Issue #3
August 2015
Dear Friends of the Historic House Trust,

This summer has been a busy time for the Wagner program, with multiple conferences, trainings, and educational programs on the schedule.  In August, I had the privilege of attending the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) Conference in Arlington, Virginia, where I learned about best practices from around the country.  We are confident that next year, in addition to learning from our colleagues at the LEAD Conference, we will be able to present on the successes of our own program. 

Members of Museum Access Consortium posing in front of banner

Ansel Lurio (bottom left), representing the Historic House
Trust, marching with the Museum Access Consortium (MAC)

There has also been much happening in the world of handicap accessibility as a whole, as the Americans with Disabilities Act turned 25 this July.  On July 12th, I marched with the Museum Access Consortium as part of the Disability Pride Parade.  The Museum Access Consortium is a professional organization that HHT is actively involved with (I’m on their steering committee) and that was developed in response to the ADA.  It was a sign of solidarity to see so many museum professionals devoted to access marching together.  Much has changed for the better since 1990, but there are still hurdles to the educational needs of children with disabilities.  The hope is that through initiatives like the Wagner program, our cultural resources can be used in new and unique ways to meet these needs.


Ansel Lurio

Program Manager - Jeanette and Paul Wagner Educational Program for Children with Disabilities  Historic House Trust of New York City

Disability Pride NYC Logo, with NYC in a rainbow of colors  ADA25NYC, Americans with Disabilities Act Logo, with 25 enclosed within an apple   NYSCA logo with map of New York State on blue background

Training Session Held at Lefferts House
Educators Gather in Brooklyn to Learn How to Better Engage the Senses
Experiencing a multitude of textures on the grounds of the Lefferts House.

Many children with disabilities experience the world of the senses in ways that are different than their non-disabled peers.  All people are on a spectrum on how they respond to different sensory inputs.  For example, some people like loud music while for others it is unbearable.  Children on the autism spectrum often have heightened awareness of certain sensory inputs such as noise and have trouble sorting them out.  They can have trouble paying attention in class because of this.  However, at the same time they may not be stimulated enough in other areas, which helps to explain some repetitive tics such as hand flapping.  Some children with sight impairments, however, need an overstimulation of light to be able to see anything at all.  Other senses, such as touch and smell need to be used in situations where those of us with normal vision would use sight.  To help address these issues in an historic house environment, the Wagner program held a training session in August at the Lefferts House in Prospect Park for HHT site educators.  After presentations on teaching strategies by Annie Leist from Art Beyond Sight and Amy Kelly from Devereux, participants broke up into groups to explore different "sensory stations" as inspiration for similar activities at their own sites.  The stations included one where table paper bags were filled with different objects and participants had to see if what they felt matched what they saw when the objects were revealed.  There were jars filled with aromatics from the Lefferts Herb garden at another station, allowing for non-visual experiences of a number of plants.  In addition, there was a station filled with soothing and calming objects that could be put in a “sensory room” – a place set aside for those with ASD to go if they felt overstimulated.    

  Prospect Park Alliance logo with stylized green tree    
"Light on Sound" Poetry Celebration Held at Latimer House
Bald man in white shirt stands in front of window making gestures with his hands
ASL Slam Poet Douglas Ridloff Performs a Poem as Part of the Poetry Celebration

For those with disabilities it is frustrating that often the only exhibits or programs made truly handicap accessible are those with a topic pertaining to disability.  That was what made the Poetry Celebration, held at the Lewis Latimer House, so refreshing – an evening for local Queens’ poets to show off their talents in a venue accessible to the deaf community, complete with ASL and CART interpretation.

The celebration was part of Light on Sound, by artists Jessica Houston and Maya Pindyck, an interactive poetry installation that celebrates the multi-cultural Flushing community.  Houston and Pindyck conducted three poetry workshops during which participants shared thoughts and experiences and wrote and recorded poems in Mandarin, Spanish, and English.  These poems are activated by light in the Lewis H. Latimer House and on signs on Flushing street lampposts, which invite passers-by to call in to hear the poems as well as record their own.  The one-night open mic event included Flushing residents who contributed to the installation as well as the renowned deaf slam poet Douglas Ridloff and Former Queens Poet Laureate Paolo Javier.

   New York City, DOT, ART NYSCA logo with map of New York State on blue backgroundNational Endowment for the Arts: Art Works Logo with a yellow and a blue upside down triangle and a red right side up red triangleMaple Leaf inside circle

Bartow-Pell Mansion Held Artist-Led Family Workshop
Results of Program Presented at Professional Conference in July
Two children, one standing, the other kneeling, playing with pieces of "sea glass" strewn on the lawn
Children interacting with the colorful creations of artist MJ Levy Dickson

The problem with many specialized programs for children with ASD and other disabilities is that they often exclude parents, caretakers, and siblings – leading the activity to feel like a chore for the rest of the family.  This was not the case for Search and Discovery, a family program held in conjunction with MJ Levy Dickson’s Like Seaglass: A Hand Full of Light-Reflection at the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.  The program allowed young people with disabilities as well as their families the chance to participate in the art process and explore the sensory and tactile nature of the glass.  Children chose pieces of glass that struck their fancy and discovered relationships with the colors, shapes, and textures that they found on the mansion grounds – an activity that anyone could enjoy.  Inspired by their discoveries, families made paper collages that mirrored the colors and shapes of the glass.  This inclusive program fostered sensory engagement and art appreciation for a diverse audience.  In July, the program was the subject of a panel at the USSEA (United States Society for Education through Art) Conference held at the Queens Museum, where the organizers spoke on the successes of the program, what could be done differently to make it even better, and how a similar program could be held at other sites.

 United States Society for Education Through Art LogoBartow-Pell Mansion Logo with image of the mansionconEdison Logo in blue type 

NYSCA logo with map of New York State on blue background   NY Department of Cultural Affairs Logo

Wagner Program Partners
Art Beyond Sight: Bringing Art and Culture to All
Devereux: Inspiring Hope.  Empowering Lives