Schools for the Blind Student Works

by Sally Kikuchi

Special To The Japan Times

Gallery TOM
Closes Aug. 31

Feeling the grooves of a ceramic sculpture with your fingers can spark a connection with art unlike anything a typical visit to a gallery would. Gallery TOM’s latest exhibition presents a rare opportunity to engage hands-on with the exhibited items and appreciate art beyond the visual component.

Featuring works by visually impaired students throughout Japan, the gallery once again hosts its annual “What We Create” until the end of the month.

This year’s feature pieces are created by students who are in 6th grade to high school. Their works were chosen out of numerous submissions from schools for the blind throughout Japan. While much of what is on display comprises recreations of two-dimensional works, some are creatively open to interpretation. With an assortment of sculptures ranging from ceramic to styrofoam pieces, and from paintings to crafts, the show is not short of variety.

A smaller room to the side of the main floor invites visitors to take note of other efforts being made to make art accessible to visually impaired people. Art books, including one by graphic designer Katsumi Komagata, encourage “reading” not just by taking note of the simple colors but also by feeling its cut-outs, indented shapes and foldable pages. The gallery itself is uniquely welcoming in that everything within the two-story gallery space, including the door handles, is accompanied by braille and other accessible functions.

Named after the artist and playwright Tomoyoshi Murayama (1901-77), the gallery aims to feature creative art that recalls the sense of touch and “seeing with hands.” Located in the quiet Shoto district of Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, it opened in 1984 with the declaration: “We the blind, we too have the right to enjoy Rodin.” Though not the only one of its kind, this show provides a rare opportunity for undiscovered artists to display their art and for enthusiastic art lovers to connect directly with an interactive art exhibition.

Gallery TOM is open 10:30 a.m.- 6 p.m., closed Mon. ¥200-¥600. For more information, visit www.gallerytom.co.jp/index.html.