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Special glasses help St. Pete man see color for first time

29 Jul 2015, Posted by Morean Administrator in Community, In the Papers, News

This article was originally published by Geoff Fox of The St. Petersburg Tribune on July 26, 2015.

ST. PETERSBURG — When Jeff Quirk entered the Chihuly Collection, an eye-popping display of colorful glass works by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly, on Sunday, many of the colors appeared muted, or worse.

Born with a severe form of colorblindness, Quirk, 29, a state probation officer based in St. Petersburg, had nevertheless been a longtime art lover, even creating his own pieces alongside girlfriend Ariel Storch.

As the couple entered an exhibit for Chihuly’s “Float Boat,” featuring large and small, multi-colored glass orbs inside a wooden boat, Storch uncorked a surprise.

A few months ago, she heard about EnChroma glasses, which can correct colorblindness. With the help of Quirk’s family, she ordered a pair.

At first appearing skeptical, Quirk tried them on.

He waited a few moments.

Then, the piece’s mingling colors — popping hues of red, orange, purple, turquoise and green — truly struck him.

His mouth opened slightly, but he kept staring at the piece.

“That’s amazing,” Quirk said, shaking his head.

Storch had ordered the $400 glasses with thin black frames a few months ago, but she said they have been so popular that she had to back order them. A 10-layered lens can help those with colorblindness see “true color” for the first time.

Quirk’s family, including his parents Ken and Marianne Quirk, and sister Stephanie Quirk, also attended the surprise event.

“She (Ariel Storch) called me out of the blue,” said Will Darnall, marketing manager for the Morean Arts Center, which presents the Chihuly Collection. “We did a walk through a couple of weeks ago and as things fell into place, she started crying. She could see how special it would be for him. It came together from that visit. There’s so much bad news out there that when we can do something life-changing and fun, we do it.”

Quirk said he had no idea that Storch would present him with the glasses.

“It’s so much more, so many colors,” he said. “I could see colors before, but just different shades. People would always ask me what I can see, but it’s hard to explain.”

Quirk and Storch dabble in art in their spare time, and she said the couple had been to the Chihuly Collection several times previously. “Float Boat” is among their favorite works.

Asked what was different about the piece with his new glasses, Quirk started naming off the colors.

“There’s green, red and orange, browns, but blues and purples, especially,” he said. “I can really tell the difference.”

Quirk’s mother, Marianne Quirk, said her son’s colorblindness seemed to become more acute when he was in high school. Father Ken Quirk said the affliction made it difficult for his son to do things as simple as playing board games.

Before Sunday, sister Stephanie Quirk said her brother saw green and brown as practically the same color, and that shades of red were hard to discern.

“I don’t think he’s ever actually seen green before,” she said.

After visiting the Chihuly Collection, Storch said she and Quirk would join family and friends on the beach, as he had never before seen a sunset “like I see them or other people with normal vision see them.”

“We have some of the most colorful places in St. Petersburg,” she said with a wide grin.

View the story and more photos on The St. Petersburg Tribune’s website.

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