Blog / 2021 / Making Art More Accessible with a Simple Adjustment

July 31, 2021

At first glance, my exhibit in the Princeton Public Library’s reading room looks a little off. All the paintings and prints seem to have drifted a few inches down the wall when no one was looking. But the placement is intentional.

I hung my animal alphabet book images so kids might more easily enjoy the art. But what I didn’t realize when I installed the show this way is that there’s something even more important in hanging paintings below the industry default of placing the center of the artwork at a height of 57 inches.

The art’s lower placement makes the images more available to art lovers who get around in wheelchairs.

Joy Murray pointed this out to me. She’s a friend, an artist, and someone who’s forever making clear all the ways I leave disability out of my thinking. (When I deleted Facebook and Instagram, I needed Joy to explain to me that social media makes a social life more accessible for those who cannot navigate the world outside their homes because ableist thinking makes that world hostile and dangerous.)

Gwenn Seemel and making art more accessible
photos by Gwenn Seemel

For the most part, when I exhibit my work, I have at least a bit of control in how my art is displayed. Going forward that means that whenever I can I’m showing my work closer to the height of someone in a wheelchair.

It’s a small adjustment as well as a deeply significant one, especially in its ripple effect. It will do for viewers of my work what Joy has always done for me: it will make an inclusive world harder to ignore and easier to imagine.

Letter Love
Princeton Public Library
65 Witherspoon
Princeton, NJ 08542

Open: through August 31st
Hours: 10a to at least 5p every day except Sunday, when it’s 1p to 5p

UPDATE

August 10, 2021

The show has been extended! It will remain on display at the library through the end of September.


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