DEAF ARTISTS RESIDENCY PROGRAM

DEAF ARTISTS
RESIDENCY PROGRAM

Advancing Deaf Culture

The Anderson Center’s Deaf Artist Residency (DAR) is the only residency opportunity in the world devoted exclusively to Deaf artists. The program was created in 2014 to enact the vision of a Deaf visual artist, Cynthia Weitzel, who designed and leads the program. Weitzel maintains year-round studio space at the Anderson Center. Her most striking paintings are abstract expressionist works she creates with the paint cast off her fingers as she signs, a dynamic process she calls “ASL action painting.”

Now in its fourth iteration, the goal of the Deaf Artist Residency Program at the Anderson Center is to create artistic and organizational networks that support the development of the Deaf Arts as a distinct cultural area within the larger context of American Culture. The program has supported twenty-three visual artists, writers, and scholars over through four artist cohorts in 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2021.

Sculptor Jeremy Quiroga in the Anderson Center's Residency Studio
Dr. Jennifer Nelson painting in the Anderson Center Residency Studio

Creating space for Deaf artists means more than just being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act or even “deaf-friendly.” ASL and Deaf culture are vastly different from English and the hearing world, and the worldview of Deaf artists reflects this. If a Deaf artist opts to participate in a residency without accommodations, the burden of communication rests on the Deaf person. “The feeling of isolation and otherness are almost always further compounded in this micro-environment or micro-community [of hearing-centric residencies],” explains Weitzel, “and this disrupts the creative process.”

Creating space for Deaf artists means more than just being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act or even “deaf-friendly.” ASL and Deaf culture are vastly different from English and the hearing world, and the worldview of Deaf artists reflects this. If a Deaf artist opts to participate in a residency without accommodations, the burden of communication rests on the Deaf person. “The feeling of isolation and otherness are almost always further compounded in this micro-environment or micro-community [of hearing-centric residencies],” explains Weitzel, “and this disrupts the creative process.”

Dr. Jennifer Nelson painting in the Anderson Center Residency Studio

Alumni of the program speak effusively of the residency and the freedom of communication it offers. “It is quite extraordinary how [our] shared understanding and experiences about communication form a deep, natural bond,” says Brenda Brueggemann, a hard-of-hearing writer who worked on a literary biography of Mabel Hubbard Bell, the Deaf wife of Alexander Graham Bell, during her 2018 residency. “Because mainstreaming has been so dominant now in educating deaf people, we don’t often get this kind of immersed creative and critical time together.”

2016 Deaf Artists Residency Group
Group photo with the metal “5” at the north studio patio (five studios in this area). [Image description: five Deaf artists are posing around the metal “5” sculpture. Brenda is on the left in a lavender shirt and white pants with lavender fingernails. To the right of Brenda is Lilah, dressed in purple cotton. Behind the 5 is Tony, arms akimbo. Sitting below Tony on the 5 is Cynthia in denim sleeveless long shirt with tan capri pants and blue tank top. To the far right is Katherine, in a black V neck shirt with a pretty necklace and tan pants. All are smiling].

“The common language experience is something that so many people take for granted. Not so for us,” explains poet and 2018 resident Lilah Katcher. Novelist Raymond Luczak’s conversations with his 2014 cohort helped him reenvision the Deaf-centric short story collection he was writing while in residence. “This made it feel like I was a part of something bigger than just me going somewhere new to work for a bit,” he says. 2016 resident Adrean Clark sees the DAR as a “safe space to think and speak in ASL.” 

Each year the DAR takes place, members of the Minnesota Deaf Seniors Citizens group also have the opportunity to tour the Center, visit the Deaf artists’ studios and experience their work first-hand. Many of these seniors experience ASL poetry and Deaf-centric arts for the first time at the Anderson Center.

“The common language experience is something that so many people take for granted. Not so for us,” explains poet and 2018 resident Lilah Katcher. Novelist Raymond Luczak’s conversations with his 2014 cohort helped him reenvision the Deaf-centric short story collection he was writing while in residence. “This made it feel like I was a part of something bigger than just me going somewhere new to work for a bit,” he says. 2016 resident Adrean Clark sees the DAR as a “safe space to think and speak in ASL.” 

Each year the DAR takes place, members of the Minnesota Deaf Seniors Citizens group also have the opportunity to tour the Center, visit the Deaf artists’ studios and experience their work first-hand. Many of these seniors experience ASL poetry and Deaf-centric arts for the first time at the Anderson Center.

Group photo with the metal “5” at the north studio patio (five studios in this area). [Image description: five Deaf artists are posing around the metal “5” sculpture. Brenda is on the left in a lavender shirt and white pants with lavender fingernails. To the right of Brenda is Lilah, dressed in purple cotton. Behind the 5 is Tony, arms akimbo. Sitting below Tony on the 5 is Cynthia in denim sleeveless long shirt with tan capri pants and blue tank top. To the far right is Katherine, in a black V neck shirt with a pretty necklace and tan pants. All are smiling].

The organization’s approach to administering this program demonstrates its mindset towards serving historically marginalized artists and groups: it is their program, and Center staff endeavor to support their goals and needs. In the DAR, all jurors and participants identify as Deaf artists and cultural workers; Weitzel’s goal is to create Deaf artistic and organizational networks that support substantial development of Deaf arts as a distinct cultural area within the larger context of American culture.

The Deaf Artists Residency Program is supported in part through an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and a partnership with Gallaudet University.

Recommended reading:

2016 Deaf Artists Residency Group

DAR ALMUNI

2014

Jeremy Quiroga
Mixed Media Visual Artist, Poet
Seattle, WA

Bex Freund
Graphic Novelist
Pacific Palisades, CA

Lilah Katcher
Poet
Madison, WI

Raymond Luczak
Fiction Writer
Minneapolis, MN

Rachel Mazique
Deaf Literature Scholar
Arlington Heights, IL

2016

Adrean Clark
Mixed Media Visual Artist
Hopkins, MN

Jennifer Nelson
Painter
Washington, DC

Kaitlyn Mielke
Fiction Writer
Irmo, SC

Leah Geer
Linguistics Scholar
Austin, TX

Kalen Feeney
Screenwriter
Portland, OR

2018

Cynthia Weitzel
Visual Artist
Albert Lea, MN

Katherine De Lorenzo
Fiction Writer
New York, NY

Lilah Katcher
Poet
Madison, WI

Tony Fowler
Visual Artist
Surprise, AZ

Terrylene Sacchetti
ASL Poet
Riverside, CA

Brenda Brueggemann
Non-Fiction Writer
Manchester, CT

Delora Bertsch
Ceramics Artist
San Pedro, CA

2021

Youmee Lee
NY - Printmaking / Visual Artist - 4 weeks
June 1 - 29

Jenna Fischtrom Beacom
OH - Fiction - 4 weeks
June 1 - 29

Cristina Hartmann
PA - Fiction - 4 weeks
June 1 - 29

Sara Stallard
CA - Non-Fiction - 4 weeks
June 1 - 29

Charlie Ainsworth
TX - Screenwriting - 4 weeks
June 1 - 29