> OUR PROJECTS > Students Learn Why It Is Important for the Blind to See Art in the Vatican Museums



December 2016
article by Amy Gallant Sullivan - essays by Patrick Harris & Angelina Kemmett - translations by Ludovica Mazzitelli


Thinking back to your formative years, do you recall one moment that shaped you and your perspective, a turning point, which was the catalyst of your growth from child to adult? How would you inspire and motivate young people to reach beyond themselves for knowledge and experience?


“I am truly blessed to go to Matignon High School, where such an 'experience' is possible.”


So said Angelina Kemmett, a sophomore at Matignon High School, who with Junior Patrick Harris, recently had a private guided tour through the Vatican Museums with a special focus on the multi-sensory exhibit for the visually impaired. Both students won an essay contest at Matignon, an independent and co-educational Catholic High School, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, addressing the question, “Why is it important for the visually impaired to “see” the art in the Vatican Museums?” Eight judges from around the world selected the two winners, with the award a trip with two chaperones to the Vatican Museums.


The idea for this contest originated with Dr. David A. Sullivan of Harvard Medical School and Schepens Eye Research Institute, who is a Matignon alumnus and a member of the Italian & International Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museums. The goals were to enrich the lives of students and help the Patrons develop relationships with Catholic Schools. The Italian & International Patrons, explained co-Founder Amy Gallant Sullivan, “are dedicated to the preservation and the perpetuation of arts, antiquities and sculptures in the Vatican Museums with a special focus on making art accessible to all, even those with disabilities (e.g. blindness) who otherwise would not be able to participate.


“This trip was life-altering,” said Harris, “and I learned about how all people can “see” the awe-inspiring artwork in the Vatican Museums.” One of the chaperones, Susan Lenn Johnson, a Matignon theology teacher and campus Minister, stated, “I had never before considered the importance of accessibility of artwork for the visually impaired.  I feel like this opened a whole new way for me to think of both artwork and our abilities. I can already recognize myself looking at accessibility to many things in our city differently too.”


“This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip,” said Christopher Martin, the other chaperone and Chief Advancement Officer at Matignon. And most importantly, said Sullivan, this initiative addressed the missions of both Matignon and the Italian & International Patrons: Matignon is committed to promoting academic excellence and student growth; and the International Patrons are dedicated to bringing together all individuals who have an appreciation for art, history and restoration.


Ms. Kemmett concluded, “Rome and Vatican City were absolutely amazing… but the most important part of the trip was that it brought me closer to my faith and taught me that my view of the world is not the only view there is.  Art is sensational.  It saves lives, and everyone should have the chance to experience it.”


Read the students’ winning essays and presentations:


> Presentation by Patrick Harris - Junior at Matignon


> Patrick's winning essay


Patrick Harris

An Eye on the Vatican Art


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines beauty as “the qualities in a thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind”. On my trip to Rome, I saw some of the most incredibly beautiful forms of artwork ever created. I saw the wonders of the Trevi Fountain, I saw the amazing architecture of Rome's many cathedrals and the Colosseum, I was able to eat some of the best meals I have ever had, and I was able to have my faith strengthened by being so close to the center of our faith, the Vatican City.
Celebrating mass in Saint Peter's Basilica was the closest I have ever felt to God in my life. My breath was taken away down in the grottoes as I viewed Saint Peter the Apostle’s tomb. I could not believe I was staring at the final resting place of someone who walked with Jesus. Seeing the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was absolutely mesmerizing and humbling. The paintings were so beautifully done with bright colors and extreme detail, all the of artwork was an experience to be seen.
To a person without the ability to see though, some might think it is impossible to experience the marvelous artwork of the Vatican. However, the efforts of the International Patrons of the Vatican Museums, with help from visually impaired people, the awe inspiring artworks are becoming available to all people. In viewing Caravaggio’s Entombment of Christ, I found myself running my fingers across the extremely detailed three-dimensional rendering, which revealed to me things I did not even notice in the original painting. In all, this trip was life altering, and I learned about how all people “see” the world. I am grateful to the Patrons and all who made this possible now and in the future for Matignon High School.


> Presentation by Angelina Kemmett - Sophomore at Matignon


> Angelina's winning essay




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