Seeing art without vision: Lighthouse of Manasota takes clients on a tour of Ringling Museum

Seeing art without vision: Lighthouse of Manasota takes clients on a tour of Ringling Museum

SARASOTA (WWSB) - Lighthouse of Manasota is a nonprofit organization that helps people learn how to live a new life after losing their vision, but their mission isn’t just to teach mundane things like grocery shopping or maneuvering around the kitchen.

Clients are also taught how to live their best life, in the dark.

Lighthouse of Manasota has been providing free services to people with vision impairments for close to 35 years. They’ve partnered with the Ringling Museum for 20 of them.

As part of their 8-week adjustment to vision loss course, they bring clients to the museum to experience art in a new way.

“His face is youthful. His eyes are very intensely focused," explained Erin Carter, a Ringling Art Museum Educator. "He’s got a furrowed brow. He’s clearly concentrating on something, possibly something out in the distance. Right now, he looks like he’s staring very intently at us.”

Carter used words to make the statue come to life.

“David whips his slingshot around and releases the stone and the stone hits Goliath right in the forehead,” Carter said.

Next, the group walked to a picture, painted with the mind.

“She’s flanked by two angel babies who have wings,” another museum educator explained of a portrait to the group.

They experienced art, in the dark.

“It was wonderful, we got such detail about all the pieces of art and the paintings, all the background we couldn’t see,” said participant Cathy Rushwin.

Losing their vision but refusing to lose hope.

“It really opened my eyes up to what else can be done," Rushwin explained. "I know I don’t have to stay at home. I can go out and do things and enjoy activities, like other people do.”

Lighthouse of Manasota teaches the legally blind group a new way of carrying out their daily activities, but equally important, how to enjoy life’s treasures using other senses.

“It’s necessary because [I’m] learning the skills I can use to live my life in a new way," Rushwin said. "Then I can still enjoy the things I like to do, I can do new things. It just, keeps life interesting.”

For many, it keeps life worth living.

“It’s so rewarding," said Elizabeth Krupnick, development manager for Lighthouse of Manasota. "We see people coming in, they’re so depressed. They’ve really given up. They’ve lost their independence and here they go through our training and our services, they get to come on a wonderful field trip to the ringing museum and you just start to see their confidence coming back up and they regain their confidence.”

For those interested in getting to experience art in a way similar way, Lighthouse of Manasota will be having a fundraiser at Michael’s on East that will feature a piece of art from the Ringling Museum.

The fundraiser is open to the public. For more information, click here.

For more information about the organization, click here.

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