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Color-blind Museumgoers in Denver Can Now See Art in Full Color

This week, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver began its partnership with EnChroma glasses, which offers lenses engineered for people with color vision deficiency.

Kristen Hatgi Sink, “Blue Ribbon Fruit” (courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, color-blind version courtesy of EnChroma, Inc.)

On Tuesday, December 10th, Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art introduced EnChroma glasses, whose lenses are engineered for people with color vision deficiency. According to the National Institute of Health, about one in 12 men and one in 200 women experience color blindness, with the large majority of those cases being anomalous trichomacy, a type of partial color blindness in which colors lose their vibrancy.

The MCA joins the ranks of Santa Fe’s Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Providence’s RISD Museum, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Michigan’s Flint Art Institute, Arkansas’s Crystal Bridges Art Museum, and the Centraal Museum Utrecht in the Netherlands, who all also offer EnChroma glasses. EnChroma is a California-based company that uses a lens technology developed by a glass scientist at UC Berkeley.

Brad Ingles, the museum’s memberships and community partnerships manager, suggested the idea. Ingles, who is color-blind, described to Colorado Public Radio his experience in a workshop at the museum: “They were pointing out light pink in some of the paintings … I couldn’t see it and it was a very different experience.” He wanted to be able to “see art how the artist intended it,” so he initiated the partnership with EnChroma. Ingles has known he was color-blind since he was a teenager. “Sometimes color blindness feels like an annoyance, other times it feels like a bigger inclusivity issue,” he told Hyperallergic. “Every single person was experiencing what the artist was talking about, except for me.”

EnChroma donated four pairs of their glasses, which cost between $269 and $429 over the counter, to the MCA as part of the company’s accessibility program. One pair is child-size. EnChroma is also partnering with some state parks, schools, libraries, and other cultural institutions.

On Wednesday morning, the second day the glasses were available, two museum-goers were already at the doors when the staff arrived. The pair, a father and son, were visiting the MCA specifically to use the glasses — the father was 76 years old and had never seen in full color before. “It’s very telling of how many people would like to experience works of art in their full vibrancy,” said Ingles. “We hope this will enhance the visitor experience and enhance accessibility for color-blind folks around Colorado.”

Not sure whether you could benefit from EnChroma glasses? Take their two-minute color blindness test to find out. As for Ingles, he said that after trying the glasses for the first time yesterday, he’s “never going to take them off. It’s like night and day.”

Museumgoers test out the EnChrome glasses at the MCA Denver (courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Denver)
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