Opia: An Art Show to Reduce Preventable Blindness

  • It looks better in HD! Watch it on Vimeo
    Opia was a cooperative effort between myself and the lovely Aidan Maria Daughenbaugh, resulting in a one-night art show that was both a fundraising event and a celebration of the gift of sight.
    The event took place the evening of Sunday August 2, 2015 in the gallery space at the Performing Artists Collective Alliance (PACA) in Erie, Pennsylvania.

    Though the concept of "preventable blindness" seems absurd to us in the developed world, children elsewhere are needlessly losing their sight to injury and disease every day, because they lack access or the means to obtain eye care. 

    Based in Erie, Pennsylvania, humanitarian organization Vision for the Poor’s mission is to support the World Health Organization in its objective to eliminate avoidable blindness worldwide by 2020, affirming every person’s right to sight. 

    One of Vision for the Poor’s most successful fundraising initiatives has been Climb for Sight, which challenges participants to ascend 19,340 feet to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest peak). Climb for Sight participants gain sponsorships to raise funds for the treatment of children at the Vision for the Poor Eye Clinics in Guatemala. 

    Proceeds from Opia supported the mission of Vision For The Poor, by way of sponsoring the fundraising goal of our friend Nate who participated in the Climb in August 2015.

    Opia was begun as a response to Nate's charitable actions, and we hope it inspired others to get involved as well.


    In Guatemala alone, an estimated 5,000 children need funding for sight-saving surgeries to treat conditions such as congenital cataracts, corneal transplants, congenital glaucoma, and strabismus (crossed eyes), while nearly 86,000 will need glasses. 

    Just $194, equating to 1 penny per foot climbed, is enough to fund one of these surgeries, while just $20 pays for a pair of glasses.
    (Source: Vision For The Poor)
    Opia had a strong turnout and raised just under two thousand dollars to empower Vision For The Poor in its efforts.
    The word "Opia" comes from a root that refers to the refractive condition of the lens of the eye, e.g. "myopia" or "hyperopia." It denotes a quality of focus. For many children, all that is needed is a pair of corrective lenses.
    On a more abstract level, I wanted to shift focus to the larger issue of economic circumstances. Additionally, John Koenig gives the word yet another appropriate angle with the definition above.
    Initially I wanted to attempt a square logo with the letters O-P-I-A stacked on top of each other. I made a border with small rectangles and triangles, representing the arrangement of rods and cones in the retina of the human eye. By its third iteration, the border showed other references to the eye's anatomy by including a gap where the blind spot exists as well as an opening to represent the pupil. 
    I moved away from this concept because a) There were too many similarly structured four-letter logos out there and b) I didn't want the word "Opia" to be mistaken so easily for an acronym. Then, I tried to pay more attention to the actual meaning of the word - focus.
    The blurriness represents eye disorders, or more broadly, a lack of focus. The word is only ever partially in focus, and the design I finally decided on uses a gradient of blurriness to communicate the goal of bringing more focus to the problem.

    Along with our own artwork, the exhibition included original pieces from several of our talented and generous friends. Most of the work was raffled off in a chinese auction, while a few pieces were won via silent auction.
    The direction that we gave to the artists for their submissions was intentionally broad, best phrased as either "things you can see" or "things you would miss looking at if you went blind." The interpretation of this was varied, as was the range of media in which submissions were created. However, when we planned the display and hung the pieces together, the artwork resolved into a cohesive celebration for the precious gift of sight.
    I wanted to make a title sequence to credit all of the artists who contributed work to show. The video would also serve as a marketing piece that I could release in advance to get people interested. Check it out here: https://vimeo.com/134691863
  • Beyond just showing names, this was an opportunity to really speak to what Aidan and I were trying to accomplish with Opia. In order to be effective, the title sequence needed to convey two things: whom the event would benefit and why they need help. Vision For The Poor intervenes where children would otherwise go blind. Therefore, the video would deal with children and their eyesight.
    The overall concept of the piece is to present children's artwork as an interpretation of the process of vision. Each step is represented by images of "enhanced crayon drawings." The first few depict light and color, followed by refraction. The projector screen is a metaphor for the retina, and the two subsequent scenes are symbolic of rods and cones. Finally, the last drawings demonstrate stages of vision in the brain. 
    Crayons are the epitome of imagination, artistic expression, and visual exploration in children. The two-and-a-half D parallactic crayon drawings are supposed to, in part, convey the world through the eyes of a child. These scenes are cut between footage of a boy intently using crayons to create his own work. As the title sequence progresses, as does the picture on the page. As the music grows more anxious, the drawing begins to deconstruct. The boy seems discouraged, and by the end of the sequence, the viewer is asked, "what if he never started?"
    Titles by Caleb Payne
    Director of Photography: Joe Bellavia
    Additional Illustration: Aidan Maria Daughenbaugh
    Coloring Kid: Theo Bellavia-Frank
    "Whispering Through" by Asura
    Used without modification under CC Attribution License
    Below are a few pictures taken throughout the evening, providing a glimpse of what the event looked like.
  • opening address and introduction of Vision For The Poor / Climb For Sight
    from left: Nate, Me, and Jhenny
  • Aidan making fixes on the fly
  • a beautiful array of pastries created by Alyssa Debernardo
  • some excitement about winning