Technology keeps offering ways for the art world to become more accessible. Sometimes, like with the sensationalization of sharing art on Instagram, this accessibility can be fatalistic to what makes art so valuable — the personal, intimate experience of engaging with the art on your own terms. But at other times, technology gives more accessibility to art in monumentally good ways. An example of the latter kick-offs tomorrow at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Denver where the museum will begin offering EnChroma glasses to any color blind visitor to borrow while they’re in the museum in order to see the works of art in full color.
If you don’t identify with color blindness, you probably don’t understand the obstacles that individuals with it experience. Even though “blindness” is in the name, it’s more accurate to describe it as a color deficiency because certain colors are muted while others are not. This means that, although color blind individuals often do not only see shades of gray, they’re usually incapable of seeing the whole color spectrum. It can be a limiting condition, especially in the world of art.
The most common form of color blindness is red-green confusion, where reds and greens are generally muted or appear yellow and blue. A rarer version is blue-yellow color blindness, which poses the opposite problem. Although being able to see a work of art with the whole color spectrum isn’t necessary for survival, it is necessary if you want to perceive the work as the artist created it.
EnChroma glasses are only one brand of color blindness correction glasses on the market and a pair only helps with red-green confusion. The founders, a UC Berkeley-trained mathematician and researcher in the field of perceptual psychophysics and a glass researcher, created a proprietary material after studying the underlying cause of red-green color blindness. Videos from people who put on the glasses for the first time went viral, often ending in tears of happiness and surprise from the wearers and their friends and family.
The MCA acquired several sets of the EnChroma glasses from the EnChroma Color Accessibility Program, which offers discounted rates for museums, public and private institutions and includes the Georgia O’Keeffe museum on its roster of participants. Typically, a pair of these glasses would cost a person somewhere between $300 and $600. Today, to celebrate the addition of these glasses, four people will try on a pair and look at particularly colorful works of art in the galleries. The first-time wearers include three color blind museum staff members and a color blind individual from Longmont who has been on the waitlist to try the EnChroma glasses for a while. Nora Burnett Abrams, the museum’s Mark G. Falcone director will be there to witness the reactions.
Color blindness reportedly affects 350 million people worldwide, which means that art institutions have more than enough reason to jump at the opportunity to connect with those individuals who are limited in their experience of art with programs like this one.
For more information or to try a pair of EnChroma glasses, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art located at 1485 Delgany Street.