One Tank Trip

One Tank Trip: Braille Art Show at The Arts Barn

NORTH MANHEIM TWP., Pa. - In Schuylkill County, just outside Orwigsburg, you'll find a place that's home to the fine arts and crafts of 140 Pennsylvania artists. It's in the gallery of The Arts Barn.

Downstairs, there's an education center with an exhibit. Up close, you see some raised dots on the pieces. Step back and you see the bigger picture.

"Kendra contacted me over two years ago about showing her artwork in our gallery," said Deborah Cooper, The Arts Barn's director.

Kendra Pineda Mesa is the artist. At first, Deborah told her she only shows Pennsylvania-based artists. Kendra lives in Havana, Cuba, but the more the two talked, the more Deborah said she realized this was a different kind of exhibit and perhaps one she should show.

"It came in one big box, and she had told me how many pieces there were," Deborah said. "Everything was rolled."

Working with whatever she can find, Kendra uses recycled materials, like old Mylar from the photography industry. She also uses recycled metal from templates that were used to make books.

To make the dots, she uses a nail and hammer, painstakingly creating a pattern that creates a picture. For most of us, that's where the explanation ends.

For Heather Bayliff, it's just the beginning.

"I can see a little," she said. "I can see where you are standing, but I can't see any of your features."

Heather can, however, really see Kendra's work. All those little raised dots are Braille cells.

"I'm able to feel it," Heather said. "When you go places, you're not allowed to touch different things. and this you are able to feel everything and touch it."

Kendra learned Braille because of an uncle who couldn't see. Her artwork is full of phrases, words, poetry in both English and her native Spanish that she created to make the images, and to create those, she had to punch it all in backwards.

"Every single raised dot you see was done by hand and reverse," Kendra said. "She has to work on the back of the metal, which means everything she's done, the Braille, the writing, the pictures, are all done in reverse."

A sign asks you to not just look with your eyes, but to close them and feel it.

"We're hoping that it opens their eyes to a lot of things, to the fact that there are people who cannot see and yet they want to experience art, too," Kendra said.


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