Washington School for Deaf auditorium to reopen

Students' creations celebrate end of renovation

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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Washington School for the Deaf

Guy Wonder, the school's artist-in-residence and a WSD graduate

His hands and work apron speckled with paint, Guy Wonder, 68, bent over a piece of student artwork, two hands sculpted from wire. He's preparing to hang an exhibit featuring artwork created by every student at the Washington School for the Deaf.

Wonder, who lives in Palm Springs, Calif., is serving as the school's artist-in-residence, helping students create artwork for the grand reopening of Lloyd Auditorium tonight.

If you go

• What: Grand reopening of Lloyd Auditorium and student art show.

• When: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25.

• Where: Washington School for the Deaf, 611 Grand Blvd.

• Information: 360-696-6525.

It's a homecoming for Wonder.

Wonder's parents graduated from Washington School for the Deaf in 1942. Wonder, who like his parents is deaf, grew up at the residential state school, graduating in 1966.

He started attending the school at age 6, along with his two siblings, who also were deaf. The family's home was in Seattle, but with all three of their children living at the school in Vancouver, it was hard for the family to be separated.

Eventually, both of his parents found jobs supervising children at the state school so they could be together. His dad, a professional baker for the company behind the Hostess and Wonder Bread brands, also taught baking skills.

'The hands that God gave us'

In the student exhibition Wonder is now hanging, each piece of artwork contains at least one hand, he says.

"The hands that God gave us," Wonder says aloud and also signs with his hands. "The deaf use hands for sign language and communication."

He explained that deaf children often omit their ears when they draw self-portraits. But they almost always draw their hands, often making a sign for a particular word. To prove his point, Wonder held up a painting of a grinning boy. The boy has no ears. But his hands are signing "I love you."

The student art pieces include a totem pole with a bear with hands signing the word "bear." Other images are a mountain with a waterfall made of blue hands and a wire Space Needle with hands incorporated into the iconic architecture.

The student art exhibit will be displayed on the walls of Lloyd Auditorium and its lobbies during today's public grand reopening of the venue. All students will enter the auditorium holding a photocopy of their artwork.

Built in 1954, Lloyd Auditorium was in dire need of updating. The 637-seat auditorium was closed for three years during the renovations, including replacing the roof, updating electrical and electronic systems, adding accessible entrances and seating and adding three large screens to allow students with hearing impairments to see the action on stage closer up as well as read open-captioned text projected on the screens, said Jane Mulholland, the school's superintendent. Some seats swivel so the interpreter can face a student as he interprets the performance. A new stage apron allows performers to get much closer to the audience.

Another feature to enhance the performance experience is transducers on the stage that "pick up the vibration of the music being performed on stage," Mulholland said.

Although most of the school's students cannot hear the performance, the vibrations help the children standing on the stage feel the performance.

Tonight Wonder will lead the unveiling of student artwork at 5:30. At 6:30 p.m. John Maucere, a deaf actor from Los Angeles, will perform.


Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/Col_Schools;susan.parrish@columbian.com