arts program for the visually impaired in Daytona | New


Exciting things are happening at the recently renamed Conklin-Davis Center for the Visually Impaired at 405 White St. in Daytona Beach.

Originally called the Conklin Center for the Blind, the facility first opened in 1979 to help blind or visually impaired adults with additional disabilities become independent and active citizens. Services include training for residency students in independent living, financial literacy, employment, assistive technology, as well as orientation and mobility.

You can now add contributions from EMMA (Experimental Mixed Media Artists) members to its offers. EMMA members have their own space at the Conklin-Davis Center, which they affectionately call EMMA’s Hideaway.

Gail Bokor from Port Orange is the coordinator of the artist-in-residence group at the center.

“I don’t think any of the artists are doing it for the money, because they were all involved in it (A Touch of Art exhibition in 2017) and they got to see how their art affected these (visually impaired) people,”, Ms Bokor said. “(The center will) do so much more; we will evolve. We have the challenge of not only making the art tactile, but also making it pleasing to the eye. It must be something that is tangible and that will (also) appeal to people who are not visually impaired. “

Jaye Escudero of Daytona Beach Shores will be one of the artists in residence. “In 2017, under the tutelage of Gail Bokor, we did a show for the blind at the Peabody Auditorium,” Ms. Escudero said. “That’s what made us all want to do more. “

Dane Heatherstone of Daytona Beach will also create art at the center.

“I was born in Daytona and went to school during the Daytona Beach Junior College era and have always seen the support this school has given to the visually impaired,” said Ms Heatherstone. “It’s just amazing and I would do anything to keep supporting this.”

Other artists in residence are Ricki Stofsky and Kathy Kurke from Ormond Beach, Sharon La Due from Port Orange and Pat Ray from New Smyrna Beach.

The other participating members of the EMMA group, who were also in The Touch of Art exhibit, are Babz Lupoli from Ormond Beach, Joy Cusack from Daytona Beach and Maggie Mejia from Holly Hill.

Ronee David is the new CEO of the Conklin-Davis Center for the Visually Impaired. The Conklin Center for the Blind’s contract was canceled in March, but was relaunched in June as part of a merger between the Conklin Center and the Center for the Visually Impaired. Ms. David has been the Director of the Center for the Visually Impaired, where she has worked since 1992.

The old Center for the Visually Impaired at 1187 Dunn Ave. will remain a day program serving Volusia, Flagler, Putnam and Brevard counties and providing services to the blind. The former Conklin Center for the Blind site is residential in nature, offering similar but more intensive and comprehensive services to residents who also have another significant disability.

Millard Conklin was the founder of the Conklin Center and Kathy Davis was the founder of the Center for the Visually Impaired, so the merger reflects their two names. The newly renamed establishment has a restaurant, Eden Fresh Café, serving staff and students and will eventually sell meals for delivery to the public.

Regarding the new artistic partnership, Ms David said: “This is something that I have wanted to do for years. I think we could create a new art form. I really think we could do that with tactile art for the blind, involve our students, and tactile art can really be put on the map. We are testing the beta version of the tactile art program with blind students.

“One of our goals for the future is to get some kind of a grant and have an artist (like John Bramblitt) do workshops and teach our clients,” she said. “(The artists) will be able to use the studio, work here, create tactile art. We want to have exhibitions for the public and the artists can sell their art and they will give us a percentage.

A smooth opening and invitation-only inauguration ceremony for the Conklin-Davis Center is scheduled for August 20. For more information, visit conklin-davis.org.


Kayleen C. Rice

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