A concrete mural reading "Independence Begins" with drawings of people on a gray concrete wall

Photo by Eric W. Pohl

The first rule of viewing art is almost always “do not touch.” But the mural adorning the building housing Lighthouse for the Blind is purposely designed to be explored by hand. Located on South Adams Street just south of downtown, the painting, titled Where Independence Begins, tells the story of the Fort Worth nonprofit founded by Willie Fay Lewis in 1935 to give jobs to the area’s visually impaired population. When experienced from left to right, the mural starts with an oversize Braille alphabet and a message in Braille reading: “This mural was made for you.”

A steel railing runs across the 2,000-square-foot mural and features 14 empowering statements in Braille including “You are equally worthy as everyone else.” There are also six audio devices, with buttons similar to those found at crosswalks, that describe what’s depicted in their corresponding section of the mural. At the end, a miniature 3D relief version of the painting on a plaque allows the visually impaired to more easily comprehend the full picture. “We hope people who are visually impaired feel included and know there’s a piece of art created specifically with them in mind,” said Curtis Rhodes, Lighthouse’s communications content creator. “So far, everyone’s been blown away.”

When Fort Worth artist Kristen Soble was commissioned to create the mural on the 80,000-square-foot building—a manufacturing facility where Lighthouse workers assemble and package products like padded boxes and copy paper—she took inspiration from the small splash of color she saw when she walked in the front door. A swath of linoleum tiles forms a kind of rainbow, and each color breaks off to guide workers to different offices. Soble took those colors and painted the exterior wall facing South Adams Street in neon hues with drips and splatters to create texture. The result, unveiled last September, gives life to what is going on inside. “I want people to drive by and think, ‘Oh my gosh, what is that bright yellow beam of light?’” Soble said. “I wanted it to be loud and make some noise.” For more information, visit lighthousefw.org.

From the January 2023 issue

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