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27th Nov 2019
Artist Amy Fellows by her Norwich Market mural

Norfolk’s sight loss charity has appointed a Norwich University of the Arts Masters graduate as its first Artist in Residence – as it launches a new art initiative aimed at demonstrating the power of visual arts in helping visually-impaired people.

Amy Fellows has been appointed to the post at the Norfolk & Norwich Association for the Blind (which will be known as Vision Norfolk from early next year), a move which comes after she worked with the charity to conduct research into the extent to which the visually-impaired and sighted communities interact with each other, what boundaries there are, and the stigmas attached to sight loss.

Freelance artist Ms Fellows will lead art, graphic design and screen printing classes in various locations around the county, leading up to an exhibition in Norwich next year.

“Many people think that the visual arts are ‘out of bounds’ for visually-impaired people, but in fact creating art can be really therapeutic for many, and they can create art which stands up on its own merits alongside work from fully-sighted artists,” she said.

“Many visually-impaired people find creating art a useful part of how they interact with the world around them, and it can be useful in helping those whose sight is gradually failing to come to terms with their condition.

“When you start to lose your sight, you have to think about creative ways of doing things.  The kind of creative thinking which is stimulated by art can help people think more creatively about how they are going to cope in their everyday life.

“The resilience of the people I meet here is astonishing and inspirational.  I enjoy the challenge of getting inventive, being flexible and thinking laterally about creativity.  

“The sessions are informal and everybody is welcome. Many people come to socialize and to troubleshoot problems they’re having with projects or paintings that they’re working on, we have a cup of tea and a chat and share stories and advice.”

Ms Fellows graduated with a Masters in Communication Design from Norwich University of the Arts in 2017.  The final pieces from her MA were created with visually-impaired participants at the NNAB.  She now works as a freelance artist.  Earlier this year she was one of 12 artists chosen to create murals in Norwich Market as part of a project run by Norwich BID.

“We are delighted to appoint Amy as our first Artist in Residence, and to launch our new art initiative,” said NNAB chief executive Gina Dormer.  “Our extensive activities programme is an important part of how we engage with and support visually-impaired people in Norfolk. 

“We know that social isolation can be a big problem for those living with sight loss, so the opportunity to take part in activities which stimulate their creativity in a sociable context is really important.

Visually impaired artist David Foulds creating a watercolour painting

Visually-impaired artist David Foulds creating a watercolour painting

Former English as a Foreign Language teacher David Foulds started to lose his sight about ten years ago through macular and retinal problems.  He describes his vision as ‘a bit blurry’.

Despite never having had any art training, he decided to participate in the NNAB’s art classes because ‘he liked the sound of it’.

“I got to know the NNAB early on, and realised they had lots of different groups.  At first I joined the creative writing group, but then decided to switch to art.  It was a bit odd, because I had no formal art training, but I found I really enjoyed it.

“It is interesting to see other people struggling with sight loss in the same way I did.  It makes you realise you are not alone – and the social side of the classes is very important, it allows us to swap ideas, not just about the art, but about everyday life.”

  • Visually-impaired people wanting to participate in the NNAB’s new art initiative should contact emma.forton@nnab.org.uk.  No previous artistic experience is necessary to take part.