Credit Suisse Launches "Art for Everyone"
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Credit Suisse Launches "Art for Everyone"

On April 1, Kunsthaus Zürich held an open day for all art lovers. With this year's motto of "Art and Integration," Switzerland's oldest collection and exhibition institution aimed to address a wide range of people with different needs and backgrounds. As a long-standing partner, Credit Suisse hosted special tours.

As a partner of Kunsthaus Zürich, Credit Suisse attends the open day every year. Inspired by this year's motto, it volunteered to conduct two special tours for deaf and visually impaired people for the first time in addition to the tours planned by the Kunsthaus. This idea originated from a collaboration with Sponsorship Switzerland and the Center of Accessibility (CoA), which is committed to providing the best possible access to the products and services of the bank for clients and employees with impaired vision, hearing, or mobility.

Approximately 40 guests came to the special tours in early April at the Kunsthaus, and were received by Alireza Darvishy, Head of the Center of Accessibility. The group was roughly half composed of persons with visual impairments, and half of deaf participants. The event addressed a wide section of the public: Participants from different regions and different age groups made their way to the Kunsthaus. Various aid organizations like the Swiss Association of the Blind and the Swiss Federation of the Blind assisted Credit Suisse with advertising the event for people with visual impairments; for deaf guests, Credit Suisse relied on its strong relationship with the Swiss Federation of the Deaf.

Seeing with Your Ears – Looking with Your Hands

The special tour for visually impaired guests was held under the motto of "Seeing with your ears – looking with your hands." Art interpreter and museum educator Madeleine Witzig led the tour through the Kunsthaus collection, and showed that art can be comprehensively mediated also for the visually impaired.

The museum educator's enthusiasm carried over to the participants: "She described a great amount of the picture's details, which together gave an overall impression of the artwork," said one of the visually impaired guests. For him, the verbal interpretation of visual forms of expression was the crucial factor.

The group of visually impaired guests explored works including "Still life with lobster and large tin pot" (c. 1645) by Abraham van Beyeren.

One visitor found it fascinating to discover certain elements of the painting in the real world: The feeling of lemons' furrowed peels and the scent of sliced fruit made it possible to experience the art in a comprehensive way – although feeling a lobster would have helped to complete the visualization of the still life even further. The participant harbored one major wish – to touch a Giacometti sculpture once. She wasn't the only one: Being able to touch works of art was a widely expressed wish among the participants.

The experiencing of art in this form was also new for Luciano Butera, Head of the Technology & Innovation unit of the Swiss Association of the Blind. Butera, who is visually impaired himself, emphasized that a good experience of art depends not only on eyesight, but above all on the competence of the expert. Given this positive experience, he also plans to attend guided art exhibits again in the future. The visually impaired participants in the special tour only worked with three pictures, which made sure that there would be enough time to analyze the pieces. In Butera's opinion, this made the differentiation between blind and seeing viewers much smaller. Important contextual information such as the painter's biography, the times at which the paintings were created, and the political and social contexts were able to come into play much more effectively.

Barrier-Free Art Interpretation with a Sign Language Interpreter 

A number of representatives of the Swiss Federation of the Deaf were present among the deaf visitors. The tour with a sign language interpreter was a new and exciting experience for most of the participants, confirmed Roland Wagner, Head of Communications and Fundraising at the Federation for the Deaf. "Thanks to Credit Suisse, many deaf people were able to get to know the collection of Kunsthaus Zürich, some of them for the first time in their lives. High culture is often tied to higher education, from which deaf people in the Swiss education system have been overwhelmingly excluded in recent decades, according to a study soon to be published by the Federation for the Deaf. This underscores the importance of this event. We would be extremely pleased if a follow-up could be held next year."

Ronny Bäurle, Head of Finance for the Federation of the Deaf and one of the deaf participants, were simply thrilled with the tour. They valued the barrier-free access to art interpretation, which was made possible by the sign language interpreter's explanations of different paintings by van Gogh, Monet, and others.

Credit Suisse has committed itself to accessibility for the benefit of its clients and employees for over ten years, which places it among the pioneers of accessibility as a field. With "Art for Everyone," the bank is once again breaking new ground to increase accessibility further, even in art interpretation.

A repeat of the special tours is already being planned for next year.