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Deaf Entertainment and Art:

By: Chelsea Fisher


Deaf Entertainment and Art

Rather a difference in lifestyle than a disability, the Deaf community has embraced their own culture which includes similar things to the Hearing community. Through schools, organizations, and clubs, forms of Deaf entertainment have evolved which are just as advanced as those which exist in the world of sound.

After an average school day a student with the ability to hear will probably go home, get a snack, and sit down in front of the TV. Teenagers spend approximately 22 hours a week in front of the TV (1). But, what about the Deaf community? In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act made it a requirement that every TV 13" or greater in size have a converting device that makes closed captioning accessible. While not every TV show has closed captioning (CC) many of them do. Captioning makes it easy for Deaf communities to read what most audiences would hear while both see the same image. The same goes for movies. Nearly every DVD available now has subtitle ability, and devices are being released to movie theatres so that Deaf people can have subtitles in front of them while viewing the movie on the big screen. Special showings in larger cities also come with subtitles on the big screen itself, allowing Deaf and Hearing people to enjoy a movie together without the use of special equipment.

While there are similarities between the worlds of entertainment, there are also forms of entertainment that are unique to the Deaf community. One example is the poetry and storytelling of Clayton Valli (1951--2003), a prominent ASL poet who helped introduce people to the possibilities and richness of ASL literature. With creative and beautiful signing, Valli performed his works to audiences around the world. However, Valli wasn't the only prominent "voice" in this movement; Elle Mae Lentz, Peter Cook, and many others join him in the effort.

The Hearing world has seemingly little appreciation for oral performances of poetry, when compared to how appreciative the Deaf community is of talented performers of visual literature. Besides a literature movement that one could say is still developing, Deaf theatre has also become a major source of entertainment in the Deaf community. Gallaudet University and Deaf West Theater put on annual theatre productions using ASL, and thanks to modern technology such as Facebook, YouTube, and video sharing, these productions have become accessible even for those who do not have the ability to enjoy them live.

Facebook and YouTube have also positively influenced the spread and enjoyment of Deaf Art such as that created by famous Deaf artist, Chuck Baird (1947 --2012). Baird's paintings expressed his interpretation of the Deaf culture around and offered insight to the Deaf world. In his words, "Deaf art expresses the values of Deaf culture -- the beauty of sign language and its painful oppression, the joys of Deaf bonding, communication breakdowns between signers and non-signers, the discovery of language and community, and the history of Deaf people" (2). Baird was also an influence in creating De'VIA, or Deaf View/Image Art. Accorind to, "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" (3). Baird was a painter, but Deaf art isn't limited to a canvas. De'VIA was created by sculptors, video and fiber artists, as well as historians.

Deaf art with its emphasis on Deaf culture and expression through signing and visual presentation is distinct from the art of Hearing culture -- but the art of both cultures is rooted in the fact that all people regardless of being Hearing or Deaf tend to enjoy entertainment and expressions of creativity.




1. Hinckley, David. "Americans Spend 34 Hours a Week Watching TV, according to Nielsen Numbers ." NY Daily News. (9/19/2012). <>. (10/7/2013).

2. "Chuck Baird Shares His Vision of Deaf Art and Culture." Chuck Baird Shares His Vision of Deaf Art and Culture. Gallaudet University. <>. (10/11/13).

3. Dunleavy, John. "What Is Deaf Art?" What Is Deaf Art? (No Date).>. (10/10/13).

Also see: Artistic Signing

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