Art isn't always in the eye of the beholder. It's in the fingertips for children who are visually impaired.
"How about this?" said Rachel Clark, who could not see the piece of rickrack she held but felt the metallic threads running through it.Emma James, whose eyesight is just fine, added the rickrack to a fanciful sculpture of this-and-that held together by glue and faith, then helped Rachel to feel what they had created together.
It's all in the spirit of a special art project at Realms of Inquiry School, where students who have sight and students who get most of their perceptions about the world from sounds and touch work together.
A group from the State School for the Blind, which is housed in Granite District's Upland Terrace School, visits Realms of Inquiry once a month to explore art concepts with sighted peers.
The joint project is funded by a Very Special Arts grant from the Utah Arts Council. Guest teacher Jane Staplin, whose own specialty is watercolors, has involved the students in a variety of art forms.
"The blind students do best with three-dimensional projects, but we've done pastels, too," she said. "They can feel the lines they've drawn."
Suzan Greenfield, a teacher in the blind program, was with her students to help them get the maximum benefit from the art project. Melanie Woods coordinates the joint effort for Realms.
Realms students are paired with handicapped youngsters.
For Jared Windward, helping Quintin Williams with art projects is a way to learn that visually impaired children are just children who don't see well. When it comes to art, the two were intent on making a "target" with notched sticks, glue and miscellaneous odds and ends. The target looked a whole lot like the airplane Jared had pieced together.
"I want it for a slingshot target," said Quintin, who confessed he didn't have a slingshot yet - but was hoping for one.
"What is this?" he asked, picking up a sliver of red poster board.
"It's paper and it's a warm color," Jared prompted. Not pink - Quintin's first guess - but red. It quickly became part of the project.
Nearby, Nicky Warner and Robby Clark, Realms fifth-graders, were helping Chris Munds, 7, to create a work of art with a plastic milk jug.
"I don't know what it will be," Chris said, slathering more glue onto the milk jug. "It will be a thing like an artist would make."
A genuine glue enthusiast, Chris started with a length of ornate black braid, added a chunk of bright blue fake fur, a green ribbon, an empty raisin box and an artful arrangement of plastic foam bits and voila - a thing-a-ma-bob!
At another table, a creative piece of art was emerging as wood shavings were daubed onto the top of a well-decorated paper tube.
In other rooms, more artwork was under way and both sighted and blind children were learning songs together.
"One of the main purposes of the project is to give the Realms kids an opportunity to associate with children who are handicapped," said a Realms teacher who was helping with the artwork. "They pick their own partners and they've made some good friends." The non-handicapped children were prepared before the association began so they would know how to deal with their handicapped peers.
For the children from the School for the Blind, the project provides several opportunities, including a ride on a Utah Transit Authority bus from Upland Terrace to the downtown private school.
Teachers from both schools hope the project will continue, but that is contingent on extension of the grant funding.