Students communicate through another silent language (art)

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 3:06 pm on Thursday, November 24, 2011

Daily News/Cory Smith Illustrator Tom Woodruff, who was the special guest at this year's Deaf Pride Day at Montcalm Community College, instructs students Friday on certain drawing techniques while giving a demonstration.

SIDNEY — To most people, an hour-long lecture on how to draw illustrations may not sound very appealing, but for about 75 deaf and hard of hearing students Friday, it was an hour of learning to communicate through yet another silent language.
At the 18th annual Deaf Pride Day at Montcalm Community College, students spent a portion of the day drawing illustrations of their own as they watched local illustrator Tom Woodruff of Greenville draw pictures of ships sailing out at sea, telling stories of perseverance as he drew.
“I try to link the drawings I do to class curriculums,” Woodruff said. “I had no idea what I was going to draw today, but these kids are going into an uncertain world where they will be challenged by the unknown. Having them draw their own ship out at see, I thought the theme of ‘when your ship comes in’ seemed to resonate well.”
For Katelyn Lau, 15, a deaf student at Central Montcalm High School, the opportunity to draw and learn from Woodruff was close at heart.
“I love drawing, I want to be an artist,” Katelyn said through an interpreter. “He taught me how to draw water. I’ve never been able to do that before, but now I can.”
Katelyn’s Mother, Melissa Lau, said Katelyn has always looked forward to Deaf Pride Day and the chance to learn more about how to draw made today’s event all the more exciting.
“When you can’t hear, your eyes take over and art becomes that much easier” Melissa said. “You don’t have to listen to be an artist, you can just get right in there and draw.”
Central Montcalm teacher for the deaf Diane Harris-Basom said normally special guests at Deaf Pride Day are deaf or hard of hearing themselves, and though Woodruff was not, she was thrilled with his presentation.
“I was most impressed with Mr. Woodruff and the children’s reaction to him, from kindergarden to seniors in high school,” Harris-Bosom said. “They were completely wrapped in his presentation and they created beautiful works of art themselves. Mr. Woodruff’s communication through art is another way to have deaf kids communicate and we just felt it was very beneficial for our students.”
David Colbath, 13, a deaf student at Central Montcalm Middle School, was impressed by the message Woodruff delivered to the students.
“It was fun, I really enjoyed the stories,” David said through an interpreter. “I really liked how he told us to keep on trying and never give up on our drawings, and then we would have a a masterpiece. I was happy with the way my drawing turned out.”
After students were finished with the Illustration session, they enjoyed a brief lunch and then had the opportunity to choose between playing basketball in the gym, swimming in the pool or dancing to music provided by a DJ. The students were dismissed at 1:30 p.m.
Harris-Basom said she could tell the months of work that her and the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MIASD) staff put into Deaf Pride Day had payed off.
“Deaf pride day always seems to go well,” she said. “For me the reward is seeing the look in the eyes of kids who see each other and haven’t seen each other for months, to watch their friendships continue as if there’s never been a gap. It’s truly special.”

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