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Dallas Museum of Art Expands Its Nationally Acclaimed Access Programs

A nationally recognized leader in the development of accessible programming for visitors with special needs to connect with art, the Dallas Museum of Art today announced the expansion of its access series. The Museum will now include a new program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to be called All Access Art, and for the first time, offer a DMA Access docent training course, which the first group of docents has successfully completed. 

In addition, February 2015 marks the fifth anniversary of two of the Museum’s most acclaimed access programs: Autism Awareness Family Celebrations, which currently serves over 900 visitors from North Texas each year, and Meaningful Moments, designed specifically for individuals with early stage dementia. In 2007, the DMA launched its access series with Art Beyond Sight, a program for people with visual impairment, that has been featured on the CBS Evening News, among other news outlets. 

“Designed to foster distinct experiences for people with disabilities and special needs, our access programs create opportunities for people to have transformative experiences with works of art and with one another,” said Amanda Blake, the DMA’s Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences. “Not only do access programs provide the benefit of learning and creativity, which are critical to cognitive function, but they also offer opportunities for socialization and stimulation, which have been proven to help improve mood and behavior as well as dramatically enhance quality of life. As a public institution and the City of Dallas’s art museum, it is our pleasure and responsibility to provide engaging experiences with art to all visitors of all abilities.”

Among the top art museums in North America to offer programs for visitors with autism, the DMA’s practice is often used by museums across the country in the development of new programs. Each year, the DMA presents four free Autism Awareness Family Celebrations, with the first event of 2015 taking place Saturday, February 7, and one summer camp. These Autism Awareness Family Celebrations provide a creative and communal environment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their siblings, parents, grandparents, and peers.

After five years of demonstrated success, Meaningful Moments, an access program for individuals with early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and their family members or caregivers, will expand to accommodate a larger number of group visits from memory care facilities. These will be led by the inaugural class of DMA access docents, a group of eight volunteers who underwent a year of training on access programming best practices, learning how to best communicate and teach visitors with special needs about the Museum’s collection. DMA access docents will also assist at Autism Awareness Family Celebrations, lead tours for Special Education school groups at the DMA, and work with the DMA’s newest access program, All Access Art.

All Access Art, for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, developed from the DMA’s long-running access partnership with the Arc of Dallas advocacy group. It will now provide experiences with art to a wider selection of special needs groups. Participants visit the galleries on a theme-based tour and then return to the Museum’s Center for Creative Connections Art Studio to create their own work of art.

Expanding upon its access programs, the DMA has also been able to go outside of the Museum. The DMA’s Go van Gogh® school outreach program last year launched Go van Gogh®: Color My World, its first program designed specifically for Special Education classrooms. Go van Gogh®: Color My World incorporates multisensory activities for students with a range of abilities in a color-filled classroom adventure inspired by paintings in the Museum’s collection. Its development included a yearlong design process that involved experimentation, prototyping, and modifications made based on classroom observations to create an inclusive experience for children with special needs.

For information on the complete list of access programs offered by the DMA, program dates, and how to register, visit DMA.org.

About the Dallas Museum of Art

Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the 10 largest art museums in the country and is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation, and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 22,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the nation’s largest arts district, the Museum welcomes over 650,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. In January 2013, the DMA returned to a free general admission policy and launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program in the country, which currently has over 90,000 members. For more information, visit DMA.org.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Partners and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

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