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Art competition in Louisville centers work by low-vision and blind artists

A quilt featuring flowers and butterflies is displayed against beige walls. The background of the quilt is various blues while the flowers and butterfiles are made of orange, pink and white fabric.
Breya Jones
Textiles are a popular submission for the Insights Art competition. ("Midnight Bloom" by Betty Davis)

The Insights Art competition displays artwork by visually impaired artists from across the country. It’s part of theAmerican Printing House for the Blind’s annual conference, which happens in Louisville. 

The competition is open to submissions across states and countries and a wide array of ages. It came about in the early 1990s to promote visual art creation among people on the visual impairment spectrum.

InSights Art coordinator Meg Outland said the underfunding of the arts in the United States is particularly felt by visually impaired artists and the programs that serve them.

“When you factor in those artists who are blind and low vision as well, that number drops even further. The InSights Art program was established to help uplift those artists and bring awareness to art education for folks who are blind and low vision,” Outland said.

Now in its 31st year, the exhibition features work from people in preschool to adulthood. Outland said this year the competition received more than 300 submissions, and the jury of judges narrowed that down to 90 pieces to be displayed in the exhibition.

A sculpted blue typewriter with silver parts sits on display. A piece of paper comes out of the typewriter with a message written in Braille.
Breya Jones
Blind and low-vision artists are able to put their personal experiences on display during the competition. ("The Perkins Brailler" by Amelia Lillie)

Winners are given a monetary prize, ribbon, certificate and attendance at the American Printing House for the Blind’s (APH) conference where they can come to the InSights Arts awards dinner and see their work on display.

“We have …[an] artists meet up session that is right before our banquet begins where folks can come and meet the artists and kind of talk about their inspiration with their artworks,” Outland said.

Participants submit all kinds of work to the competition. There are paints, ceramics, sculptures and even beaded pieces.

Student artist Delaney Perry won third-place for her piece entitled “Charlotte.”

“It is a little shoe box but she had constructed it to make it look like her bedroom or her living room. And then she created a sewn bed and two little cat toys and then put a sculpted cat inside it,” Outland explained.

Perry, who lives in Nebraska, included a letter with her submission explaining that the piece was done in honor of her cat, Charlotte, who recently died.

“She wanted to memorialize her, and I about sobbed when I opened that artwork,” Outland said.

A shoe box diorama of a room with purple walls. On a sewn bed sits a grey cat. On the striped rug in front of the cat is a mouse toy and a ball of yarn.
Breya Jones
Delaney Perry's piece is a memorial to her cat, Charlotte. ("Charlotte" by Delaney Perry)

Perry’s very personal piece speaks to the way art can allow people to express themselves. It’s something the InSights Art competition also aims to communicate.

Blindness includes a broad spectrum of people, all with different backgrounds and degrees of visual impairment. It includes people losing their vision with age, students who have some vision and prefer large print to Braille, people who see mostly lights and shadows and others.

“There is such a large spectrum in that and all of those individuals can create artwork within that spectrum,” Outland said.

All the InSights Art competition winners can be found on the InSights Art website. Submissions for next year’s competition opens at the conclusion of the APH conference later this week.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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