-round classes in a variety of artistic media designed to make the arts accessible to people with vision loss.
The Creative Visions program was created in partnership with the Oklahoma City Museum of Art to provide audio and descriptive tours of museums and to give students in NewView classes opportunities to exhibit their artwork.
Creative Visions enables youth, adults and seniors to enjoy and experience the benefits of creating and viewing art.
In 2014, the Oklahoma Arts Council funded a six week art installation class at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art taught by printmaker and multi-media artist, Erin Latham. In conjunction with the classes, the Museum hosted an auditory and tactile tours of the exhibit “Young Chinese Artists” for students enrolled in the class, as well as members of NewView’s Blind Veterans Support Group.
The tactile tour was a hands-on arts experience and U.S. Air Force Veteran Steve Evans’ first outing to a museum since the beginning of his early onset macular degeneration. Related retinal hemorrhaging and now cataracts caused him to lose most of the vision in his left eye about 11 years ago and his right eye about three years ago.
“For me, it’s nice to still be able to be creative, because taking a big hit on vision; the first thing is you’re scared. You’re scared to death. You don’t know what you can do, what you can’t do. So getting out and discovering that you can still do things, you can still be creative … it builds your confidence back to know you can get back out and do some of this,” said Evans.
Following the “Young Chinese Artists” tour, Steve enrolled in art classes.
“To know I can keep that independence and all is a good feeling” said Steve. “For me, being creative, whether it’s been music or my needlework or whatever, was always important, and it’s still important to be creative. It’s a way to express yourself.”
For blind veteran, James Bulmer, who began losing his vision 25 years ago due to retinitis pigmentosa, a rare, inherited eye disease, art experiences through NewView have given him a way to cope not just with his low vision but also with his memories of the Vietnam War.
James came to the tour and then enrolled in the weekly art classes held at the Museum and NewView. While his impairment has not stopped him from pursuing his love of painting over the past few years, James says that he feels like he is taken seriously as a blind artist for the very first time because of his involvement in the art classes at NewView.
Further budget cuts to the Oklahoma Arts Council would prevent NewView from being able to offer the year-round arts programming offered by Creative Visions.
Said NewView’s Grants Director, “while we seek funds from other sources to support the program, funding from the Oklahoma Arts Council is vital to our ability to offer a full range of arts activities and leverage funding from other sources.”
NewView’s mission “to empower blind and visually impaired individuals to achieve their maximum level of independence through employment, vision rehabilitation and community outreach” would not be possible without public support from the Oklahoma Arts Council.
This story celebrates 50 years of the Oklahoma Arts Council and how the state’s investments have positive ripple effects on communities across Oklahoma. See other stories or follow this link for more information.