Altered images

A partnership initiative of Mayo County Council Arts Office, South Tipperary Arts Service and the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Altered Images is an exhibition of artworks from the collections of all three organisations. Accessible, interactive and inclusive in ethos, the exhibition aims to stimulate engagement with the visual arts for the general public and particularly for disabled people. The idea that a visual art exhibition should be accessible to all who choose to visit it is not a new one; most national museums and galleries have an access programme that enables people with disabilities to experience selected artworks through various multi-sensory devices and through dedicated education and outreach programmes. However, the idea of collating an entire exhibition with an emphasis on accessibility in a multi-dimensional way is relatively new in Ireland.

Arising from previous work done by Damien O’Connor, Altered Images came about through collaboration of the three partner organisations whose aims were to further enhance the viewing experience of the spectator – to introduce new ways of seeing and experiencing art, for both disabled and non-disabled people. The three partner organisations hope that through this exhibition people will engage with the works on display to a higher degree, experiencing them with more intensity through the tactility of relief models, listening to the audio and artists’ descriptions and viewing the sign language interpretation by artist Amanda Coogan.

This is a touring exhibition, starting at the County Museum in Clonmel, County Tipperary, moving to Ballina Arts Centre in County Mayo and finally to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. The exhibition works on many levels. Firstly, curatorial decisions were taken in selecting to ensure a cohesive body of work. The selected works all make reference to classical or art historical sources in either the method of depiction or their subject matter. While each of the partners has very different collections in terms of capacity and the period of time they have been collecting, it was agreed at the outset that each would be represented equally. The exhibition also includes new works by Daphne Wright and Amanda Coogan that were commissioned specifically for the project.

The scale of the exhibition was determined by available resources, as it was decided early on that each artwork would need to be accompanied by a multi-sensory display in order to provide meaningful access. Each work has an audio description, available on an MP3 player. These were produced by Anne Hornsby, and also contain the artists’ and curators’ descriptions. A relief model, interpreted by Loz Simpson of Topografik, is also available beside each artwork. In addition, artist Amanda Coogan was commissioned to produce an interpretative sign-language representation of the exhibition in the form of a filmed performance.

An audio CD and Braille version of the large-print exhibition catalogue is available on request. Sign language tours are available by arrangement and an accessible website for the project can be found at An important part of the project is the education and access programme at each exhibition venue: facilitators and artists will present talks and workshops. Information regarding the education programmes for each exhibition is available through the website link

All of the partner organisations have learnt a great deal from putting this challenging exhibition together. Practical issues included delivering disability equality training to all the gallery, museum and relevant staff of each organisation, accessible venues, suitable materials, means of displaying the work, scale, communication with target audiences. Yet we still have a lot to learn and while we have attempted to provide an accessible experience of the visual arts we certainly would not claim to have all the answers; we see this process as the opening up of a discussion for future possibilities in terms of accessibility and the arts, both physically and notionally.

In delivering this exhibition we are indebted to the artists involved for their generosity and openness in undertaking this journey with us. Without their gracious co-operation this exhibition would not have been possible.

We are also indebted to Damien O’Connor for his vision and endless patience in guiding us.

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