FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Often, fine art isn’t supposed to be touched, but in pursuit of inclusivity, that rule is changing in Fort Wayne.

If you take a stroll in Downtown Fort Wayne, you’ll see a lot of murals designed by local artists.

But when the Paralympic qualifier took place in Fort Wayne in 2019 ahead of the main competition in Tokyo, the city realized that there was a big problem with the artform.

You have to see the art in order to enjoy it.

Art This Way, a volunteer-based organization trying to improve Fort Wayne’s Downtown, sought an inclusive way to improve murals.

“That [the paralympic qualifier] brought anywhere from 500 to 800 people who identify as seeing impaired to our downtown,” Alex Hall, manager at Art This Way, said.

The answer was a 3D-printed model of the mural that could be touched by those visually impaired. The models have since been mounted to plaques that are on the same wall the murals are painted on.

They scale down the mural into an experience for all.

“These particular tactile signs are actually meant for the seeing impaired to have an experience with a mural, which is typically something that would be hard for them,” Hall said.

But the murals aren’t just tactile, they’re also auditorily accessible.

A scannable QR code gives listeners access to a whole other experience, Hall says, “the viewer gets to actually experience it an audio file from the artists themselves so the artists get to explain the work and then also a little bit about themselves.”

So far six murals have these plaques:

  • ‘Chromabots’ by Bryan Ballinger, 840 South Calhoun Street
  • ‘Hello, Fort Wayne’ by Shawn Dunwoody, 840 South Calhoun Street
  • ‘Lion’s Dance’ by JUURI, 128 West Wayne Street
  • ‘River Otter’ by Arlin Graff, 919 South Harrison Street
  • ‘Pontiac Street’ by Lyndy Bazile, 123 W Main Street
  • ‘Big Peony’ by 0uizi, 123 West Columbia Street

Six others already have signage with QR codes and are just waiting for the tactile component…

  • ‘Panda Oops’ by Tammy Davis, 127 West Berry Street
  • ‘Breathe’ by Matthew Plett, 113 West Washington Boulevard
  • ‘The Blue Birds’ by Bryan Ballinger, 927 South Harrison Street
  • ‘Untitled’ by 1010, 918 South Calhoun Street
  • ‘Arouse! For You Must Justify Me’ by Tim Parsley and the University of Saint Francis School of Creative Arts students, 128 West Wayne Street

According to Hall, they will all be finished by the end of the month, with some being installed this week.

For more information about Art This Ways inclusive signage, you can visit their website.