A groundbreaking event is under way at the Anderson Center at Tower View, where five deaf American artists and scholars have gathered for the first residency of its kind.
The National Endowment for the Arts provided a grant enabling the Red Wing artist community to be the host site for this gathering for the entire month of June.
“The artists and scholar chosen are all highly professional and accomplished in their respective fields,” Anderson Center Director Robert Hedin said.
The group includes a graphic novelist, a poet/playwright/filmmaker, a poet, a sculptor and a scholar in the field of deaf literature.
For their community service, which is a part of Tower View’s residency program, they will participate in a public reception and event from 7 to 9 p.m. June 26 at the Anderson Center.
In addition, the group has been invited to be part of the annual convention of the Society of Disability Studies, which is being held in Minneapolis this year, June 11-14.
The artists will participate in a panel discussion for the members, including scholars, anthropologists, policy-makers and others who center on the culture, society and politics of disability studies.
American Sign Language is the native or adoptive language of the June artists. Interpreters will be available at times during the month.
“This is a remarkable gathering of extraordinarily talented people,” Hedin said, adding that to his knowledge, it is the first time a center has devoted an entire residency period to artists of the deaf culture.
Hedin cited the work of Cynthia Weitzel, a deaf visual artists and a year-round resident artist at the Anderson Center. An award-winning leader in the deaf community, she led the application process to secure the grant.
California native Bex Freund began creating oil paintings at age 7 and grew up to study fine arts at California College of the Arts. In 2008 she worked as a prop/set fabrication intern for the Emmy Award-winning series “Robot Chicken,” and learned to craft tiny worlds.
Currently she is working on a master’s degree in comics at the college and traveling the world. This fall she will participate in a ship-based residency expedition in the Arctic Ocean and Svalbard.
Freund currently is working on a graphic novel about the psychogeography of a fictional city. The novel is split into a dozen stories that explore the faces of the city and the people who live there.
While at Tower View she will be creating visuals for the novel using traditional methods and her own approach, which may include polymer clay figures, high-contrast photography and transparency sheets.
A multi-disciplinary artist, Jeremy Quiroga from Seattle, Washington, will focus on creating three-dimensional sculpture forms in metal. Quiroga started acting as a child and has gone on to perform American Sign Language literature professionally on a national scale. He has been involved in both theater and film projects.
He earned a master’s degree in metal sculpture from the School for American Crafts and now pursues a passion for art in all its forms — particularly as a celebration of American Sign Language. He pointed out that the ASL sign for whale is the Y handshape, and a deer head with antlers is the sign for deer. Similar forms convey horse and bird.
He will sculpt designs in clay then pour them in bronze or fire them in pottery.
Born and reared in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Raymond Luczak lost much of his hearing at age 8 months due to illness.
He graduated from Houghton (Michigan) High School in 1984 then moved to Washington, D.C., to attend Gallaudet University, where he learned ASL.
Luczak spent the next 17 years in New York City as a writer and playwright focusing on the deaf experience in America, achieving success on the national scene, including three Pushcart Prize nominations. He has had 19 plays performed in three countries, and has directed three films.
Luczak, who moved to Minneapolis in 2005, is working on a collection titled “The Language of Home: Stories.”
While at Tower View he hopes to complete one new story a week and to rethink his approach to the collection.
He said the new stories likely will reflect recent changes in the way the deaf and signing communities view themselves, and the concept of community today.
A Gallaudet graduate now working on a master’s in English at the University of Texas-Austin, Rachel Mazique is an emerging scholar in the field of deaf literature. She will be working on her dissertation on texts and deaf literature seen through a human rights framework. As part of her research, she is focusing on five American and five British texts/scholarly sources.
Mazique also teaches at the University of Texas, including two popular courses she designed: “Disability in Pop Culture” and “Literature, Visual Culture and Deaf Studies.” She was cited for excellence in teaching. She is co-managing editor of the Journal for Undergraduate Multimedia Projects and a former Ambassador to the National Association for the Deaf.
A native of Madison, Wisconsin, poet Lilah Katcher has been writing poetry since elementary school. She worked with nonprofit and government organizations for many years, then chose to return as a student to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., to continue studying all forms of writing.
Katcher finds inspiration in nature, travel and the arts. She has studied French Sign Language in France, and currently is exploring connections between visual arts and poetry — specific paintings and poems — while she completes her degree work in English and French. While in Red Wing she plans to produce new poems.