Section: Arts

ASL and art go hand in hand at The Annex’s latest workshop

It was quiet in The Annex, located in downtown Mount Vernon, on Saturday afternoon as Delia Preston ’26 demonstrated how to sign each letter in the ASL alphabet. Participants were taught the basics of ASL before creating art projects that would help them visualize their signing. The ASL workshop continued The Gund’s accessibility programming, as the event followed the Christine Sun Kim: Oh Me Oh My exhibit from last semester, which explored the visual representation and significance of sound from her perspective as a member of the Deaf community.

Preston is both a studio art major and the founder of the Kenyon ASL club, making her the perfect person to work with The Annex to combine ASL and art for the event. The collaboration aimed to bring awareness of Deaf culture and ASL to Mount Vernon community members of all ages. Although the art project was largely geared toward children, attendees ranged from preschoolers to Kenyon students to retirees.

Before teaching the workshop participants the ASL alphabet, Preston went through some of the important components of signing and some common mistakes to avoid. Key elements of signing include hand orientation, facial expression and movement. For example, Preston explained that signers should be careful not to bounce their hands when fingerspelling because that indicates signing individual letters rather than a complete word. In addition to demonstrating the alphabet herself, Preston distributed a piece of paper with a graphic she created of each letter sign that participants could take with them for continued practice. She also showed attendees how to sign ‘I am’ before fingerspelling their names and the signs for numbers one through 10. 

After the practice session, each attendee wrote their name in large bubble letters and sketched a hand signing each letter underneath so that they could see their name along with the letter signs. Many participants practiced their ASL even as they created their project because they used their own hands as models for drawing each sign. The Annex also converted Preston’s visual of each letter and sign into custom stamps so that the younger children could stamp the signs instead of drawing.

The playful and hands-on nature of the workshop kept attendees of all ages engaged and learning about ASL at their own level. “I wanted to create an accessible event for the larger community since we found that there’s not a lot of accessible opportunities to learn ASL outside of the class setting, [and] I wanted to be able to include ASL with The Gund events, and this also was helpful for The Gund because they’re trying to increase accessibility,” Preston said in an interview with the Collegian.

Participants left the workshop with more than just a new art piece and an ASL alphabet visual; they also gained a deeper understanding and awareness of Deaf culture. Those interested in pursuing an ongoing ASL education can reach out to Preston. She is working on offering ASL classes for adults in the community.

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