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Deaf community rallies against new downtown mural

UPDATE 9:00 P.M.

Members of the deaf community are upset over a new mural in downtown Idaho Falls.

The mural was meant to bring a message of unity to the community in celebration of 25 years of the ACLU in Idaho. Instead, it is receiving backlash from the deaf community. The mural is supposed to depict ASL signs that read look, listen, understand and ask. Critics say the ASL signs used are incorrect and the inaccurate mural is offensive. The mural was painted by artist Kelly Sheridan and was commissioned by the ACLU of Idaho, which partnered with the Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation for the project. Downtown Development’s Facebook page is flooded with comments against the mural.

One woman says, “I’m deaf and I have no idea what this mural is saying. It is not accurate at all.”

Another says, “Wow this is horrible. I am deaf and I don’t even understand what this mural is saying. ASL is my first language and that says it all. Never let a hearing person create something they don’t understand. This is cultural appropriation.”

The ACLU and the Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation released a statement:

“In response to this Facebook post, allies and members of the deaf community expressed concern about the sensitivity of the piece. Our project team and the local Idaho Falls committee have reviewed these comments and we are seeking first to understand. Know that we are listening. We are proactively reaching out to members of the deaf community and advocates and inviting them to participate in a conversation about the best way to proceed.”

They went on to say:

“…Before anything, we want to say we are sorry for our insensitivity. Regardless of our good intentions, we have offended beloved members of both the hearing and the deaf communities, and we regret that.”

People are calling for a new mural to be created using a deaf artist.

One Facebook commenter says, “I’m from Idaho and I am deaf. I do not approve this messy and inaccurate mural. Shame on the district who allowed this to happen and they should have consulted the deaf community. They aren’t that hard to find there.”

The mural artist did consult an ASL teacher about the project. The mural is still up at this time. No word on what will happen to it yet.

ORIGINAL STORY

Members of the deaf community are rallying against a new mural in downtown Idaho Falls because the painting incorrectly uses American Sign Language.

The Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation partnered with the ACLU of Idaho to commission an artist to install a new mural titled “Look and Listen” meant to depict four signs in American Sign Language but the signs were illustrated incorrectly.

The mural was meant to read “ask,” ”understand,” ”listen” and “look.”

A statement released by the ACLU of Idaho and IFDDC said, “allies and members of the Deaf Community expressed concern about the sensitivity of the piece. Our project team and the local Idaho Falls Committee have reviewed these comments and we are seeking first to understand. Know that we are listening. We are proactively reaching out to members of the Deaf Community and advocates and inviting them to participate in a conversation about the best way to proceed.”

The post continued, “we want to say we are sorry for our insensitivity. Regardless of our good intentions, we have offended beloved members of both the hearing and the Deaf Communities, and we regret that.”

Downtown Development Corporation executive director Catherine Smith says there are currently no plans to alter the mural but that may change in the future.

“We are listening. The last thing we wanted to do was offend anyone. I am so sorry,” said Smith in a Facebook post.

The mural was done by local artist Kelly Sheridan.

She said in a statement, ‘Hi All, this is the artist here. I appreciate your interest. I wanted to respond to a few of your questions.

I am not a member of the Deaf Community. The subject matter of American Sign Language and communication in general was my choice of subject for a mural meant to represent groups represented by the ACLU, such as the Deaf Community. I did consult a friend who teaches ASL for the signs and did supplemental research. That being said, it’s a complex challenge to show hands in movement especially without the context of a face. I appreciate your feedback about the signs. I hope that you can connect with the meaning of the mural, which is this:

It’s sometimes hard to listen to what seems unsavory, see something that seems wrong, understand something new, and ask about something you’d rather not know. However, that’s the only way that we can grow. We can’t assume the worst intent. The world,and people, are more beautiful and forgiving than that. That’s why communication and understanding are so important.

I hope you connect with this hope as well! I know there are many businesses interested in commissioning public art. Maybe a native ASL user could grace us with another mural in our wonderful city.”

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