Deaf Visual Arts Festival (part II)
Newspaper clipping from the St Louis Post Dispatch. Image of Randy Pituk signing to an attendee of the Deaf Visual Arts Festival with three of his paintings in front of him (edge of an US flag, RESIS fingerspelling vertically, Self portrait holding a cat)
(students painting black on the DEAF, Inc. mural, Ellen Mansfield presenting about her art, David Call presenting about De’VIA as students look on. photos from DEAF, Inc. FB page)
A few days before the DVAF – Nancy Rourke, David Call, and Ellen Mansfield lead a workshop with students from Missouri School for the Deaf and Illinois School for the Deaf. The students did art activities that taught them about each of these artists’ styles and motifs. They also made a group mural for DEAF, Inc. using Rourkeism (Nancy Rourke’s style of using three primary colors and black and white). The painting looks really great and each of the artists shared how absorbed the students were in the work of making art. They could see the students are starving for contact with Deaf role models – especially artist. There are no art programs in either school for the Deaf. Imagine. ART is so therapeutic and teaches so many skills; such as, critical thinking, analysis and balance, etc.
I have seen this intensity in art creating amongst the Deaf men in a maximum security prison that we give a monthly art workshop to. I also see this wonderful sense of commitment and accomplishment to their own creations. Their encouragement and support to each other as the muse and create and revise is a wonderful thing to behold. These types of spaces – schools for the Deaf without any art education and prisons where Deaf prisoners are often targeted for abuse and experience language deprivation – are so important to ensure that art happens.
Art is a visual language that can communicate, heal, and transcend. I’m really grateful to DEAF, Inc. for making it possible for these art-deprived Deaf students to have some workshop time with these stellar teaching artists.
(top picture – Nancy Rourke explaining how to do the L.O.V.E. painting, Painters at DEAF, Inc. giving a hand wave, budding artists hard at work, participants forming the fingerspelled letter with their hand as they prepare to paint. photos from DEAF, Inc facebook page)
After a busy day with the students – presenting, teaching and doing the large painting – the artists then went to a wine and paint event where Nancy Rourke taught participants how to paint in the Rourkeism style. Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely and I regret I wasn’t there to witness all the fun. And look what they are painting! L.O.V.E. we all need LOVE. (If you click the images – you can see how immersed everyone was with their work).
The next day there was a discussion group about setting up a Deaf Artists Guild. This idea has been discussed from time to time over the years. In 2012 at the Ky Deaf Arts Festival, David Call had called for a guild to be established. Since that would take time and resources to get going – Nancy Rourke cleverly and kindly established De’VIA Central Facebook. While not a guild, De’VIA Central FB has been instrumental in serving as a networking, distribution, & inspiration space for De’VIA artists and fans. Thank you forever and always Nancy for creating this virtual online artist colony / residency. In 2013 during a retreat of about 40 De’VIA artists, hosted by the Deaf Cultural Center at Kansas School for the Deaf, Guy Wonder led a session on the future of De’VIA in which we brainstormed a wishlist. One of the wishes was to get De’VIA curriculum into the classroom – that goal has been met by our annual De’VIA Curriculum training sessions. This summer, De’VIA Curr IV, will be at the Indiana School for the Deaf where scores of teachers from all over the US will come to learn and share . See https://deviacurr.wordpress.com/ for lesson plans, motif challenges, coloring pages and more. Deaf Artists in Residencies (DAIR) in schools have been taking off also, as well as community and prison workshops. Another wish was to have some type of organization devoted to art about the Deaf experience and that goal has been met with the formation of De^ARTivists United. See https://devartivistunited.wordpress.com/. Getting De’VIA works into non-Deaf and Deaf related galleries and exhibits has been hopping along just fine now (see Let There Be Light: De^ARTivism exhibit at Pepco Edision (Washington, DC) (see catalog and more https://deviapepcoedisongallery.wordpress.com/), To Deafhood with Love at AMoR (Rochester, NY) (see artwork and info https://deafhoodwlove.wordpress.com/.) Wanting more Deaf artists of color to create and share their works – this has really been growing – we need more but its happening and i’m so thrilled – Dyer Arts Center hosed the Unfolding the Black Deaf Soul exhibit (catalog at http://www.blurb.com/books/6951862-unfolding-the-soul-of-black-deaf-expressions) and symposium last fall and has a call out for the Arte del Corazón exhibit (scroll down for call for works https://www.rit.edu/ntid/dyerarts/exhibitions_future )which will have a symposium for POC Deaf artists).
During the Kansas “future of De’VIA” discussion we also listed that we wanted to establish a Deaf Artists Guild. Cynthia Weitzel offered to spearhead this and has been networking, taking training, and gathering information from various Hearing arts organizations over the past few years. Cynthia led the Guild discussion in St. Louis and the final outcome was that a Taskforce was established to create the guild. So glad and Tony Nitko of DEAF Inc, has kindly and goodly accepted to chair the taskforce!!!! Very glad to see this happen and looking forward to seeing how it all shapes up. The Name and the Scope of the guild are probably the first agenda items. I’m totally cool with whatever the group decides but me think:
1. Deaf Artists Guild is dandy
Because if they want it to just be visual artists in the beginning so its more manageable to get going and then want to expand to the other artists – filmmakers, performers, poets, etc. the name will still be fine because ARTISTS includes all of them. They could even have Deaf signsingers because now singers are always called ARTISTS – it’s a very broad term but if they want to start with visual artists only and stay that way – that is fine. If they want to expand to include the other types of creators – they got wiggle room cuz artists in the title applies to them too.
- Should it only be for artists who produce works about the Deaf experience?
Me think not. And im a big rah rah rah De’VIA person but the reason why it would be nice if the Guild was for any Deaf artists (De’VIA or non-De’VIA, visual artist, poet, playwright, performer etc) is because these artists have more in common than not – a Guild’s chief function is to bring artists together so they can share their common interests and expertise, network, share resources, receive training, get referrals etc. Both De’VIA and non-De’VIA artists need and deserve this.
Lastly, one of my favorite things about the Deaf Visual Arts Festival in St. Louis was seeing some of my former students from many moons ago. And hugs – getting and giving hugs. Hugs are good.
Thank you again DEAF, Inc., GSLAD, Mo. School for the Deaf, Ill. School for the Deaf, St Louis’ Deaf community, the artists, the students, and Tony Nitko for making it all happen.