MNLEND Fellow Develops Sensory Friendly Sunday at Walker Art Center

Publication date: 
August 13, 2018

Fellows from ICI's Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Program (MNLEND) have been instrumental in creating Sensory Friendly Sunday, a free monthly event at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis for children, teenagers, and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder or sensory sensitivities, and their families. This first-of-its-kind program in a Twin Cities museum, Sensory Friendly Sunday, which launched in May, offers the opportunity for families to make art together, explore galleries, watch a short film, or just relax in a setting with accommodations that make it more comfortable.

Julia Anderson (MNLEND, 2016-17, pictured), Family and Access Programs Coordinator at the Walker Art Center, began developing Sensory Friendly Sunday as part of her year-long MNLEND project. After securing funding from MRAC (Metro Regional Arts Council), Anderson recruited a Community Advisory Group of parents, self-advocates, and professionals to inform and guide the program. Two MNLEND Fellows serve on the Advisory Group: Mariana Walther (MNLEND, 2017-18) and Fatima Molas (MNLEND, 2016-17). The Walker Art Center also consulted with art teachers and special education teachers from Lionsgate Academy and Minneapolis Public Schools, the University of Minnesota's Program in Occupational Therapy, and colleagues from the Minnesota Access Alliance.

From 8 to 11 a.m. on the first or second Sunday of each month, the Walker galleries are closed to all other visitors. Guests can enjoy the museum with accommodations such as quiet spaces, headphones, sunglasses, sensory maps, social narratives, and fidgets. At the next Sensory Friendly Sunday on September 2, visitors can explore an exhibit about citizenship and belonging called I am you, you are too; play Skyline Mini Golf on the Walker Terraces; and learn the cyanotype printing process using photo paper and an ultraviolet lamp with teaching artist Simone Needle.

"Visiting the Walker Art Center can be an overwhelming experience. Sensory Friendly Sunday strives to mitigate this by providing sensory supports, a comfortable environment, friendly staff to greet and help, and opportunities to engage with art. The long-term goal is that folks with sensory sensitivities will feel comfortable visiting the Walker independently, even on a day other than Sensory Friendly Sunday." says Anderson. To learn more, read the Star Tribune's recent article about Sensory Friendly Sunday.