An attendee at an American Sign Language art presentation designs artwork.
By Lydia Sprague
Deaf Spotlight is a community organization focusing on bringing awareness of deaf arts and culture in the deaf community as well as in the Seattle community as a whole. The group regularly presents presentations on art, poetry slams and plays, tours of art museums and even a film festival directed toward a deaf audience. All presentations are given in American Sign Language with a voice interpreter available for hearing guests.
“Because we’re an invisible handicap, a lot of people learn about it on an as-needed basis. You don’t know we’re deaf until you see us moving our hands,” said Rob Roth, director of Deaf Spotlight. “Basically we’re just trying to open up awareness of deaf culture.”
Its own culture
While many people are beginning to learn about the deaf culture, Deaf Spotlight is pushing it to the forefront. Like most ethnic and minority cultures, the deaf community has its own idioms and jokes, Roth said.
“Many cultures have idioms, and they are based around language. In the deaf culture, it’s based on the use of sign language,” he explained.
And just like artists from many cultures, some deaf artists use their artwork to bring awareness to the deaf lifestyle. Others may target a deaf audience, and still others may just want to produce art without the context of being deaf.
“Everybody has a creative talent already, and they express that through different outlets, such as writing, acting, painting, gardening,” said Patty Liang, director of the Seattle Deaf Film Festival, which is presented by Deaf Spotlight. “Some emphasize on the deaf culture and experience, but other deaf artists prefer to do their artworks on other topics or different materials without being recognized as a deaf artist, but as a talented artist who happens to be deaf.”
There are symbols in deaf art that stem from deaf culture, according to Roth, that depict a life with no sound. Some of those symbols can be from sign language, or a musical sheet with no notes, or sometimes a skull with no jaw.
Like other artists, deaf artists speak to their experiences and are looking for understanding from those outside the deaf
. SPOTLIGHT, Page 14