Encouraging everyone to explore their creativity in a welcoming and inclusive environment
When Alice Crawford was a child she contracted an ear infection that caused her to lose her hearing completely in one ear. Her mother wanted her to speak, so Alice didn’t learn ASL or become part of the deaf community. As a result she faced communication difficulties throughout life.
Alice notes, “It goes way back to Alexander Graham Bell. He attended a worldwide conference and recommended that the deaf must be taught to speak and not learn sign language. To this day we are feeling that effect because most deaf people come from hearing parents and speech therapy or cochlear implants are recommended, not ASL.”
Despite the adversity she faced, Alice persevered and went on to achieve academic and creative success. Graphic design was always one of her passions, but it was considered a hobby and pursuing it was not encouraged in her household. After obtaining two science degrees, Alice found her way back to graphic design at Red River College (now Red River Polytechnic). It was there that she molded her hobby into a career.
“During the History of Typography (at Red River College), I discovered what the wooden blocks were that my parents had. The history, how old they were,” says Alice. “I decided after I graduate, I would do something with them and as an artist, I work with type and create images with the type.”
Alice’s father started a business and ended up taking over a former print shop on Ferry Road. Discovering a cabinet full of wooden letter blocks, he asked Alice’s mother if they were worth keeping. Their decision to hang onto them led to Alice inheriting the blocks years later. Those same invaluable wooden blocks from the late 1800s and early 1900s became the ‘building blocks’ of her art career.
“I first got involved with Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba (AANM) when I was looking for deaf artists to sketch with. I wasn’t having any luck. So, I became a member and took part in many programs,” says Alice. “They started a program called ‘Making our Mark’ and I became one of the first six artists to take part.”
The program was a joint effort with Martha Street Studio, and where Alice found her community. “It was amazing because they did everything to make sure it was inclusive,” Alice says. “I met people who are now friends and I feel like I’m part of a community. Martha Street Studio is such a friendly, inclusive place. I feel at home there. It’s my happy place.”
In her experience, Alice has seen many inclusive efforts made for the disabled community but advocates for further growth going forward. “We need to see more accessibility for people with a disability because they can bring a lot to the arts world.”