Art for the Blind

EMMA members are shown at their newly created space at the Conklin-Davis Center for the Visually Impaired. From left are Gail Bokor, Ricki Stofsky, Sharon La Due, Pat Ray, Dane Heatherstone and Jaye Escudero, and, seated, Kathy Kurke.

Exciting things are going on at the recently renamed Conklin-Davis Center for the Visually Impaired at 405 White St. in Daytona Beach.

Originally named the Conklin Center for the Blind, the facility first opened its doors in 1979 to help adults who are blind or visually impaired with additional disabilities to become independent and contributing citizens. Services include residential student training in independent living, financial literacy, employment, assistive technology, and orientation and mobility.

Now you can add the contributions of EMMA members (Experimental Mixed Media Artists) to its offerings. EMMA members have their own space at the Conklin-Davis Center, which they fondly refer to as EMMA’s Hideaway.

Gail Bokor of Port Orange serves as coordinator for the artist group in residence at the center.

“I don’t think any of the artists are doing it for the money, because they were all involved with this (A Touch of Art show in 2017) and they actually got to see how their art affected these (visually impaired) people,” Ms. Bokor said. “(The center is) going to be doing so much more; we’re going to be evolving. We have a challenge to make the art tactile, but to also make it pleasing to look at. It’s got to be something that’s touchable and will (also) appeal to people who are not visually impaired.”

Jaye Escudero of Daytona Beach Shores will be one of the artists in residence. “In 2017, under the tutelage of Gail Bokor, we did a show for the blind at the Peabody Auditorium,” Ms. Escudero said. “That’s what set us all off in wanting to do more.”

Dane Heatherstone of Daytona Beach also will create art at the center.

“I was born in Daytona and went to school when it was Daytona Beach Junior College and have forever seen the support that this facility has given visually challenged people,” Ms. Heatherstone said. “It’s just incredible and I would do anything to continue to support that.”

Other artists in residence are Ricki Stofsky and Kathy Kurke of Ormond Beach, Sharon La Due of Port Orange and Pat Ray of New Smyrna Beach.

Other participating members of the EMMA group, who were also in The Touch of Art Exhibit, are Babz Lupoli of Ormond Beach, Joy Cusack of Daytona Beach and Maggie Mejia of Holly Hill.

Ronee David is the new CEO of the Conklin-Davis Center for the Visually Impaired. The Conklin Center for the Blind‘s contract was canceled in March, but was revived in June as part of a merger between the Conklin Center and the Center for the Visually Impaired. Ms. David served as the director for the Center for the Visually Impaired, where she has been working since 1992.

The former Center for the Visually Impaired at 1187 Dunn Ave. will remain a day program serving Volusia, Flagler, Putnam and Brevard counties and providing services for people who are blind. The former Conklin Center for the Blind site is residential in nature, providing similar but more intensive and comprehensive services with residents also having another significant disability.

Millard Conklin was the founder of the Conklin Center and Kathy Davis was the founder of the Center for the Visually Impaired so the merger reflects both their names. The newly renamed facility has a restaurant, Eden Fresh Café, serving staff and students and will eventually sell meals for delivery to the public.

Regarding the new art partnership, Ms. David said, “This is something that I have been wanting to do for years. I feel that we could create a new art form. I really feel that we could do this with the tactile art for the blind, get our students involved, and tactile art can really be put on the map. We’re beta testing the tactile art program with the blind students.

“One of our goals for the future is to get some type of grant and invite an artist (like John Bramblitt) to do workshops and teach our clients,” she said. “(The artists) are going to be able to use the studio, work here, create the tactile art. We want to have exhibits for the public and the artists can sell their art and they will give us a percentage.”

A soft opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony by invitation only for the Conklin-Davis Center is planned for Aug. 20. For more information, visit conklin-davis.org.

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