Arts Big Day Out!!! A First and A Biggest!!!

Sixteen SVRC Support Skills Group B and C students participated in the Arts Big Day Out in 2011 which included a morning session at the National Gallery of Victoria and the afternoon at the Arts Centre Melbourne.


Thanks to the meticulous guidance provided by staff of Guide Dogs Victoria and in particular Laura Hunt and Linden Dunbar, the eight students and six staff (including our work experience student Keely) departed the SVRC right on time. After catching a bus to Nunawading Station various routes were then utilised before the groups met outside the National Gallery of Victoria. Meanwhile most of the eight students being transported by their parents/carers also chose the public transport option. One mum decided to park her car at the Doncaster Park+Drive and catch the bus into the city for the first time. She was delighted at how easy it was and plans to use this method in the future when travelling to the city!

Sculpture Touch Tour: A First!

Students were welcomed to the NGV International for the very first touch access tour of a selection of sculptures from the collection. The tour began at the Water Wall with the chance to get wet fingers and an introduction to the NGV Education officers, Jane Strickland and Jill Anderson; Carolyn Long, Front of House Coordinator; and Marika Strohschnieder, Conservator of Objects.

Once hands were washed and bags cloaked students were guided to the first sculpture, Clive Murray-White’s large marble portrait of gallery benefactor, Alfred Felton, where they were given the opportunity to explore the textures, form and temperature of the carved stone as well as be shown a number of carving tools by Marika.

The group of students then passed through the Great Hall, sitting briefly to take in the Leonard French coloured glass ceiling, and out to the gallery’s sculpture garden. Here students encountered the chain-saw carved Guardians by Bruce Armstrong in river red gum before investigating cast bronze works by Henry Moore, Seated Figure Willem De Kooning, Standing Figure and Auguste Rodin Balzac, a portrait of the French novelist wrapped up in a cape. With each of these sculptures, students had touch access to parts of the work that were in reach and were shown tactile images of the overall work with a relative scale for comparison, some of the works being almost 4 metres high. Students were also shown an example of a small bronze work by Clifford Last along with its plaster mould that it had been cast from to help explain the modelling and casting process. A glass and marble mosaic by Fernand Leger was also investigated.

Before we realised it our time was up and our group was being encouraged to walk quietly back through the Great Hall to the sounds of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra rehearsing to collect bags and leave. The gallery staff were very pleased with the visit and the responses of the students. They are being encouraged to plan for more visits by people who are blind or have low vision and are keen to put that into their long term planning. All students were encouraged to listen out for future accessible events as well as contacting the gallery to enquire what else might be offered in terms of touch access and audio-described tours of other parts of the NGV collection that their families could take advantage of.

Audio Description of The Magic Flute: The Biggest!

The Arts Centre Melbourne has been conducting audio described performances for a number of years now, but our group was by far the largest group that has been hosted. Victorian Opera’s Education Manager Melissa Harris invited students on a backstage tour for a detailed look at the stage and costumes.

Image student using monocular.

Students and staff had the opportunity to wear the head dresses of some of the characters and to explore the large serpent which featured in the opera. At approximately 6 metres in length, we discovered that it was controlled by the use of sticks, more-or-less like a very large puppet, by staff dressed black. It had large pointy teeth which were enjoyed by all.

The performance of Mozarts The Magic Flute was performed by the Victorian Opera and was specially devised with school students in mind. A narrator led students through the story which was accompanied by students from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, conducted by Victorian Developing Artist Daniel Carter.

Singing was in German with the dialogue in English. The students even had the opportunity to sing Papegeno’s Aria, the words of which were provided for students in braille and large print.

Our group was allocated the front row, with the orchestra right in front of us, and many of the students took the opportunity to use monoculars to observe the performance in greater detail.

With thanks

Many people were involved in the organisation and planning of this exceptional event – and in particular Jane Strickland, Jill Anderson, Carolyn Long and Marika Strohschnieder of NGV; Melissa Harris of Victorian Opera; and Michael Donnelly and Deb Lewis of the Statewide Vision Resource Centre. Thanks also go to all staff who accompanied the group on the day including three O&M Instructors from Guide Dogs Victoria.

Thanks also to parents/carers for getting their children to the appointed places on time and for the students who were interested and engaged, polite and helpful, and all round good sports!

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