News Column

Funding innovation

June 19, 2014

By Jared Wilson, Odessa American, Texas



June 19--The Ellen Noel Art Museum has received a $20,000 grant for their innovative research in the 3D printing lab meant to assist the visually impaired, which will be matched by the museum bringing the total to $40,000 for future research into the project.

The matching grant was given by the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency that funds and promotes artistic excellence and innovation. George Jacob, director of the Ellen Noel said he is excited for the recognition.

"We were delighted because we have wanted this endorsement from the NEA," Jacob said about the grant. "It is a good start and I am quite confident that what we come up with at the end of the cycle will be quite useful for the visually impaired."

With the grant, students will be able to help the visually impaired but Christopher Stanley, UTPB associate art professor, also said that it can help these students looking to find a career.

"It is on the forefront so right now it is pretty ambitious," Stanley said. "Anything that provides part or full time jobs we always fully support that."

The project started back in September when the museum created the class, thanks to the new 3D studio with funding from the United Way, at the request of Stanley who then gave his freshman 3D design students the project to create models for the visually impaired.

The project objectives were to highlight the principles and elements of art and while Stanley said he always has high expectations for his students, what came from the project was a revelation.

"It is kind of like you can see the structure on the horizon and you know it's coming," Stanley said. "It is pretty exciting and the students who could get that into their system did really well with the project. It is almost revolutionary."

According to Jacob and Stanley, the students were able to create 3D models that could invoke and emphasize every sense not just vision. With that they were able to create models that the visually impaired could feel as a means of appreciating the principles of art.

While the kits are still in the prototype stage Jacob said it has and will go through three stages before it is rolled out to the public. The first phase of the project was to carry out the evaluation process and create the necessary early prototypes of the tactile kits.

Phase two is to create an entire array of teaching materials based on the kits for the visually impaired and complete evaluations and the third will be sending it out to the public and Jacob said it will have many benefits.

"This allows us to conduct fairly detailed research and test multisensory kits, develop teaching material in Braille, and explore not just the tactile but also the multisensory realm of appreciating art, Jacob said.

In the future both Jacob and Stanley would like to see the kits be sent out to other art museums and schools so the visually impaired can appreciate art through the multisensory approach.

"What's interesting for me is that for one of the few times in my teaching career we we're in front of the curve so we were running ahead of other departments by using this tech," Stanley said. "So with this project we can break things down, make smaller models and send them out to different schools and that's the exciting thing. We can kind of be a manufacture."

Because the technology and ideas are still fairly new Stanley said that the possibilities are endless and the direction is not set in stone.

"I think it's the future of design and the future or art, anytime you work together as a creative team on something that is so incredible you will have a lot of excitement and creativity," Stanley said. "The fun part is you are not sure where exactly it will go and what the process will be because this is so different from the way we designed things in the past."

Although the technology is highly advanced, Jacob gave credit to the students for the grant being awarded to the Ellen Noel.

"My expectation was that they would each come up with one or two research examples of what could be done, but they went the extra mile and took it to the next stage by setting up the context and methodology during the course of the assignment," Jacob said about the students.

Contact Jared Wilson at 432-333-7786

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(c)2014 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas)

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Source: Odessa American (TX)