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STUDENTS LEARN WHY IT IS IMPORTANT FOR THE BLIND TO SEE ART IN THE VATICAN MUSEUMS
article by Amy Gallant Sullivan, Dr. David A. 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
> Presentation by Angelina Kemmett - Sophomore at Matignon
> Angelina's winning essay
It is difficult to explain the exact feeling that overcame me when we approached the walls of Vatican City; after entering into the Vatican Museums, that awe increased by the second. There was a new piece of breathtaking art everywhere we turned. Walking through the gardens, I was amazed to be strolling along a route Pope Francis might take. St. Peter’s beckoned in the distance, and I was struck by the fact that I could live my whole life there and still miss things.
We were introduced to special visually impaired exhibits sponsored by the Patrons, their main goal being to make the art of the Vatican more accessible to everyone who visits. The piece I remember most is a three-dimensional molding of Caravaggio’s Entombment of Christ. The detail put into it was so intricate that I could feel the veins of Jesus’s hands. We learned that it had been redone several times, as each remake required a little extra to make it just right. This art and the work put into it show that everyone sees things in a unique way, and that everyone should have the chance to do so. For a person to learn they are no different from anyone else can save that person’s life, and that is what these efforts are doing.
As a Catholic, to be in a place where so many people similar to me have visited, lived, connected, and prayed, I feel like an improved version of myself. Through Matignon High School and the International Patrons of the Arts, along with much hard work, I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. I am blessed to go to a school where such a trip is possible, and will always remember those who made it a reality.