Clerc Center Honors Artist Chuck Baird
On April 13, the Clerc Center honored artist Chuck Baird for his contributions as an artist-in-residence at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES) and the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) during the fall of 2010.
The principals of KDES and MSSD, Nancy Berrigan and Mindi Failing, respectively, thanked Baird in their opening remarks for working with the MSSD students to create an art installation at MSSD called ASL Pride and a sculpture at KDES called Jazz Up the Eye.
KDES student Emmanuel Njoku served as master of ceremonies, and he invited Baird to come up and be seated on stage. He introduced Clerc Center interpreter Juniper Sussman, Baird's niece, who said that Baird is an actor, a photographer, a set designer, and an artist. She shared some family history about Baird with the audience: "Chuck was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Four out of the five children in the family are deaf and all became artists. Their mother is also an artist. Two of his sisters taught here [at Clerc Center schools]. In 1980, Chuck was one of the first signers of the D'Via Manifesto [in support of deaf artists expressing artistic visions based on Deaf culture]. Hands are a recurring theme in his artwork-you can see them in his works of animals, flowers, and butterflies. He views art as an expression, a process...and that each of us is an artist at heart." MSSD student Kelly Doleac then shared some of the history of Baird's involvement with theater, especially the National Theatre of the Deaf.
While working as an artist-in-residence, Baird also taught classes in ASL poetry at KDES and visual literacy classes at MSSD. KDES students Eliyas Assefa and Zhencheng Chen performed an original ASL haiku called "Swordfish" for Baird and the audience. Baird smiled and congratulated the students after they finished. He told them, "Real art is expression and you have inspired me [with your poem]." Lauren Berger, a student in Baird's MSSD visual literacy class, presented him with a framed poster made by the students composed of photographs from the artistic process of creating ASL Pride and Jazz Up the Eye. It showed hands as if brushing the photos into place, and Baird was delighted that his art had, in turn, inspired the students to make new art.
In the closing remarks, Clerc Center vice president Ed Bosso thanked Baird for "bringing a creative light to all our students." ASL Pride can be viewed in a secluded courtyard behind the main MSSD building in what Baird calls a "Zen-like place, a sanctuary." Jazz Up the Eye, with its colorful pipes of "visual music," is hung in the KDES auditorium.