Deaf and blind students display artwork at Tohono Chul

2013-04-21T00:00:00Z Deaf and blind students display artwork at Tohono ChulAshley Powell For The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Art is more than just a class for students at the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.

"I like how it expresses your feelings in a way," said seventh-grader, Jessica Hernandez, 14.

About 40 ASDB students have created pieces, from weavings to sculptures, that are on exhibit through July 20 in the education center at Tohono Chul Park, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte. The show includes nearly 60 pieces.

A plaque near the exhibit entrance describes the idea behind the work: "Through art education, we are offered the tools to think abstractly and creatively express our frustrations, fears, excitements and the overall experience of life."

Art is displayed in glass cases and on the walls, accompanied by short descriptions and the artists' first names.

Students from the school at 1200 W. Speedway will take a field trip to Tohono Chul next month. ASDB has classes in kindergarten through high school; kids in different age groups will visit the park on different days.

Assistant curator Edie Wageman said Tohono Chul hosted another themed exhibit, "Please Touch," featuring work by local adult artists with various disabilities. That display inspired the idea for an interactive art exhibit by students from ASDB.

"There's no culture that's ever existed without art," Wageman said. "Nothing should keep anyone from the opportunity to explore it."

Visually impaired students on the field trip who read Braille will receive a book describing the pieces, and Braille descriptions are provided next to the artwork as well.

The exhibit features a series of weavings by 12th-grader Nick Waldron, 19, who is blind. Waldron researched the Chinese zodiac and created a weaving depicting each animal and a poem to accompany them.

The rabbit weaving in his collection implements a soft fabric, but also Easter basket grass-like material, since he associates rabbits with that holiday. His weaving of the monkey zodiac sign includes a row of banana leaves.

"I just go for it," he said of creating art.

Waldron's best weavings in the series, he said, are those of strong, fierce animals such as the ox, dragon and tiger.

"The Chinese zodiac … helps you calm down with your problems," he said.

Waldron has been working on the weavings since 2005. These days in art class he is starting a series of weavings of the Chinese elements, which include wood, metal, fire, earth and water.

Like Waldron, Hernandez, who is blind, found her niche in art. Her contribution to the exhibit is a tactile map of the U.S.

Before starting on the project Hernandez approached Dawn Smiddy, the school's education specialist in art, for help researching the subject.

"I wanted to know where everything was, and plus I needed to learn about the U.S.," Hernandez said. "I'm proud of myself for doing that."

Hernandez created an outline of the U.S. on a board using staples, to feel the ridges and outline of the country. From there, Smiddy helped Hernandez study each state and what it is known for.

Hernandez glued coins on the part of the map that represents Nevada, to represent Las Vegas. For Washington state and Oregon, Hernandez used sea glass and a toy umbrella.

"Within each and every artwork, there is an individual story," said Wageman, the Tohono Chul curator.

And the exhibit is full of stories. One student who is blind creates sculptures that he can blow or talk into, then listen to the echoes.

"He can't see it, but he can hear his artwork," Wageman said.

If you go

• What: Student artwork from the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.

• When: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through July 20.

• Where: Tohono Chul Park, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte.

• Cost: Included in $8 park admission; discounts available.

• Info: Call 742-6455.

paint pot palette

Dawn Smiddy, education specialist in art at the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, is the inventor of a system for visually impaired students to use color in their artwork.

Smiddy worked with a plastics company to produce the "Paint Pot Palette," with secured cups that won't tip over. Each cup is labeled in Braille with the name of the color inside the cup. The system also includes Braille-labeled paint bottles.

The Paint Pot Palette is sold all over the world and is used for paints, glazes and beads.

All of the profits from the product go to ASDB students. Some of the money has been used to send students to places such as Washington, D.C., to receive national awards for their artwork.

The original template for the palette and the product sold in stores are on display at Tohono Chul Park.

Ashley Powell is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at 573-4117 or starapprentice@azstarnet.com - Ashley Powell

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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