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Betty’s Painting, “Celebration of Hands” Featured on “Glee!” 9/26/2013

September 25, 2013

One of the things I did this summer was work with people from the art department of “Glee!” — the FOX TV show. They wanted to use one of Betty’s paintings, “Celebration of Hands.” Well, this painting has a story– it’s lost!

Before I get into that story, let me tell you that I gave the set designers permission to use an image of the painting, and a couple of photos, the ones shown here. They told me the episode is going to air on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 9 PM, and the only thing they mentioned is that the painting will be on the wall at a Deaf school. Well, I just checked the FOX website, and their season opening show is about the Beatles, and to my knowledge there’s nothing “Deaf” about the Beatles, so perhaps the episodes have been switched around. I’ll find out and post an update here.

Updates 9/26 — It’s On!

I’ve heard back from several people, and yes! It’s on tonight! I got a message from Michelle Collier, the Art Department Coordinator for “Glee!” who wrote: “Yes, the episode that airs tonight includes the scene with Betty’s art. They enter the School for the Deaf when they are looking for help during one of the Beatles numbers. I’m not sure how much of the artwork is seen in the final cut, but definitely check it out!”

I also heard from my friend Janne Harrelson who wrote: “My understanding is that one of the rival choirs on the show will be a Deaf choir, performing the Beatles’ song “All You Need is Love” in ASL.”

And from another friend, Patti Durr: “Looks like it will be on tonight….’Glee’ premiere features deaf choir Graduate student Thomas Korn will appear in the season premiere of Fox’s Glee on Thursday, September 26 at 9 p.m. as a member of a rival choir, The Haverbrooks—the all-deaf choir, as they perform the Beatles song “All You Need is Love” in American Sign Language.” Patti continued: “Someone else emailed me and said they know Tommy – the Deaf actor – and he says he saw the artwork during the filming. Ya hoo!”

ImageBackground on the Lost Painting

“Celebration of Hands” was done in 1987 from a slide taken at an event at Spectrum: Focus on Deaf Artists that happened in 1978 or ’79. Betty often worked by first projecting a slide onto the canvas, and doing a prelimiary paint sketch based on the slide. She would finish the work without the slide projector, making changes as she went along. When it was done, this painting hung in our home in DC, opposite the front door so it was often the first thing seen when people entered.

I’m not sure what year– I have a lot of old info to wade through!– a buyer for corporate art contacted Betty. Sprint had received a contract for Maryland Relay Service operations and were looking for artwork for their corporate office in Baltimore. Betty sent them information on several paintings and they picked this one, bought it and had it shipped to Sprint. I can’t remember if we went to see it in place, but I think we did. I have a vague memory of a huge lobby and the painting was hung there, not up in the office of Sprint itself.

A few years later, Sprint lost the contract for Maryland Relay Service and moved its office. Betty contacted Mike Baer, who used to work at Sprint in Baltimore, and asked what happened to the painting but he didn’t know. He asked around, but nobody knew.

ImageWhen Glee! designers asked for permission to use the painting, I went on a search for a good photo, and I can’t find one! The one they had was from NTID/RIT’s Deaf Artists website, which is a clear photo (shown above), but the color is wrong. I finally found a photo that had the correct colors, but it’s only a detail (just part of the painting), out of focus and dirty (shown at right). And those two are all I can find. Michelle Collier, the Art Department Coordinator for Glee! that I worked with told me they could probably recreate the image with a high enough resolution to have it printed, and asked for clearance for the image.

Know Where It Is?

I would love to know what happened to this painting. If anyone does know, or has seen it since the early 1990s, please tell me using the comments to this blog. One thing I would like to do is get a good photo for Betty’s archives!


You see that center figure with the cap? That was Chuck Baird, another famous Deaf Artist who was at Spectrum in the late ’70s.

–Nancy C.

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