The Ellen Noël Art Museum completed the enlargement and renovation of the Sculpture and Sensory Garden in the fall of 1998. The sensory garden was planted in raised beds, and the garden was made completely accessible and "user friendly" to visually and physically challenged visitors through design consultation with the Texas Commission for the Blind, the County Extension Service, and Permian Basin Master Gardeners. The garden provides badly needed cultural enrichment and recreational activity for the visually impaired, whose special requirements have been low priority in West Texas even though Texas Commission for the Blind 1998 figures indicate 11,000 visually impaired residents in the Permian Basin region. It also provides a shady, protected location for their rest and enjoyment.
The sensory garden offers a potpourri of fragrances such as "chocolate" daises and "lemon" geranium, along with tactile interest plants like "Lamb's Ear," "Feathertail Grass," and "Cat's Paw." There are opportunities for "hands-on" experience of our bronze figurative pieces, whimsical sculpture and abstract images (some can be "played" musically). Wheelchair ramps, railings and raised letter signage for sculpture/plantings have been installed. Braille brochures, raised floorplan charts, and audio cassette tours have been prepared. Docents for sight assisted tours have been trained using blindness simulator goggles loaned by Texas Commission for the Blind.
Sight Assisted Tours
The Museum began offering sight-assisted tours of the garden using blindness simulator goggles as an awareness tool for families, teachers, and classmates of mainstreamed visually impaired students. Three area colleges have expressed their intention to use these awareness-raising garden tours as part of training for nursing/medical assistance students. Garden tours with simulator goggles will also be used in awareness training for nurses, physical therapists and others who assist the visually challenged. The Museum is vitally interested in serving all segments of the West Texas population, including those who cannot visually experience the visual arts.
A garden for visually challenged visitors
During the first year of the expanded garden's operation, the Museum has focused on its role as a gardener in a facility geared to serve the needs of the visually challenged. The effort is greater than that for routine landscaping. Replacement of plants is ongoing because of seasonal changes and extensive handling, and insects are controlled without major insecticide use. Bronze sculptures are professionally cleaned and waxed by our curatoral staff frequently because they are experienced "hands-on." Walkways are always kept clear, even of items as small as fallen acorns, for the safety and the comfort of our guests.
Interactive Fun...Explore the Sensory Garden!