(NOTE: Bold type refers to attached photos)
I, Ann Silver, deeply regret not being able to attend the memorial service today. I am here with you all in spirit!
First and foremost, Bettigee was not only a mentor, art teacher, colleague, advisor — but also my longtime friend.
At Gallaudet, I was one of Professor Betty G. Miller’s two, I hate to say, highly-prized art students. The other student was Harry R. Williams (HRW), another good friend. Yet, for my independent study, the professor gave me a D grade for my 8mm film documentation on Deaf Art. A “D,” wow? Maybe she meant Capital D as in Culturally Deaf??
In 1968, my first year in college, Betty introduced me to the world of theatre. Though off-limits for undergrads, she took me under her wing at the Hughes Memorial Theatre (HMT), a small Deaf community theatre with an interesting history. She gave me a start in basic theatre design. I later became a summer intern in theatre design at the National Theatre of the Deaf Professional School, and a founding member of the New York Deaf Theatre (NYDT). Had it not been for Betty, Deaf theatre would not have been a part of my young life.
The highlight of my college experience was my involvement with the Deaf Art Movement (DAM) during the late 1960s-early 1970s. Though there were other artists whose work can be described as hard-core Deaf Art, Bettigee was, is and always will be best remembered as the first visual artist to have a public showing of Deaf Art. As part of my schoolwork, I helped set up her solo faculty art exhibit in 1972 SEE PHOTO #1 of postcard design I created for Betty’s show. “The Silent World” exhibit became a symbol that galvanized other Deaf artists and ushered in a new era of political activism within the Deaf community. I applaud her for demonstrating on canvas our position as an oppressed minority. For anyone to speak out openly against what is now known as audism was indeed extraordinary. Her role as one of the pioneers of the Deaf Art Movement and as an architect of the De’VIA Manifesto deserves a place of respect in American Art history.
Together and apart, Bettigee and I shared many frustrating experiences as well as personal tragedies, especially losing our colleagues and friends to AIDS. For over 20 years, Bettigee and I saw each other at national conferences, participated in art exhibits, sat on artist panels, and preached the Deaf Art gospel. SEE PHOTO #2 of us at a Deaf Studies conference.
When I lived in New York City and later in Seattle, we kept in close touch via TTY and fax. SEE PHOTO #4 of a faxed Santa Claus cartoon and PHOTO #5 of a faxed birthday message, below.
The last time I saw Bettigee was at the 2002 Deaf Way event when I took some photos of her air-painting the ILY Sign. SEE DUAL PHOTO #6 of her ILY Sign, below.
I would like to express profound gratitude to my friend Nancy for giving Betty the best years of her life. Thank you.
~ Ann Silver
3 December 2014