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Audio magic

This program is available in DV, for the visually impaired. The AGO's Assistant Curator of Community Programs shares why.

The Metropolitan Printing Co., New York Adelaide Herrmann and Company around 1905 chromolithograph McCord Museum, M2014.128.207 EXH.160502.tif August 20, 2020, 7:18 PM

The Metropolitan Printing Co., New York Adelaide Herrmann and Company around 1905 chromolithograph McCord Museum, M2014.128.207


By Melissa Smith, AGO's Assistant Curator, Community Programs

Have you ever come across a television show that has DV? You’re clicking through the channels and a voice over describes the environment, the actions of the characters and anything visual that adds to the story? If you aren’t familiar with audio description as an able-bodied individual, it can seem a bit distracting but it’s an important and inclusive way to communicate the visual elements of a performance, story, object or artwork.

Audio Description is spoken or written language, either recorded or live, describing visual images or objects, enabling blind and partially sighted audiences to engage and pursue their own journey in theatre and film, and in relation to visual art, performance, and sculpture. Although television and theatre use pure audio description, for visual arts, we are lucky that we can take on creative approaches. It is interpretation combined with description and close looking. This is often called Creative Visual Description.

AGO Art Educators include Creative Visual Descriptions in the AGO Multisensory tours, along with tactile, sound, and scent activations, provided through our Access to Art Programs. They describe the initial sense of the artwork, the overall composition, how the eye is drawn towards different elements, how the artist’s materials are used and their effects - all in order to form an understanding of the artwork. This description process involves a lot of conversation, questions and answers, and accounting for multiple perspectives. Profound descriptions are created with a diversity of people working together.

We will be sharing a creative visual description next week on Facebook Live. We will explore a poster of Adelaide Herrmann, one of the first famous female magicians, from the Illusions: The Art of Magic exhibition. The exhibition features many Most of the artwork in this exhibition are chromolithographic posters, which depict compelling onstage personas and were designed to appeal to the public appetite for mystery, wonder, and entertainment.

Next time you encounter Audio Description, take some time to engage. We bet you’ll find it adds to the experience by highlighting elements you might otherwise have missed. Visual Creative Descriptions can bring artworks to life while supporting, better understanding, and close looking.

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