Nuturing Deaf Arts Weekend Project

Summary: A funding gap in Manitoba led to a Canada-wide Deaf cultural event.

A lack of funding for ASL Interpreters to enable Deaf Artists to take a Manitoba-based arts business course led to an ASL-guided arts grant writing workshop from the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) . Workshop participants learned how to apply for arts funding for professional development.


The backstory

Manitoba's Arts Culture Industries (ACI, now renamed Creative Manitoba) has an annual course, The Art of Managing Your Career, presented by Heather Bishop. This course lets working artists gain the confidence and knowledge necessary to successfully manage their careers in the cultural sector.

When a request to supply ASL interpretation was submitted for a group of Deaf artists intending to take the course, ACI was unable to cover the fees. MCSD had to secure their own funding to cover these interpreting fees for the course.

The projected cost of ASL interpretation for the 10-week course (which cost $200.00) was approximately $3000.00. This amount is beyond the means of most artists, and even more so for Deaf artists, who face job discrimination and financial barriers.

Deaf artists should not have to pay more than others to access the same information. In 2015, though, most funding organizations did not consider ASL interpreting (or other accommodations) an allowable expense in artists' grants. However, the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) had provisions for accommodations under their Equity office.

To receive funding from CCA, the MCSD had to apply in a round-about way: First they applied for a CCA grant to teach Deaf artists, in ASL, how to write a CCA grant to obtain funding for professional development; then the Deaf artists applied to CCA for funding for ASL interpreting.

The CCA also recommended that the grant-writing course be accessible to all Deaf Canadian artists, not just Manitobans.

From there, the idea of a day-long Manitoba workshop shifted to a weekend-long Canadian event, built around the grant-writing workshop. Nurturing Deaf Arts Weekend became a national cultural event, with hearing artists/educators being invited to participate. ASL-English Interpreters at the events ensured communication between the Deaf and hearing. It increased accessibility to information so Deaf artists possessed the tools for the development of their professional arts careers.

The Work

Over the next months, a great many tasks were accomplished by MCSD members and employees. Facilitators were found for the workshops; promotional materials and merchandise was created and printed; PR was done; hotels with employees who understand ASL were sought, but unfortunately, none were found, so a hotel near the venue was booked; maps were created; art supplies were secured; video and audio services were contracted; venues were rented; volunteers were recruited; and many, many more tasks were accomplished by a dedicated team.

(For a detailed list of the tasks accomplished, see the Appendix.)

The Weekend

April 8-10, 2016, at Winnipeg, MB

All events were interpreted either into English or ASL for direct access to information for all gathered. The weekend brought in Deaf artists from five provinces (New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and Manitoba) and two other countries (England and the USA.)



6:30–9:30 pm, MAWA, 611 Main Street

De’VIA Mosaic hands-on workshop

$5.00 fee, payable at the door

Facilitator: Ellen Mansfield, Deaf De’VIA Mosaic artist from Frederick, Maryland, USA

Friday’s De’VIA workshop introduced De’VIA to Deaf artists and the arts community at large. Mansfield demonstrated how the Deaf use their experiences through their art, finding connections and expressing one’s experiences as a tactile art form.

The Tile workshop was filled to capacity with 25 people, a mix of Deaf and hearing artists.

In the workshop and the De’VIA Artist Talk, participants learned about using art elements (tile pieces in the workshop and images in painting) to represent their Deaf experiences. These experiences were applied to the art pieces. Some of the artists said they would use their experiences in their future work.


9:00–9:30 am, ACI, 245 McDermot Ave., 4th floor classroom

Registration and breakfast, 9:00-9:30 am

9:30 am–noon, ACI, 245 McDermot Ave., 4th floor classroom

Grant writing workshop lecture


Facilitator: Dr. Anita Small from Toronto, ON

Dr. Anita Small gave a free ASL lecture on grant writing. The lecture, combined with an afternoon of hands-on grant-writing exercises, gave our Deaf artists tools for independence by demystifying the process of applying for arts grants.

Noon–12:45 pm, ACI, 245 McDermot Ave., 4th floor classroom

Catered lunch

12:45–3:30 pm, ACI, 245 McDermot Ave., 4th floor classroom

Grant writing exercises

$5.00 fee, payable at the door. Participants received a free notepad and pen for this event.

Facilitator: Dr. Anita Small from Toronto, ON

The afternoon grant-writing session was a continuation of the morning's lecture, providing Deaf participants an opportunity to put into practice the lessons learned in the morning.

Participants from Dr. Small’s grant writing workshop said they found it to be excellent and very informative and it clarified many things on how to look for the right grant and how to write one. A survey was filled out by the participants.

4:00–5:00 pm, MAWA, 611 Main St.

Ellen Mansfield Artist Talk

followed by

5:00–6:00 pm, MAWA, 611 Main St.

Meet and greet for Deaf and non-deaf artists


Ellen introduced De’VIA to the members of MAWA, Canadian Deaf artists, and the general public. Ellen described how Deaf experiences are expressed through De’VIA to show the diversity of art experiences. The audience learned about using art elements using images in painting as representation of their Deaf experiences. The meet and greet after the presentation allowed Deaf and non-Deaf artists to network.

6:00–7:30 pm

Supper break (everyone on their own)

7:30–10:00 pm, Irish Club, 645 Erin St.

Deaf performances: three Deaf performing groups
Doors open: 7:30 pm.
8:00–10:00 pm performance
Door prizes and silent auction

Our local storytelling, mime, and drumming groups introduced Deaf Performing Arts and Deaf Culture to the Deaf and non-deaf audience, to develop insight and appreciation of Deaf experiences.

The Saturday evening performances brought in over-capacity crowds! Rather than overcrowd the venue, the MCSD adapted by splitting the two-hour performance into two one-hour shows, allowing us to accommodate everyone who came. Afterwards, everyone had a chance to socialize with each other. There were door prizes and a silent auction, with items donated from various businesses and individuals.


1:00 pm, Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR)

Tour of the Human Rights Museum ($25.00), featuring free ASL interpretation

The Deaf participants of the Nurturing Deaf Arts Weekend took part in a tour of the CMHR with a tour guide and an ASL interpreter.


De’VIA (Deaf Image View Art) was introduced to a capacity crowd, demonstrating how the Deaf use their experiences through their art. De’VIA is not well known, and Deaf artists’ extraordinary talent is untapped and under-nurtured. This colourful, vibrant art, unique to the Deaf Community, was experienced in Winnipeg and beyond thanks to our weekend program.

The out-of-town Deaf artists really connected with our local artists. They expressed their appreciation of having an accessible arts event to participate in. Many of the Deaf artists expressed a desire to have more workshops like the De’VIA Mosaic Tile workshop and their interest in seeing it as an annual event.

The Deaf artists participating in the grant writing workshops carried the new knowledge with them to help their Deaf communities inside and outside of Winnipeg. Isolated Deaf artists were given a chance to network, giving them a way to expand their horizons. Providing the lecture and the workshop in ASL provided a badly-needed opportunity to develop their skills using their own language. This allowed a flow of information normally unavailable in arts education and development programs in the non-deaf world.

Afterwards, the photography group submitted grant applications to the Canada Council for the Arts for ASL Interpreting funds for the course “The Art of Managing your Career”. One application was successful, which allowed a cohort of Deaf artists to take the course, using the grant funding for the ASL-English Interpreting.

Our Deaf videographer recorded and edited the events. He gained experience for his business. The footage was edited into two videos: a 5-minute overview and a 30-minute version that delved deeper into the workshops and artists' talks. The videos were captioned, and distributed via social media and MCSD’s website. This let the entire world see what the Winnipeg arts scene has to offer.

The weekend was about breaking down the barriers between Deaf and non-deaf worlds. It involved artists from both worlds, integrated in an event where they could meet and network, making connections for future endeavors.

We presented the Deaf artistic community to the world with great pride, and everyone benefited.


Mentoring Artist for Women’s Art (MAWA)

Incorporated in 1990, Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art focuses on fostering art in the community through mentorship. Mentorship is the key to passing information, experience and confidence down from one generation of women artists to another, strengthening both artists simultaneously. Although MAWA’s first priority is providing peer-based education to women visual artists, most of their events and programs are open to people of all genders. Men are welcome at MAWA as members and are encouraged to attend talks and lectures, workshops and studio visits. Over the years, MAWA’s programming has provided invaluable opportunities for professional development and local and international networking.


Ellen Mansfield

From Fredrick, Maryland, Deaf Artist Ellen Mansfield strongly believes in showing Deaf experiences through her artwork: she practices De’VIA, Deaf View Image Art. Her goal is to tell a story of Deaf culture, reflecting her experiences of Deafhood and how they have inspired and created her.

More about Ellen: or

Dr. Anita Small

Dr. Anita Small was Co-Founder and past Co-Director of the DEAF CULTURE CENTRE, Canada. She is most known for her international award-winning innovative program development in the Deaf community.

Dr. Small has obtained over 7 million dollars in language and culture program grants. She mentors and works with non-profit organizations and individuals on effective grant writing. She spearheaded and served as grant writer, content manager and co-creator of award-winning sign language productions.

More about Anita:


100 Decibels: A Deaf Mime Troupe

100 Decibels: A Deaf Mime Troupe is a high-energy Physical Comedy troupe composed of diverse Deaf artists. Professionally trained in mime, physical comedy and storytelling, their aim is to entertain with their physical illusions and to build bridges between the hearing and Deaf worlds.

Christine Spinks-Mitchell - Expressive Storyhands - Deaf Storyteller

Christine Spinks-Mitchell has been telling her stories in ASL to audiences for over 20 years, using her beloved language, American Sign Language. Teachers, parents, interpreters, and both Deaf and Hearing children and adults are drawn in by her stories and experiences.

MSD Drummers

MSD Drummers have won numerous awards and performed for distinguished audiences. What started as a science project—building djembe drums and studying sound waves and vibrations—has become a passionate drumming ensemble which plays regularly. When this group gets going, the entire school rocks. The rhythm of their drums embodies the striving for unity, while at the same time valuing individual creative expression.


Artist Emporium: Watercolour paints set

Art Junktion: Magnetic numbers

Bikram Hot Yoga:1 month free Hot Yoga

Cheryle Broszeit: photo “I Love You”

Alice Crawford: 2 prints, coloring book, 2 toys, candle, glass decoration, puzzle

Deaf Culture Centre, TO. Christine Spinks-Mitchell: Def-T Basket

Bram Keast,: Screen Print, untitled

Julian Tile: Tile for Mosaic Tile Workshop

M M Electronics Systems Ltd.: Loan of Sound Equipment for Deaf Performance

Manitoba Association Visual Language interpreters (MAVLI ): Bags

Manitoba Hydro, Community Support: Inukshuk Art, hand warmers, mitts, blanket, 2 toques, bag

Manitoba Museum: 2 Museum Passes

Olympia Tile: Tile for Mosaic Tile Workshop

Cheryl Purll: Handmade blanket

Dianna Rasing: Wool, Knitting Needles, Yarn Bowel,

Hans Rasing: Cutting boards for Mosaic Tile Workshop

Sonia Rogowski: Handmade pottery mugs, pen holder

Winnipeg Art Gallery: 4 Gallery Passes, Canadian Photography Book,

Susan Crawford-Young: Natalie Rostad-Desjarlais’s Painted Eagle Rock


Friday night volunteers

Sarah Klassen

Monica Furer

Saturday Grant Writing volunteers


Danica Loewen



Artist Talk

Jessica Carroll









Jennilee Martin



Cindy Boscow, Jadine, and Alice Crawford


Tasks Accomplished

Project Director (Alice Crawford)

  1. Based on an Internet search for Deaf De’VIA (Deaf Image View Art) artists experienced in presentations and workshops, MCSD hired Deaf De’VIA artist Ellen Mansfield, of Frederick, Maryland, USA, to facilitate the De’VIA workshop and presentation.
  2. Contacted Dr. Anita Small to facilitate the all-day Successful Grant Writing workshop. Dr. Small, fluent in ASL and Deaf culture, was already well known in the Deaf community for her work with grant writing. She agreed to facilitate the full-day workshop for a fee.
  3. Found three local performing Deaf arts groups to perform at the Saturday evening performance. Contracts were made with 100 Decibels: A Deaf Mime Troupe, Storyteller Christine Spinks-Mitchell, and the Vibrations Drumming group from the Manitoba School for the Deaf (MSD). (A donation was made to the MSD for the Vibrations performance.)
  4. Searched for Winnipeg arts organizations to access facilities for workshops, artist talk, and performance. Mentoring Art For Women’s Arts (MAWA) agreed to a partnership for Ellen Mansfield’s activities. They generously gave MCSD-DAM a donation-in-kind for the space, staff and hospitality service.
  5. Booked Arts Culture Industries' (now Creative Manitoba (CM)) 4th-floor classroom for the grant writing workshops on Saturday, April 9, 2016.
  6. Hired Michael Austria, a Deaf videographer and video editor, to record the events and edit the footage into one 30-minute video for the website and one 5-minute video for social media.
  7. Contracted ECCOE for ASL-English tranlastion services for the weekend.
  8. Researched caterers to find costs for snacks and lunch for the grant writing workshop. The Winnipeg Free Press Cafe was contracted to carry this out. A menu was sent out to the participants to choose their meals.
  9. Researched sources for promotional gifts for the event participants. The “DAM, we’re good!” notepads were printed by Red River College's Print Shop. The “DAM” pens were purchased from Pal International. Canadian/Winnipeg themed gifts were found at the Bay. Artwork from local artists Yvette Cenerini and Levia Kallia-Montcrieffe were purchased for thank-you gifts for the facilitators. Thank you cards were purchased through local artist Karen Fehr of “Art Rocks” for the volunteers, hosts, and facilitators.
  10. Contracted Carberry International to supply the T-shirts and caps. The facilitators, performers, and volunteers each received a free T-shirt. The rest of the T-shirts and caps were used as door prizes and as merchandise to sell to the participants.
  11. Sought English-French translators to caption the edited videos. Serious News did the English captioning. The French portion was not carried out due to insufficient funds.
  12. Secured donors for art supplies. Three donors provided tile for the mosaic tile workshop. Artist Emporium donated art supplies for the silent auction.
  13. Contracted M M Electronics to supply and connect the speakers into the sound system at the Irish Club Theatre.
  14. Created a Programming Schedule.
  15. Arranged for the facilitators to be taken out for dinner on Saturday before the performance.
  16. Hired an Assistant to carry out needed tasks. Dianna Rasing, an ASL Interpreter, was hired to look after the details for the event.
  17. Researched and booked a flight for Ellen Mansfield.
  18. Researched transportation, accommodation, meal costs, and expenses allowance for the workshops' facilitators.
  19. Researched which hotels in downtown Winnipeg were a) near the venues and b) have staff that know ASL. The Mere hotel was chosen as it was within walking distance of most of the venues. She booked the hotel for both facilitators. This hotel was recommended to the out-of-town participants .
  20. Purchased art supplies for De’VIA Mosaic workshop. For the mosaic workshop Dianna enlisted her father to cut the wood boards for the base of the tiles for the workshop and purchased any supplies required that was not donated.
  21. Found sponsors and donations for the silent auction. Packaged up the various silent-auction donations into gift baskets. Arranged for a license from the Manitoba Liquor Commission to run the silent auction.
  22. Arranged for the Irish Association (Irish Club) as the Saturday evening venue. She managed to get a discount for booking their theatre.
  23. Did P.R. through other organizations, both Deaf and non-deaf, via newsletters, social media, etc.
  24. Was in charge of the volunteers and their duties. A call went out for volunteers to help with set up and tear down, registration, silent auction, door prizes, clean-up, food service, and sales of T-shirts, caps, and Splish, Splat! books (profits were donated to MCSD-DAM). Drivers were assigned to transport the facilitators and out-of-town participants to and from the airport and the Irish Club for Saturday night’s event. Host families were found for those who could not afford hotels. Volunteers were found to assist at all the venues.
  25. Purchased name tags and other necessary items for the workshops. Bought tickets for silent auction and door prizes for the Deaf performance.
  26. Created web-friendly registration forms so Deaf artists across the country could provide information about themselves to attend the workshops. Priorities were Deaf artists in all areas.
  27. Created an information page for the weekend events; hotel, maps, venues, tours, etc.
  28. Set up the meal form for lunch at the grant writing workshop.
  29. Booked a tour at the Canadian Human Rights Museum two weeks before the event. An ASL guided tour was made available for the Deaf participants. A discount was also included for a group over 20 people.
  30. Created a vlog about the weekend events for use on social media.
  31. Arranged for Deaf artist Levia Moncrieffe-Kallai, a painter from England, to "live paint" during the drummers' performance. Purchased the supplies required for Moncrieffe-Kallai to paint during the performance.

Assistant (Dianna Rasing)

Vice-President (Cheryle Broszeit)

Levia also made a small painting to give to Dr. Anita Small as an appreciation from MCSD. She was paid for the artwork.

  1. Served as Master of Ceremonies for the Performance.

MCSD-DAM board assisted the volunteers with their duties.

Graphic Designer

One of the board members was a graphic designer and offered her services Pro Bono.

  1. Created the event logo. One of Ellen Mansfield’s artwork was used, with her permission.
  2. Created emails, social media posts, newsletters, and web and print friendly posters of the events to be distributed across Canada in Deaf news and Deaf organizations.
  3. Sent out the information to the organizations and to MCSD members. Maps of the area between the two venues were made to help participants find their way.
  4. Created artwork for appreciation awards for MAWA (who partnered with MCSD) and to the Irish Club (who gave reduced fees and assisted with the performance). The awards were ordered from Awards And More
  5. Made artwork for the posters, notepads, and pens.

James Coleman, Manitoba School for the Deaf teacher in charge of the Vibrations Drumming Group, arranged for Victor Frush to run the sound system at the Irish Club.