In 2014, the Anderson Center in Red Wing, MN, established a Deaf artist residency program to support artists who are chronically underserved. The Center offers residencies in the arts, sciences, and humanities in an historic site on the Cannon River.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned is that when people from marginalized communities bring ideas to you, it’s your job to listen and to make them happen,” says Stephanie Rogers, the Center’s executive and artistic director. “This Deaf artist residency is one of the most successful things we’ve done to make our center more inclusive.”
The program, run by Cynthia Weitzel, a Deaf visual artist, provides month-long residencies to Deaf artists, including poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, whose native or adoptive language is American Sign Language. It is the only program of its kind in the country.
In addition to its Deaf artist residency, the Anderson Center is working to build a more inclusive and equitable organization in other ways, Rogers says. “We have instituted a no-fee application to remove barriers to access. We also convene rotating panels of experts to help control for bias. It’s not my job to pick the applicants but it is my job to create a diverse and inclusive panel who will pick the residents.”