Memorial Art Gallery showcases Deaf culture with De’VIA exhibit

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — An exhibit at the Memorial Art Gallery is showcasing Deaf art, and celebrates the 30th anniversary of a Deaf art collective called “De’VIA.”

The exhibit is called “De’VIA: The Manifesto Comes of Age.” There will be guided tours — both spoken and signed — every Thursday until the exhibit closes.

It is curated by Deaf academics, Patti Durr and Tabitha Jacques, both of whom are tied to the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

“It stands for Deaf View/Image Art,” said Patti Durr, Professor at the National Technical Institute of the Deaf, in Department of Cultural and Creative studies. “It’s art about the Deaf experience.”

The exhibit also showcases work by Deaf artists who worked before the movement, including a piece of art made to depict Deaf Jews who were trying to survive the Holocaust:

“It just shows that deaf people all throughout time have had a very shared experience,” Durr said.

The exhibition mostly comes from Rochester Institute of Technology‘s Dyer Arts Center, which is located on the campus of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the university.

That collection has been growing for 50 years, and this exhibit has been in the works for 15 years, to show and educate about the deaf culture.

“We have our own language, ASL,” said Tabitha Jacques, director for dyer art center. “We have our own mannerisms, our own literature, both sign and the written word.”

There’s even an app by the NTID’s Center of Access Technology that was specially designed for the exhibit. It can be downloaded on site with written, spoken, and signed information from the source.

“I think it’s a really unique experience for people because each of the arts are able to give information about the work,” Jacques said.

The goals of the exhibit are to inspire the deaf the community, and to educate the public on deaf art and culture.

According to Jacques, there is a a simple, but powerful message.

“I think in general people think of being deaf as a medical issue,” Jacques said. “A problem that needs to be solved. But with this exhibit, it turns the perspective around, and allows people to see a different side of deaf culture.

“We have life, we have jobs, we have our own experiences, and really we’re the same as everyone else. Our culture has it’s own rich history, and it has these other aspects that we want to share with people. Deafness is not just a medical condition, we’re just like everybody else.”

The exhibit closes on February 16th.

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