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As the membership and community partnerships manager at MCA Denver, Brad Ingles looks at the contemporary art that graces the downtown museum’s walls every day. It wasn’t until last month that he truly saw the pieces as they were intended.
Ingles is color-blind. But in December, the MCA added four pairs of EnChroma glasses to its collection. The lenses use a patented light-filter technique that allows individuals to see colors more clearly and brightly. (EnChroma’s glasses won’t work for everyone dealing with color-blindness.) They’re available for free to visitors at the front desk.
“We are constantly [working] to make the museum experience more accessible, more inviting, and more supportive to more people,” says MCA director Nora Burnett Abrams. “It’s making a statement, hopefully, to our community that we are constantly looking for ways, both light impact and high impact, to be a place…where they can have as rich of an experience as anybody else.”
A number of MCA staffers, including Ingles, are color-blind, which made the partnership with EnChroma a no-brainer for Abrams. The museum received the glasses as part of the company’s Color Accessibility Program, which provides the eyewear to museums, parks, libraries, and schools at discounted rates. MCA is one of eight museums in the world to take part in the program, and the only one in Colorado.
Approximately 300 million people around the world are color-blind. The condition impacts males more, with around one in 12 men dealing with color-blindness compared to 1 in 200 women.
“I’ve been wanting to try these glasses for years,” says Ingles, who discovered he was color-blind in high school. When he put on the EnChroma frames for the first time in December, he saw red and pink lines in a Jaime Carrejo painting (part of MCA’s Octopus Initiative). Ingles had viewed the work numerous times before and thought it was just brown and gray. Looking outside, he was able to discern that the traffic light was green—something he’d never seen before. (Ingles has mild deutan color blindness, which means his reds and greens are particularly impacted; wearing the EnChroma glasses allows him to see more reds and greens than he would on his own.)
“Color blindness sometimes is just an annoyance, like when you put on the wrong outfit. Other times, it’s an inclusivity thing—you feel different,” Ingles says. “It was actually a really intense experience to see something new. It’s a total game changer not only for how we see the artwork that’s around here, but also the little things like going outside. We have a rooftop garden. Being able to go up there and see the plants—they look completely different with those glasses on… It’s really cool to see how everyone else sees the world.”
More than two dozen MCA visitors have already borrowed the glasses during museum visits. “I don’t know that it’s going to be the broadest, most impactful effort we’ve ever had in terms of shifting or growing the numbers of visitors,” Abrams says, “but if we can make a more meaningful experience for even one person, I’m really proud of that.”
If you go: MCA Denver, 1485 Delgany St., 303-298-7554