Thursday, December 6, 2012

De'VIA Pioneers


Over the past year we have lost two beautiful Deaf artists who also were pioneers in the De'VIA movement.  De'VIA is short for Deaf View/Image Art.  This movement was officially recognized at the Deaf Way Festival at Gallaudet University in 1989.

"De'VIA represents Deaf artists and perceptions based on their Deaf experiences.  It uses formal art elements with the intention of expressing innate cultural or physical Deaf experience.  These experiences may include Deaf metaphors, Deaf perspectives, and Deaf insight in relationship with the environment (both the natural world and Deaf cultural environment), spiritual and everyday life."
C. Baird, Art No. 2, (ASL sign for Art) De'VIA Poster, 1999 Tour
 CHUCK BAIRD -  (1947-2012) Chuck Baird shared a special relationship with our school here at The Learning Center for the Deaf.  He was an Artist-in-Residence here in 1995 and completed a mural in our cafeteria that shows the rich history of ASL (American Sign Language).  Our ASL department created a video explaining the history and can be found on youtube.  During an interview Chuck Baird mentioned that his research on ASL during this project had a profound impact on him.  More from this interview can be read here.  I personally met Chuck Baird in 2002 when I was living in the graduate student dorm at Gallaudet University.  I was hosting a dorm event with my roommate who was an RA.  I set up an art exhibition and reception in the lobby and Chuck Baird came to participate as he was living in the dorm as well.  He did a live demonstration of his artwork and that piece was exhibited during the Deaf Way II festival.  Chuck Baird and I became friendly and he invited me to participate on the committe for Deaf Way II.  I immensely enjoyed my experience meeting international Deaf artists, and planning for the Artist Seminar and creating a docent guide.  I am forever grateful to Chuck Baird for this invaluable and inspiring experience.  More about Chuck Baird's art can be found here.
C. Baird, Sunset

Dr. BETTY G. MILLER -(1934? - 2012) I also met Betty Miller at the Deaf Way II festival and I vividly remember her collaborative neon art projects with other artists.  Betty Miller is considered the Mother of De'VIA and led the workshop that created the De'VIA manifesto.  While Chuck Baird's artwork shows the connection of ASL with imagery, Betty's work shows her personal experience as a minority and memories of oppression. Chuck Baird noted that Betty Miller was ahead of her time and called her the first artist to express Deaf experiences in her work.  More about his thoughts on Betty Miller can be found here.  More about Betty's work can be found here, here and here.
B.Miller, TTY Call

Every year our students here at TLC participate in the Marie J. Philip ASL & Art Competition and often their artwork is inspired by Chuck Baird & Betty Miller.  See more information here.  Just last year our students had an art exhibition at Tenacre School in Wellesley titled "Deaf Eyes."  This exhibition was a culmination of our studies of De'VIA and students' self expression of their Deaf Culture identity.  More of TLC student work can be found at and some of their De'VIA work can be found here or here.

TLC Student, My Deaf Eye


  1. I find their art so inspiring. I think it's awesome that you are exposing all of your students to this. You and I definitely bonded over art in college. :)

  2. RIP Betty & Chuck

  3. This information is excellent and will be a good resource for my ASL 1 class in a public school.

  4. I had personally known Chuck and Betty...Chuck and I were students and were on Gally football team back in 1968. Betty was my boss at DCARA headquarter office in Oakland. Both are dear friends to S,F. Deaf community and all over this country... They are now internationally recognized for their artworks..Thank you, my dear friends!

  5. Has anyone know if Charles was single all of his life?