Radcliffe: Art You Can Touch

Racliffe Yard. Photo by InSapphoWeTrust.

Racliffe Yard. Photo by InSapphoWeTrust.

This is the last weekend to experience one of the most unique art exhibits you may ever encounter. The Radcliffe Institute’s Byerly Hall is currently hosting an art exhibit that encourages visitors to engage physically with the pieces on display, including the vibrating walls. Wendy Jacob’s “Calm, Smoke Rises Vertically” is unlike any other art gallery. From now through Saturday, January 14th, guests can view and interact with this one of a kind display.

Art You Can Touch

Each piece in the room is set out on wooden bases at waist level, perfect for passing hands to graze. All the senses you’d typically lock away when entering an art gallery are meant to be used in this room, especially touch. The wooden models, all miniature replicas of recognizable structures, beg to be felt by the cautious fingers of library visitors. But it’s not just your fingertips that the display aims to engage.

From the sparkling stained glass in the tiny church windows to the striking dome on the Capitol Building, the models in this exhibit are a pleasure to look at. Your ears also get in on the sensory fun. The walls provide a constant stream of weather forecasts and also pick up ambient noise from a microphone outside the room. These constant sounds dull to a slight buzz unless you really pay attention and engage with the room the way it was meant to. Pressing your ear to one of the hot spots along the wall allows you to not only hear the words clearly, but also physically experience these gentle sounds in a way that’s usually only felt at raucous concerts or construction sites.

Exhibit Pamphlet with Braille. Photo by Elizabeth Coyle

Exhibit Pamphlet with Braille. Photo by Elizabeth Coyle

Sight, Sound, and Touch on Display

It’s almost too much for your senses. Sturdy models with just enough detail, soft vibrating sounds, and a information pamphlet embossed with braille—all subtle ways to excite the senses. And yet, all are almost unheard of in art exhibits. When you brush your hand over models made to be touched, you feel as though you’ve given into to some taboo urge you’ve carried since childhood. Like stepping off the boardwalk at a nature preserve, touching art on display feels damaging, exhilarating, and forbidden. Until now. And you only have a few more days to enjoy it.

Read on to learn more about this unique exhibit.

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