top of page

About DAF



Deaf Arts Festival “The Beginning”


In 2000, Ardis Gardella, President of Holley Ear Institute (HEI), now renamed Holley Institute, asked the Sign Players to host theatrical “Master’s Weekends” at the Village Commons at DeSales Center in Brooklyn, Michigan. These workshops include famous Deaf Artists such as Peter Cook (actor), Chuck Baird (Artist), Camille Jeter-Lorello (Actress), Matthew “Magic” Morgan (Magician) and Clayton Valli (Poet).


1st Deaf Arts Festival 2001 Success of these Master Workshops resulted in expanded ideas of DEAF ARTS FESTIVAL (DAF) to share and celebrate the experiences, talents and skills of Deaf people. The DEAF ARTS FESTIVAL would allow itself to enlighten, enrich and expand society’s view of Deaf life.Our first DEAF ARTS FESTIVAL in Michigan, chaired by Mary Higgins, took place on May 12, 2001. This was a collaborative effort between Sign Players Unlimited and Holley Family Village. Holley Ear Institute funded this initial project with the intent that future festivals may be fully independent and raise all the funds. Featured at our festivals were local, national and internationally known Deaf Artists and special engagement by the National Touring Deaf Arts Exhibit.


2nd Deaf Arts Festival 2003 Due to the success of this festival the committee continued its work towards making this a biennial event and elected Freida Morrison as the new chairperson for 2003. Kathy Derderian acted as her co-chair. The new Holley Ear Institute Family Village Arts Center was dedicated on May 30, 2003 in Brooklyn, Michigan. This facility was built to provide experiences of the arts for the Deaf adults and children, members of their families, and the wider community. On May 31, 2003 DEAF ARTS FESTIVAL 2003 took place. This was a huge success with more than 1600 people in attendance. Deaf Artists from Belgium, Italy, Mexico and Washington, D.C. feature a variety of works in different media. In addition, there were multi entertainment performances of magicians, dancers, mimes and clowns. This was successful behind the scenes as well. HEI only needed to assist us with one half of the funds for this event.


3rd Deaf Arts Festival 2005 The goal was achieved. It is our hope that DAF 2005 will be fully independent and raise all of the funds for the festival. We are planning on recruiting additional committee members. We are looking for assistance in hosting and participating in fundraising and planning events. Freida Morrison was re-elected as a chairperson for DEAF ARTS FESTIVAL 2005. Kathy Derderian acted as her co-chair again. The festival was on Saturday, September 17, 2005. The festival was a great success. We had Children Art Gallery from Michigan School for the Deaf, Port Huron area schools district, Dort Elementary school, Eastover Elementary school, Pre-school Fox Hills, Detroit Day School for the Deaf, and Wisconsin School for the Deaf. We also had Summer Workshop with Susan Dupor’s students art work on display as well. Master/Mistress of Ceremonies was Matthew “Magic” Morgan and Susan Dupor. We had Chuck Bair, Susan Dupor and other fine artist’s exhibition. There were mime performances by Vlad Gregoriev, Deaf Russia Dance/Culture by Liliana Morgan, and Storytelling/Dance by Fred Michael Beam. Author of “Deaf Artists in America”, Debbie Meranski did a presentation and autographed her books. We had a very successful 5K/10K run walk fundraising which was led by Pam Groth and committee. Freida Morrison President, Kathy Derderian Vice President, Pam Groth Secretary then later Kathy Mitchell took over as Secretary and Paul Kuplicki Sr. Treasurer.


4th Deaf Arts Festival 2008 September 20, 2008 was a beautiful fall day which also turned out to be another successful 4th Festival! Featuring Bernard Bragg in which we celebrated his 80th Birthday, Peter Cook, Rosa Lee and Mindy & Theron. Master/Mistress of Ceremonies was Frank Dattolo and Camille Jeter-Lorello. We had Viva De’VIA, Chuck Baird and Patti Durr were Curators of this. Chuck Baird was present to discuss the De’VIA that represents Deaf Artists and perceptions based on their Deaf experiences. Frank Dattolo and Camille Jeter-Lorello did a presentation of A.C.O.R.N. That stands for Artistic, Communication, Opportunity, Resources and Nurture. Again we had Children’s Art Gallery. Iris Aranda had a one woman art exhibit in the Art Center Gallery. Other fine artists we had were Paula Grcevic, handmade paper design artist from Rochester, New York. She is a professor for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf’s Art and Computer Design. Janneth Alejandra Lagunas Zunuga from Mexico, Steve Peterson Wood master from Michigan, Randy Dunham Surrealism Artist from New York and Claire Roberts from Michigan whose Mask Design was on the poster that was designed by Debbie Mitre-Smith. The officers were Kathy Derderian, President, Paul Kuplicki Sr. Vice President/Treasurer and Debbie Mitre-Smith Secretary.


5th Deaf Arts Festival 2011  In 2011, Chuck Baird made his last appearance on the campus of Holley Family Village, coming once again to share his love of art. The Deaf Arts Festival had artists from Colorado, Maryland, Ohio and Michigan. A group of students, directed by founders of A.C.O.R.N., gave two short performances of their play “African Dream”, which is based on a book. In addition to the artists, the festival featured three comedians to entertain a wide variety of people at several locations on the beautiful grounds of Holly Institute.  Mr. Baird was an honorary board member to our local organization, Deaf Arts Festival, right from the beginning of its journey. He attended all five of the festivals, even in September 2012, when he was ill. At one of the festivals he was a speaker for De’VIA, a program where he explained about Deaf culture in the art world.  Since his passing on February 10, 2012, the Deaf community continues to remember Mr. Baird as a friend, mentor, sponsor and teacher.  The Executive Board was Kathy Derderian, President, Judy Lowrie, Vice President, Rosemary Kuplicki, Secretary and Paul Kuplicki, Treasurer. 


bottom of page