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Looking at Deaf art: online is informative but real is powerful

August 11, 2015

“Bell School, 1944” as seen in “Deaf Heritage.” (Used with permission)

You’ve seen this image before, haven’t you? It’s on page 129 of Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf America by Jack R. Gannon. That’s the first page of the entry on Betty G. Miller, and it’s one of the most well-known paintings she’s created. But if all you’ve seen is a photo like this online, or in the pages of a book, you’re missing out. In the book it’s only 5″ square, and this online version is only 500 pixels square, and it’s in black and white. In reality, though, it’s a large color painting.

Betty G. Miller standing in front of her painting,

Betty G. Miller standing in front of her painting, “Bell School, 1944.”

Here’s a photo of Betty taken with the painting which gives you an idea of the actual color and size. Surprised?

Nothing beats real

It’s true that in this internet-driven world most of us only see art on the screen, and before the ‘net, we mostly saw it in art books. The image may grab our attention. We may like it, or even love it. But it isn’t real. Real artwork has power. When you see the real thing, it draws you into the experience and makes you feel. Sometimes you recognize that feeling because it mirrors your own experience. If it doesn’t, then it probably opens your eyes to how someone else experiences the world, someone different from you. And that’s a good thing.

Let There Be Light: De^ARTivism

An art show begins this week in DC. It’s being held at the Pepco Edison Gallery, 702 Eighth Street, NW, WDC, 20068. I’ve been working to create a digital catalog of art show, and it’s going to be very powerful. It’s called Let There Be Light: De^ARTivism. Yes, that’s a new word. As exhibit curator Ellen Mansfield writes in her statement:

… [defined] the term artivist as an “…(artist + activist) who uses her artistic talents to fight and struggle against injustice and oppression— by any medium necessary.” … Thus, we have coined the term “De^ARTivism” to represent De’VIA artists who take a stand, and we use the caret (^) instead of the apostrophe (‘) to mimic the sign for “STAND.” (De’VIA, short for Deaf View/Image Art, is art created when the artist intends express ideas and feelings about the experience of being deaf.)

Two of Betty’s paintings will be there, Bell School, 1944, and a neon called Frazzled. They are just two of around 80 artworks! Please come to see and feel the power of original art. The gallery hours are limited (12 noon to 4 PM, Tuesday through Friday), so come to the receptions.

The opening reception is Wednesday, August 12, 2015  from 5 to 8 PM.

The closing reception is Wednesday, September 2, 2015  from 5 to 8 PM.

See you there!

~~Nancy C.

I’m on Instagram as purpleswirlarts. I’ll be in DC all week because I’m joining a group of Deaf artists represented in this show in a retreat. I plan to post photos using the hashtag: #D^A so follow me and see what’s happening.

Also, for more information on everything about the show, see:

 UPDATE Tuesday, August 18:

Between trouble getting online (I’ve an iPod Touch, not a phone), a busy week, and plain old exhaustion, I’m behind in my Instagram postings. I’ll catch up, just after the fact.

My new TV thinks I’m hearing

April 17, 2015

by Nancy Creighton

My new TV is not bad, it’s perfectly serviceable. But it’s got a built-in assumption– that television viewers are hearing people. In these days of diversity, respecting the disabled, and universal design principles, such an assumption is indefensible.

The old RCA and me.

The old RCA and me.

The old RCA TV I’ve been using gave up the ghost recently. It was an excellent TV in its day– built-in VCR, and built-in closed caption chip (that wasn’t mandated until 1990; thanks go to NAD, NCI, TDI, FCC and others for making CC a reality). I tried for one day to live without TV, but these days, I’m hooked. So my brother and I went out shopping for a cheap digital TV that was big enough for me to read the captions from across the room. We ended up getting a brand called Insigna from Best Buy, a brand I’d never heard of before and can’t recommend for deaf viewers.

What’s great it is has a button on the remote specifically for toggling the CC on and off. What’s awful is that every time we turn the TV off, the CC turns off, too.

What’s worse is that when we turn the TV back on, just pressing the CC button doesn’t turn on the captions. It took awhile to figure this out– the words that come up on the screen say the captions are on, but they aren’t. Not until we cycle through the three settings: CC ON, CC ON WHEN MUTED, CC OFF, and finally get back to the CC ON setting do the captions turn on. And it takes a few beats for them to come up so we’re sure it’s working.

On a daily basis, it’s annoying, but livable. Just hit a button four times instead of once to turn on the closed captions. There are worse things to live with. But step back and look at the larger picture– it’s another example of institutionalized discrimination. “Institutional discrimination is built into the structure itself. Thus it is more covert and more tenacious. It can occur regardless of the desires or intentions of the people perpetuating it.” (Freeman, Woman in Society). While Dr Freeman’s article focuses on women and employment, her statement can apply in many situations, including design and manufacturing decisions.

I don’t know why the manufacturers of my new television designed the closed captioning function to wipe out the information when turned off, or why it takes four presses of the CC button to turn it on again. It can’t be difficult– my RCA was over 20 years old. Maybe it was cheaper? By how much? Perhaps they just didn’t think about it. But then, they thought about it enough to include a CC ON WHEN MUTED function. Do they think that hearing and deaf people don’t watch TV together?

Some televisions, more expensive brands, allow the customer to set the size and color of the captions. There are a lot of possibilities for customer control of the captions, but most television manufacturers don’t take advantage of the digital capabilities.

On a cheap TV, I wasn’t expecting to customize my captions, but I did expect them to stay on until changed. That’s not unreasonable. It’s good business.


Not up on the acronyms?

FCC: Federal Communication Commission, Closed Captioning on Television

NAD: National Association of the Deaf, Making Sounds Visible

NCI: National Captioning Institute, History of Closed Captioning

TDI: Telecommunications for the Deaf, Media and Information Technology: Access Milestones

Further Reading:

The Seven Principles of Universal Design

Freeman, Jo. “Institutional Discrimination.” Institutional Discrimination. Accessed April 17, 2015.

One year anniversary of… my fall

April 2, 2015
Nancy in hosptial bed, Patient is deaf" sign above her head.

In the hospital one year ago.

I just came in from walking my dog, Tucker. A year ago, I took him out, drove to one of our places to walk, and just after letting him out of the car, I fell. It was just before 8 pm, and getting dark. I was very lucky that a kind stranger driving by noticed me lying on the sidewalk– I was only there for a few minutes. He helped me up and half-walked, half-carried me the few steps to my car, but the pain was too much, I couldn’t stand or walk on it. He called my brother for me, and Dick arrived and called 911, and one of my best friends, Judy, a “sister by choice.” Judy tells me that when the paramedics moved me off the gurney onto the bed at the hospital, I screamed. I had no idea I was making any sound, but she said she’ll never forget it. A day and a half later I had surgery to replace my broken hip. It was a partial replacement– I still have all of my pelvic bone, only the head of the femur was replaced.

The true loss of this fall was the loss of my independence. I was lucky to have my brother living with me, able and willing to take care of me. In the beginning he had to do all of my shopping, my laundry, help me get out of bed the days it hurt too much to move, and drive me everywhere. Recovery has been a long, hard road. Even with excellent physical therapy (thanks, Joe and Yoni!) I’m not walking like I used to.

I limp, I take Aleve, I use a cane. But I also walk my dog, do my own shopping and laundry, drive. I’ve got about 99.99% of my independence back– I still ask Dick to bring in the bags full of food after I’ve gone shopping.


I’ve been busy the past few months. I posted a lot of the sharing from Betty’s memorial before diving into other work. But not everything. The hangup? Accessibility. In the slideshow I prepared, there’s a video of Betty talking about one of her paintings. I tried to caption it, but kept running into technical problems. Though I’m pretty good at teaching myself new things, I had to stop working on this to work on a paying project, and haven’t yet had a chance to go back to it. I will soon, and then I’ll announce it. In the meantime, you can see what’s available on the link at the top right of these pages, “Betty G. Miller – Memorial.”

It’s back on! You’re invited to help celebrate Betty’s life

November 23, 2014

12/7/2014 is the date for Betty's memorial

This is just a quick note to tell all of you about the upcoming Memorial Program for Betty G. Miller.

As you all probably know by now, Betty died December 3, 2012 (see for her obituary). This is the third time we’ve started to plan a memorial. The last one, planned for April 12, 2014 had to be cancelled when I fell and broke my hip. I was in a rehab facility working on learning to walk again last April. I’m a lot better, though walking with a cane for now.

I’m finally able to work on a memorial, and with the help of several friends, we’re planning one for December 7th. It will be held in the lobby of the Washburn Art Building at Gallaudet because that’s where Betty was happy. Here’s the specific information:

Sunday, December 7, 2014
Washburn Art Building
Gallaudet University, Washington, DC
Memorial Program 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Gallery closes at 1:00 PM

Jan DeLap will be the emcee for the program, and there will be light refreshments served before and after the program. Parking at Gallaudet will be free, no need to get a permit.

Please RSVP to NanC (a temporary address) ASAP so that we have a count for the chairs and food.

— Nancy Creighton

P.S.: I recently went to NTID for their Viva De’VIA events. I’d never used Instagram before, so I played around with it. You can see my photos at:

P.P.S.: Patti Durr at NTID has posted some videos from the banquet online. Brenda Schertz played the part of Betty, going up to different tables and giving her biography. See it here:

Postponed! Betty G. Miller’s Memorial

April 10, 2014

The Universe has Spoken, Betty’s Memorial Must be Postponed

Calendar graphic for 4/12/14

Postponement from April 12th.

Well, it’s official. It is with great reluctance that I am canceling the memorial program celebrating Betty G. Miller’s life on Saturday, April 12, 2014. We will plan it again, but haven’t yet settled on a date or place.

On Wednesday last week (April 2nd), I went to take our dog, Tucker, out for a walk. It was getting dark by the time we got outside, almost 8 pm. I parked on one of our favorite streets, went to shut Tuckers door after he bounded out, and turned and fell. Straight over sideways, in a cartoon kind of way— didn’t bend anywhere just straight line clunk, hard on the pavement, on the widest part of my body. I felt I could see it while it was happening, and I remember thinking “Oh, s~!t” as I was going down. What’s amazing is that I didn’t also hurt my shoulder, elbow or wrist; knee or ankle; my head or face. Only my hip.

At the hospital I found out that I had broken my hip and needed a partial replacement.

But Betty’s memorial program was in less than two weeks! Presenters have been working on their pieces, either video, in person, or through Jan DeLap, our emcee, interpreting into ASL from their written English. Betty’s niece was flying up from New Orleans. Tracey Salaway, curator for the art show where the memorial was being held, took time out of her art show duties to assist in the event preparation, and helping with a video of Betty to be shown. Sister-by-choice was gifting us two nights at Kellogg Conference Center Hotel— there were too many people doing too many things to make this work.

I was determined to continue with plans. In a little over a week, I’d be well enough to have my friend drive me down, and I’d use a wheelchair while I was in DC. If that really became impossible, I’d make sure it continued, and I’d participate through online real-time services (Google Hangouts on Air). So I kept silent, let people continue to work on their presentations, waited until after my partial hip replacement surgery Friday morning to make a decision.

Even after the surgery, when I was recovering in the hospital and while being transferred to a rehab facility, I was determined that the “show would go on.” But so many small things started going wrong for so many people, that I finally accepted the message from the Universe, to cancel this Saturday’s memorial program. I can’t do it.

Not this week.

I’ve emailed the presenters and asked everyone who wasn’t yet finished to keep working. So we will pull something together.

In the meantime, please go see the art show. It’s a wonderful show filled with art from a wide variety of artists working in the Deaf View / Image Art (De’VIA) genre . The reception is this afternoon from 4-6:30 at the Washburn Art Building. The show will be open this weekend from 11 AM to 4 PM both Saturday and Sunday; the show closes on Monday, April 14th at 4 PM.

More shall be revealed…….

You’re Invited: Memorial for Betty 4/12/14

March 26, 2014

4/12/14 date for Betty's memorial program

As you all probably know by now, Betty died December 3, 2012 (see for her obituary). It’s been a tough time for me, but I’m slowly getting used to her being gone, and smiling more often than crying when I see photos and videos of Betty.

Because of that, I’m finally able to work on a memorial, and with the help of several friends, we’re planning one for April 12th. I’m thrilled that it will be in the art gallery filled with Deaf View/Image Art (De’VIA) paintings. Here’s the specific information:

April 12, 2014
Washburn Arts Building, Linda K. Jordan Gallery
Gallaudet University, Washington, DC
Gallery opens at noon
Memorial Program 1:00—3:00 PM
Gallery closes at 4:30 PM

Jan DeLap will be the emcee for the program, and there will be light refreshments served before and after the program. Parking at Gallaudet will be free, no need to get a permit.

Please RSVP to ASAP so that we have a count for the chairs and food.

More about the art show and plans in my next post.

— Nancy C.

One Year Later, Thinking of Betty

December 7, 2013

I’ve passed my one year mark, and have met my “firsts.” Not only the first holidays and birthdays and anniversaries, but also things like the first time I saw sushi in the store and thought “I’ll get some for Betty” then burst into tears; the first time I was watching TV coverage of gay marriage issues and realized it’s not “our fight” anymore, because “we” wouldn’t be getting married; the first cats that came into my life after Betty died and I couldn’t bond with them right away because they weren’t part of my family— because they didn’t know Betty.


We didn’t know it would be the last photo taken of Betty. Brenda Schertz (center) came to visit, and my brother took this photo of us.

Friends have asked how I’m doing and I’m never quite sure what to say. This year has been a time for crawling into my shell, working to take care of myself and let myself grieve. Every once in awhile I poke my head out, look around online and try to reconnect with my world. Then I disappear again. Society seems to think that I need to move on quickly, to embrace the future. In the past, traditional societies mandated a one-year grieving period. Friends who have gone through similar grief have told me to be gentle with myself, that it took them a year-and-a-half to two years to slowly put the grief aside. That’s the journey I’m on, but I get impatient sometimes. The sadness hasn’t gone away, and might never do so. But as time goes on, I don’t mind carrying it as much. 

The photo shown is the last photo taken of Betty, November 18, 2012. Brenda Schertz came for a short visit and I’m so glad she said she wanted a picture of us. 

Originally, friends and I scheduled a memorial service for Betty today, December 7th. Since I didn’t advertise the date, I didn’t post that it was being postponed for the second time. We just couldn’t get ourselves together enough to plan this. But the third time should work, and we’re making plans for a memorial for Betty in April. More details soon.



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