• Luca outside Manly Art Gallery & Museum's Seaweed Arboretum exhibition

Monday, 3 May 2021

MAG&M’s current Seaweed Arboretum exhibition provides an opportunity for audiences to explore and connect with the extraordinary world of our hidden underwater forests.

Now it can be enjoyed by people with impaired vision, thanks to a local resident and skilled braille writer, Luca Weber. Luca, 19, has produced braille text for the exhibition, which includes an introduction and also listings of the different types of seaweed on display.

To complement this, artists Jenny Turpin and Michaelie Crawford have provided seaweed samples so it is possible to have a touch and feel experience also.

In this Q and A, Luca discusses his interest in braille and how he got involved in the exhibition.

Hi Luca, how long you have been creating Braille text?

I learnt to read and write braille since the beginning of primary school, because I could not read printed text. My teachers converted learning materials for me into braille. I have been reading and writing braille for more than 12 years now.

How did you get involved with creating Braille text for the Seaweed Arboretum exhibition?

As part of my work experience in year 11, I made braille labels for an outdoor sculpture exhibition at Eden Gardens, so that vision impaired people could find out more about the sculptures, which they could touch. I really liked this work and want to do more similar work. It is fun and it helps vision-impaired people. When I finished year 12 high school, my parents made contact with the disability officer of the Northern Beaches Council and asked if they needed any braille work to be done. They brought me in contact with Ross Heathcote, the curator of the Seaweed Arboretum exhibition at the Manly Art Gallery & Museum. After a few meetings, he really liked the idea of having brailled information for vision- impaired visitors of the exhibition. I have translated an exhibition introduction from the artists and also made some braille labels for the seaweed samples which people can touch.

Do you think that art galleries and museums can provide good experiences for people who are vision impaired?

Art galleries and museums where you can’t touch, hear, smell or taste anything are really boring for people who cannot see. I really like touching things and reading about them in braille. That way I can imagine what is on display and can have fun.

Have you enjoyed working with the Manly Art Gallery & Museum?

I really enjoyed working with Ross and the artists. They are all very helpful, enthusiastic and they keep telling me how important my work is. They talk to me as if I am one of their team. It makes me feel good about the work I do and it helps me to help vision-impaired people and to make other people aware of the challenge which vision-impaired people face.

What would you like to be doing with Braille writing in the future?

I would like to do much more work for art galleries and museums. Perhaps, I can also do some work for the Royal Botanical Gardens and other private galleries. I can translate any document into braille, including business documents, menus for restaurants and more.

A few years ago I started to send friends and family birthday cards, Christmas cards, Get Well cards and so on. I write these cards in braille and include a little bookmark with the braille code printed onto it, so people can work out what the cards say. My cards are very unique and fun - both vision and non-vision impaired people love them. I can make these cards for anyone looking for a novel card.

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