Art Institute of Chicago offering ASL guided tours

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Art Institute of Chicago is offering monthly public tours in American Sign Language to make art accessible for all.

Jennifer Eskridge-Hart and Jonathan Sondergeld conduct interactive tours in American Sign Language at the Art Institute.

"So the painting that you see here over my shoulder is what we're going to be discussing. And the title, of course, is called The Song of the Lark," said Eskridge-Hart. "When this museum opened in 1893, this was one of the first pieces that was given to the museum's collection."

"Because art education is one of the things that the deaf community doesn't always have access to, it's not made available to them very often," Sondergeld said. "Many institutions across the country have really struggled to provide ASL and provide for the deaf community. Everything is in English. The documentation is in English. It's not compatible with American Sign Language. There are different languages."

Once a month tours of works in the collection are presented in American Sign Language only, without voice interpretation. This program is intended primarily for the deaf community, but all visitors are welcome.

"It can be anywhere, we go everywhere in the museum. The only thing we try to be careful of is that we don't lead tours into special exhibits we may give a brief review of the exhibition and a little information about that but we typically don't go into those spaces. Everywhere else in the museum has been welcoming to us," Sondergeld said.

Eskridge-Hart and Sondergeld hope to expand the tours for the deaf community to give greater access to art education to adults and children.

"Parents with deaf children would love to be able to collaborate with us," Sondergeld said. "We'd love to start teaching families who have deaf children more ASL and specifically art concepts. And so, we'd love to provide them access to all areas of the arts and culture."

The next tour is coming this Thursday night from 6 to 7 p.m. For more information on that and any upcoming tours, click here.
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