Deaf Art and Deaf culture Focus of Lamar University art exhibition
To put a Deaf lens on the world.
This is a goal for many of the nationally known Deaf artists and art history scholars participating in the Lamar University-sponsored touring exhibition entitled “Deaf Artists in the Community and in the Schools.” The show examines how artists who are Deaf express their artistic vision. In a public forum, the eight artists and two art history scholars will share their ideas about art and Deaf culture and the role of American Sign Language (ASL) in the lives of deaf students, on Friday, April 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. In the Dishman Art Museum, with a reception to follow until 9 p.m.
Each of the more than 40 pieces of art in the exhibit will be on display at the Dishman Museum April 3 to April 17, when the exhibit divides up and moves to the Austin Children’s Museum and the Texas School for the Deaf for simultaneous exhibitions April 21 to May 8.
If you can’t read ASL, that’s OK. Lamar interpreter-coordinator Brenda Mendoza has made arrangements for the ASL-impaired, otherwise known as the hearing community. A collaborative project on many levels, the exhibition and its surrounding events are planned, so as to be exclusive to no one.
“We will project panelists on a screen so everyone can see them signing. Off to the side, we will have a screen, for people who grew up in an oral world,” she said, adding there will also be voice interpreters who will translate signing into spoken language for the hearing-speaking community.
Mendoza said an English-print captionist will keep the text live as it is projected on the walls.
“They are very much like court reporters, in fact they go through the same training.” You can kind of expect the experience to be much like watching closed-captioned television.
Visitors will be able to watch, listen, read text or read hands, ASL that is, so that everyone is accommodated.
“All will provoke sensitivity toward a culture that has been historically oppressed and repressed as few lay people know about it,” said Jean F. Andrews, professor of deaf studies/deaf education.
“The viewer will see works that illustrate signing hands and others that address the sensation of sound through visual form,” said Lynne Lokensgard, professor of art history.
Collaboration efforts reach across colleges within Lamar. Andrews and Lokensgard partnered more than five years ago in writing a successful grant to the National Endowment for the Arts, the NEA’s first-ever such distribution to Lamar University.
Student majors and faculty from deaf studies/deaf education, art, ASL, and speech and hearing science are coming together from across disciplines to guide tours, teach and plan educational and promotional activities.
“These artists are so prominent in the Deaf community. I remember reading about them in children’s books. They could have chosen a lot of places to come, but they chose Beaumont to show their work,” said ASL major Kristen Burnett of Houston.
“We have a lot of Deaf people here. A lot of them are from Washington D.C., and they are here to get their graduate degrees. The undergrads are able to learn so much from their experiences. And they are a part of the Deaf community while they are here,” said Burnett, who participates in the Signing Cardinals student organization with Deaf storytelling at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Deaf socials at public restaurants and even “Deaf church.”