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Center of Visual Expertise Managing Director Receives National Safety Council Award

Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Art Museum, Toledo Museum

In 2018, the Toledo Museum of Art created the Center of Visual Expertise (COVE), which is dedicated to the application of Visual Literacy for industrial and service operations with an emphasis on safety. COVE leverages TMA’s renowned art collection and staff expertise to help teach close looking skills, create awareness of personal bias and enhance communication skills. 

Doug Pontsler, the chairman and managing director of COVE, received the National Safety Council’s Distinguished Service to Safety Award on Sept. 9, 2019, in San Diego, California. First presented in 1942 to recognize advancements in worker safety during World War II, the Distinguished Service to Safety Award recognizes outstanding service and contributions to the field of safety. It is the most prestigious award given to individuals by the National Safety Council. 

“On behalf of the dedicated and skilled staff of COVE, and our partners at TMA, I am honored to receive this award,” said Pontsler. “Improving our ability to see, interpret and act on what we see are vital skills for workers in all industries, and we are proud to advance this innovative approach to improving the safety and performance in organizations of all sizes.” 

Pontsler was previously vice president of operations sustainability and environmental, health and safety (EHS) for Owens Corning, the first major organization to embrace Visual Literacy and work closely with TMA to incorporate its concepts into company safety practices. Since then, TMA has gained traction in the environmental, health and safety (EHS) sector with its Visual Literacy curriculum, and seeks to broaden its training in healthcare, agricultural and/or industrial manufacturing spaces. 

“We are thrilled for Doug and the COVE staff to receive this well-deserved honor,” said John Stanley, interim director of TMA. “Visual Literacy is an important part of TMA’s commitment to art education, and COVE is bringing it to corporations, helping them improve safety and reduce accidents, an important service to the community of Toledo and beyond.” 

“To be recognized with a National Safety Council Award is validation of the hard work by many in the name of safety both inside and outside the organizational setting. Those dedicated to safety as a profession are passionate advocates for improvement and are skilled leaders and listeners. It is our hope that recognition of excellence in safety will not only encourage other companies to emulate what works, but provide a benchmark and inspiration for what is possible,” said Amy K. Harper, Ph.D., CSP, SMS, director of workplace strategy & consulting operations, National Safety Council. 

About Visual Literacy 

Since its founding in 1901, the Toledo Museum of Art has been dedicated to art education and has consistently offered an extensive range of innovative programs and curriculum for visitors of all ages. One of TMA’s major initiatives, adopted formally in 2011 as part of its strategic plan, is to teach Visual Literacy and to make Visual Literacy training available and accessible, using its renowned collection as a teaching tool. TMA defines Visual Literacy as the ability to read, comprehend and write visual language. 

“In an increasingly digital world we’re communicating more with images and less with words. Images are superseding words as our primary form of communication,” said Mike Deetsch, director of education and engagement at TMA. “Being fluent in the language of images gives us an advantage at school, at work and at home. Leading researchers, educators, museum professionals, filmmakers and artists believe that being fluent in visual language can improve one’s creativity, critical thinking, educational achievement, empathy towards others and the ability to decipher technology.” 

To learn more about COVE, visit covectr.com. To learn more about Visual Literacy at TMA, visit toledomuseum.org/education/visual-literacy. More information about the National Safety Council Awards can be found at nsc.org/awards.