Spectrum – A place of our own

Spectrum – A place of our own

Spectrum: Focus on Deaf Artists was an artists’ colony that ran in the late 1970s in Austin, Texas.  Video and Text summary of Spectrum by Christie and Durr – HeART of Deaf Culture: Literary and Artistic Expressions of Deafhood 2012

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vkl–cR21A

Spectrum: Focus on Deaf Artists
Length: 17:32

Screen shot 2014-07-13 at 6.43.03 PMNote: This is a summary of the signed commentaries made in the video on Spectrum and not a verbatim translation. Text summary by Karen Christie and Patti Durr.  See video for all of the images mentioned below.

Variety of Deaf artists signing the word “spectrum”

Dr. Betty G. Miller signing Spectrum with fingers spread out as she sits in front of her painting of the Ranch at Spectrum

Dr. Betty G. Miller signing Spectrum with fingers spread out as she sits in front of her painting of the Ranch at Spectrum

Illustration for the sign for Spectrum appears
Spectrum: Focus on Deaf Artists 1975-1980
Deaf Artists’ Colony Austin, Texas

Chuck Baird: This was a new place where a variety of us Deaf artists could come together and do our thing. Such a thing had never existed before. A Hearing woman from Texas came here to start an art program for disabled kids. She was concerned about accessibility issues in the arts.

[Image from Spectrum Newsletter: Janette Norman with Deaf student in front of a bust in an art classroom.]

Betty G. Miller: Janette Norman, her namesign was a “J” on the palm of the hand, showed up at Gallaudet. I met her and she explained her idea about setting up a Deaf artists program, which I became fascinated with. I began to tell my Deaf friends about it and some of us decided to make the big move to Austin, Texas.

[Image from Spectrum Newsletter: Gathering of Deaf artist at World Congress of the Deaf, WFD 1975 in Washington DC to discuss the possibility of forming a Deaf Artists’ colony]

Chuck Baird: Janette Norman came to us and asked us Deaf artists, “What dreams do you have?” We all looked at each other and said, “We’d like to have something like a Deaf artists’ colony,” and she returned to Austin and found some people with money. Then she notified those of us Deaf people who she had met in Washington, DC.

Paul Johnston: Chuck Baird had just graduated, and went to participate in the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) convention. It was there that the idea got percolating about founding a Deaf artists’ center; a “utopia” so to speak. They decided to establish it in Austin, Texas. That was Spectrum.

Betty G. Miller: Some friends and I came out to Austin, Texas.

[Image of Betty G. Miller’s painting “Spectrum: Focus on Deaf Artists”]

[Image showing Spectrum’s Goals and Aspirations]

Screen shot 2016-02-19 at 2.32.31 PM

Chuck Baird: At that time we wanted to showcase the talents of Deaf artists nationally; to share their accomplishments and frustrations and how to make it across the communication barrier as some artists had done. We would publicize this via our newsletter, and we acted as a clearinghouse. Spectrum really served as an umbrella under which many of the projects were housed: theatre, TV & film, visual art, literature and dance. Spectrum had different projects for schools, and hosted art shows and theatre productions involving Deaf children and families. There was a summer camp for Deaf youth related to the arts and theatre. This is how we served the Austin community.

[Image of a map of the U.S. indicating the number of Deaf artists from each state who were part of the Spectrum Clearinghouse]

[Image of flyer on Spectrum]

Chart Vol.2 #2 May 1977[Image of Spectrum’s organizational structure and representatives in 1977.

Image listing Spectrum’s executive advisory board, its working board, its administration and office staff, and its Deaf artists advisory board]

[Image of Deaf Dancers painting by Betty G. Miller]

Chuck Baird: We got a federal grant for job training called CETA under Jimmy Carter’s administration. This was awesome, and for two or three years it allowed us to expand and grow. Many Deaf people from across the U.S. were thrilled to see what was happening here in Austin — something founded by, for and of Deaf artists, with a few Hearing people involved as interpreters or for fundraising and development. We, Deaf artists, were able to see ourselves as visual artists, theatre performers, writers and dancers.

[Image of Helen DeVitt Jones — patron to Spectrum] Patron Helen Jones

Nancy Creighton: She (Helen DeVitt Jones) was from a wealthy oil family and Spectrum was just one of her minor philanthropies. Her money paid all of the salaries for Betty, Charles, and Janette. CETA money covered everyone else, including myself.

I believe when Helen Jones’ sister – or someone in her family – was dying, and they needed to reconfigure their finances, so she had to stop supporting Spectrum.

The Ranch

[Illustration of the Ranch area entitled “Mt. Spectrum” by Chuck Baird]

c baird drawing of spectrum p 15 map drawing vol 3 no 2 june 1978

c baird drawing of spectrum p 15 map drawing vol 3 no 2 june 1978

Betty G. Miller: My friend, Clarence Russell, and I brought the ranch together.

[Image of young Betty with Clarence in front of wooden gate]

[photo of the ranch area with headlines Flash! Flash! Flash! We Move to the Ranch]

Betty G. Miller: The Ranch is where we had many of our Spectrum activities. We had Deaf artists there. Not everyone made works that were Deaf-themed, but there was a focus on Deaf life and providing Deaf artists with an opportunity to move forward with their artistic lives.

[Image of Chuck Baird from the late 1970s wearing a Spectrum t-shirt]

Chuck Baird: Welcome to Spectrum (fingerspelled and then signed) ranch. A group of us came together here to form the organization Spectrum: FODA — Focus on Deaf Artists. That (indicating building behind him) is where we would have meetings in the living room. The den became an office space; there was a kitchen, and down the hall was the bedroom area. This building belonged to Betty G. Miller and Clarence Russell, whose name sign was CR. At this time, many people were moving to Austin, and those two bought this area, which became our “headquarters.” Over there a bit was a small horse stall that we converted into a studio for producing our newsletter; doing the layout and illustrations, collecting slides, preserving materials and so forth. We also had a small outdoor stage, which was a platform. We had a home-made tent, which I made, and we erected it during the summer festivals where forty-plus Deaf artists would all convene for one-week. It really was our hey-day. We had a wonderful time. The first summer festival was in ’77 and the next one was in ’78. The second was a little larger, and took place here. Most people came from out of state and would stay with us as guests; we’d come together and leave and come together again. We also had an outdoor evening theatre with lights and people would flock to see it. There was about fifteen of us working here during the day with the two owners staying in the ranch house. Now there are many buildings here and guess what this has become? The Austin Zoo — believe it or not!

"Dr Betty G. Miller on Arts and the Deaf" vol 2 no 2 May 1977 - pix of Betty signing "art"

“Dr Betty G. Miller on Arts and the Deaf” vol 2 no 2 May 1977 – pix of Betty signing “art”

[Image with headline Dr. Betty G. Miller Director of Visual & Performing Arts School with a picture of Betty signing the word “art”]

Paul Johnston: I met Betty Miller and we kept in touch. She invited me out to visit Spectrum. This was during my senior year at RIT. I flew out and was really just an observer, chatting with people without having any real role or responsibility in Spectrum, as I was still a senior. When I visited her at Austin, Texas she showed me her portfolio at her home. Chuck had already mentioned what a phenomenal artist she was. I think Chuck had even shown me some pictures of Betty’s work — like a face with wires coming down from the ear and mechanical instruments. I could see how her work influenced Chuck’s work with his “The Mechanical Ear” painting. It was not a direct influence, but more of something that rests in the subconscious. It is typical for someone’s art to impact others from the same school of art. When she showed me her work, I thought wow — it was so strongly political. At that time, writing did not have a big effect, whereas art produced a much more powerful statement.

ASL and Acting

[Image of headlines “Unite in Support of Deaf Actors” and the ASL Column]

Dec. 1977 Vol.2 No.4 p.5 a play of our won[Images from Spectrum’s “A Play of Own Own” production]

[Image of Liz Quinn with short biography]

[Image of Liz Quinn from the production of “Blue Angel”]

[Scroll with text: “… to Summer Conference for Deaf artists in Austin. ‘Land Ho.’ I found deaf feelings, deaf ideas, the deaf making decisions: the same motion as the sun, the sea, and the merry go-round. Sometimes I think, ‘Have I stayed too long with the sun and sea?’ My heart says, ‘NO, sail on Spectrum.” — Liz Quinn

Nancy Creighton: Liz Quinn sat me down and explained, “ASL is different. ASL is a visual language. You sign ENGLISH. We are STRONG ASL here.” She explained it all to me and I replied, “Thank you for teaching me because I’m totally clueless.” Although I realized at the time that their emphasis was on using ASL, it wasn’t until years later that I found out that everyone using and promoting ASL was a very radical and unique idea for that time. I didn’t know it then. I didn’t know anything about the history. I didn’t know anything simply because I had grown up entirely in the Hearing world. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how fortunate I was to have been exposed to that so early on.

Chuck Baird: In the living room of this house, we would have lively discussions about Deaf art lead by Betty G. Miller. Ten years later, De’VIA would be formulated but really its birthplace was right THERE through that door. Betty was really ahead of her time. De’VIA was coined later. Wow, I’m moved to see that coming towards me. (cuts to peacock walking towards Chuck) See that peacock there — you know how its back feathers will open up just like the sign for Spectrum. Far out, huh? Spectrum; it was colorful. It is like the feathers of that bird.

We had a stage, a platform here. I would say it was 30 by 30 feet. I remember there was a telephone pole that had an electrical outlet, and we powered the lights from it.

This building used to have horse stalls, as I told you before. We converted it into a studio space for layout work and a darkroom. It took us one year to renovate the building because it was stop and go depending on the funding coming in, which enabled us to buy the supplies, such as wall board. Five or six of us worked here in this space: our editor in chief, our photographer, another person who was responsible for the newsletter lay-out, and someone who typed up the articles.

[Images from Spectrum newsletters — Three people digging in front of the horse stall, a woman working on the framing for the renovation and other images of the renovations]

[Painting of “Spectrum Deaf Artists” by Betty G. Miller]

Betty Miller: This is a painting of a building that was part of Spectrum ranch. It was not the building we lived in but rather one in which we did various activities. There are three different artists featured in the painting. The man on the right is Clarence Russell (CR), the man in the middle is Reggie Egnatovich (name sign – R on the chin), and the man next to him is Guy Wonder. You may have noticed that in many of my paintings I have lines running down from the mouth to the bottom of the chin — this is to indicate they had been raised orally. This man in the middle was VERY Deaf, which means he was ‘very ASL,’ but still he had been raised being required to speak. In the background, you can see an American flag where the stars have been replaced with hands. This shows that we were AMERICANS — not just some folks out in the world, but that we were part of the U.S.A.

Summer Conferences: Images from Spectrum Newsletters

[Images from newsletters – Susan Jackson handling registration, Ralph Miller signing with Guy Wonder in the background, Ralph Miller posing for a painting by Bill Sparks, painting of Ralph Miller by Bill Sparks, festival participants watching a presentation under the tent, the advisory board in discussion under the tent, Charlie B. signing, Patrick Graybill signing “English!,” Dorothy Miles signing “Spectrum.”]

[Text from Dorothy Miles’ poem]

SPECTRUM

Colors,
Pure colors
Red, orange
yellow, green
blue
Purple deep, purple light —
each one alone
beautiful, strong and free —
merge,
blend,
into a clear
White
light,
shining that we may see
the Sign.
Thus
let us unite —
each one alone a color
beautiful, strong and free —
join hands
finger by finger
blending
into a clear
new
light . . . .
dark
errors, misunderstandings,
jealousies, frustrations
receding from
the light of our world,
shining
that we may understand
the Signs.
Dorothy Miles
July 13, 1976

Betty Miller: Really, it was an amazing experience to be involved with Spectrum. It affected every one of

Betty signing "look back"

Betty signing “look back”

us. I learned to appreciate dance, and I hadn’t seen Deaf dancers prior to Spectrum. Meeting so many Deaf artists was really inspirational for me. Even though we had many conflicts, as a whole it was remarkable. We were all brave Deaf people to move from our homes to start such a venture. Now, when I look back I’m in awe. Since that time, I have never seen anything like it.

 

 

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De’VIA’s 25th & Beyond – Building the Mt More

Deaf View/Image Art De’VIA is celebrating its 25th anniversary in style.  Don’t know what De’VIA is – dont feel badly – lots of folks dont but once they do – wow wee they really do take off.

Screen shot 2014-07-03 at 11.05.12 PM

Dr. Betty G. Miller standing in front of a large blank canvas wearing a enormous smile and a flowered black shirt – still frame from historical footage from the 1989 De’VIA think tank.

Deaf View/Image Art is a term that was coined in 1989 by 9 Deaf artists to name works expressing the Deaf experience.  Works about the Deaf-world had been created prior to 1989 but they were usually lumped in with any works by Deaf artists not depicting the Deaf experience and generically termed Deaf art.

See a short 19 minute video on the history of De’VIA think tank at:

http://dsdj.gallaudet.edu/index.php?issue=5&section_id=6&entry_id=198

The name came from ASL first – the group of artists discussed at length what to call this new art movement and can came up with:

Deaf View/Image Art

chuck devia

View/Image

( sign for view is pointed at a 5 handshape for image which represents a canvas or piece of paper) – the slash / connotes it is a combination sign.  So the view is about how Deaf people see the world they live in and the image is how they express this experience (the motifs, themes, colors etc they call upon)

They came up with an abbreviation of De’VIADe = Deaf (they wanted to keep the Deaf pride without having Hearing people think of the full word as they so often think in pathological terms) and added an to give the term a foreign feel as many Deaf people note that they feel alien (not treated as an equal member of their country or even this planet) and also to indicated that the term De’VIA came from another language (ASL) and as a nod to Laurent Clerc and France for having given us LSF that evolved into our ASL.  the VIA part stand for the View/Image Art 

De’VIA has embedded and flowed over the past 25 years – often soaring based on the profound and prolific images of its strongest artists.  the De’VIA exhibits curated by Brenda Schertz for the Deaf Studies conferences and other shows hosted throughout the country from time to time were a huge boost to the growth of De’VIA before the digital age but it was not until the advent of an understanding of audism, Deaf gain, and Deafhood that we have seen De’VIA move from being a movement of art to a movement of the people.

With an increased collective consciousness via Deafhood and critical literacy about human rights, language rights, the art and activism of disenfranchised groups, and of course the huge heart and hardihood of our contemporary De’VIA artists and the use of social media, we have seen an invigorating and inspiring amount of De’VIA creations and on the ground activism.  A subset of De’VIA is emerging via its ARTivists – folks who are not just content to create and showcase their works but artists who are eager to get their feet on the ground hitting the pavement to bring about social change via their work and their feet.  We STAND. ^

The artivist (artist +activist) uses her artistic talents to fight and struggle against injustice and oppression—by any medium necessary. The artivist merges commitment to freedom and justice with the pen, the lens, the brush, the voice, the body, and the imagination. The artivist knows that to make an observation is to have an obligation. ~ MK Asante, Jr.

So last year when the Olathe, Kansas’ Deaf Cultural Center (DCC) and the Kansas School for the Deaf (KSD) invited a group of De’VIA artists to come together to examine the past, present and posterity of De’VIA at the threshold of De’VIA turning 25 – we had a grand time.  An extraordinary time.  An audism free time.  (see https://handeyes.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/viva-devia-in-olathe-kansas/ and scroll down for the PDF which contains many new De’VIA works from a wide variety of artists).  A marvelous mural was made and is being reproduced to be included in a De’VIA curriculum kit to be sent to

De'VIA Totem 2014

De’VIA Totem 2014

Deaf schools and programs so that children and young adults will not have to say “I wish I knew about De’VIA a long time ago.”   A De’VIA totem was also created at the Kansas 2013 retrea and can be seen along with the mural at the link above. 

Gallaudet hosted a De’VIA anniversary exhibit in April of 2014 and NTID is hosting a De’VIA exhibit and banquet Oct-November, 2014 – see the call for submissions – http://www.rit.edu/ntid/dyerarts/devia25th/call-to-artists.  There will be numerous other shows and booth/festivals throughout the country this year and a retreat for Deaf artists is happening at the Aspen Deaf Camp Aug 14-20 http://www.aspencamp.org/deafviewartretreat. (scroll down for complete listing of events)

At the retreat last year in Kansas, several artists expressed a need for a De’VIA curriculum as so many Deaf schools and programs do not teach about De’VIA.  This past week (June 27 – July 1, 2014), fifteen artists and art teachers came together to work on lesson plans, create materials and develop a curriculum.  It was an intense and whirlwind time.  We are extremely fortunate and grateful to have been able to stay at the Rochester School for the Deaf as we worked all day and long into the nights.  Hopefully a pilot set of materials with a mural replica will be tested out this year during De’VIA’s 25th and tweaked and finalized so that we finally have a NATIONAL De’VIA curriculum.  Its long overdue and im so happy it is happening.

It was my great honor and pleasure to get to know all of these amazing, caring, creative, kind, funny, generous, and good folks.  It really feeds my soul to discover more and more folks who share, dare, and care.  I would like to go on and on but im still trying to catch up on my sleep and my brain is still a bit scrambled with so much ground we covered.

my heart is grateful and will be so eternally.  “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” ~ Massieu

I can feel all the good souls who fought so long and so hard for Deaf* equality and justice smiling upon us.  Our cup runneth over. In a good way.

Much peace folks

keep shining and never stop jumping at that sun

(even when it was scorching hot and humind in Rochester – jump we did)

De'VIA Curriculum Working Group at RSD 2014

De’VIA Curriculum Working Group at RSD 2014. We need to photo shop in Kyle Hoffer. Back row Michelle Mansfield-Hom, Laurie Monahan, Tullos Horn, Randy Pituk, Christine Parrotte, Patti Durr, Nancy Rourke, Hinda Kasher. Middle: Emily Blachly and Ellen Mansfield Front row: Karen Chistie, Gino Caci, Takako Kerns, Susan Dupor. Background: De’VIA 2013 mural created at Olathe, Kansas retreat

———-

De’VIA booths, exhibits, retreats, etc

 

Summer 2013

Jun 6-29, 2013 Olathe, Kansas

Deaf Culture Center and Kansas School for the Deaf

De’VIA artists retreat

Group mural created and donated to KSD

Booths at Olathe art festival

 

Fall 2013-2014

November 20? – Feb 7, 2014 NTID Dyer Arts Center

People of the Eye Exhibit

October 11-12 De’VIA marketplace, Brick City NTID 45th Anniversary

 

Spring 2014

March 25 – April 14, 2014 Washburn, Gallaudet

New Wave Exhibit

 

Anniversary
May 25-28, 2014 – exact dates of the De’VIA workshop 25 years ago in Washburn building at Gallaudet before Deaf Way I

 

Summer 2014

June 1-30, 2014: First U.S. Deaf Artists Residency Program (funded by National Endowment for the Arts) – https://www.facebook.com/DeafArtistsResidencyProgram

The HeART of Deaf Culture: Literary and Artistic Expressions of Deafhood available for online subscription – https://www.ntid.rit.edu/educational-materials/?controller=product&product_id=34

June 7, 2014 Orlando, FLA Deaf Art Show

June 27 – July 1, 2014 De’VIA Curriculum Working Group at Rochester School for the Deaf

July 1-5, 2014 NAD Atlanta, GA booths and silent auction

August 5, 2014 – deadline for online submissions of up to 5 De’VIA works for NTID exhibit juried show consideration (self-portraits strongly encouraged) – http://www.rit.edu/ntid/dyerarts/devia25th/call-to-artists

Aug 14-20, 2014 Deaf View Art Retreat Aspen, Colorado (1 night De’VIA reception in Aspen Gallery)

August 30, 2014: Deafestival KY – https://www.facebook.com/pages/DeaFestival-Kentucky/149646748380433

 

Fall 2014

Aug 29 – September 1, 2014 Fords ABE art beats eats Booths

Royal Oaks, Michigan

 

October 4-5, 2014 Ravenswood Art Walk Booths

Chicago, Ill

 

October 17, 2014 Opening Reception De’VIA 25th anniversary Access Gallery in Denver, Colorado Santa Fee Art District Exhibit and reception

Oct 17-18th CAD 110th anniversary

 

October 3 – November 8, 2014 (deadline for submissions Aug 5 see http://www.rit.edu/ntid/dyerarts/devia25th/call-to-artists)

Dyer Arts, Center NTID

De’VIA 25th Anniversary

Oct 10 4 pm Opening Reception of Exhibit

Oct 16-19 Brick City – De’VIA market place Booths?

Nov 7 Deaf-Mute Banquet 25th Anniversary of De’VIA

Nov 8 6 pm Closing Reception of Exhibit

 

Spring 2015

Pepco Edison

Washington, DC

 

Summer 2015

June 10-13, 2015 (tentative dates)  De’VIA retreat –Kansas School for the Deaf and the Deaf Cultural Center

June 13-14, 2015 Downtown Olathe Arts Festival

End of June De’VIA curriculum group TBA

July 15-19, 2015 De’VIA exhibit, Deaf Women United Conference Berkeley, California

July 28-Aug 2 Istanbul, Turkey World Federation of the Deaf booths?

Aug 10-Sept 8, 2015 De’VIA Exhibit at Pepco Edison, Washington, DC

Summer 2016

Michigan De’VIA retreat ?

 

To be determined

future museum and gallery De’VIA  exhibits