Altos de Chavon

Transforming the Impossible into “I’m-Possible” with The Muse Seek Project

deaf student

This post is also available in: Spanish

deaf student

When Maria Batlle first arrived to Altos de Chavón and Casa de Campo as an Artist in Residence at the Altos de Chavón School of Art and Design, little did we know that her art exhibit; “The Muse Seek Project” would develop into something much more far reaching – a movement for the Deaf Community of the Dominican Republic.

Although we published an article about the Muse Seek Project and their partnership with the Hogar del Niño back in May, the program has developed so much since then that we got together with Maria Batlle to find out the latest news.

@cdcliving: How did the Muse Seek Project start? What was your inspiration?

I always wanted to mix music and paintings, so, everything started as an art exhibition [presented at The Gallery in Altos de Chavón] where people could have a private experience observing paintings with headphones listening to songs produced specifically for each visual piece. In lack of a muse, the search for the muse became the muse itself.

@cdcliving: How did it develop from an art exhibit into a movement for the Deaf?

When I visited the Hogar del Niño School in La Romana, I fell in love immediately. I wanted all the students to come join me in the art exhibit, until I realized the Deaf students wouldn’t enjoy the music part. And it hit me. There was a big group of students in this school that were missing the joyful world of music. From this point I could either ignore this or do something about it. I talked to Xiomarita Menéndez (President of Hogar del Niño) about creating a Music Program for the Deaf students (the first in the Dominican Republic) and she had the vision – which I think almost no one would have had – to take the idea and make it a reality.

@cdcliving: What has the Muse Seek project achieved over the last few months?

1. We developed a strong relationship with our biggest collaborator for this program: Dr. Paul Whittaker, artistic director of Music & the Deaf (United Kingdom). Dr. Paul has guided us through activities and events, helping us in every way he can.

2. Maestro Hipólito Javier, Violinist of the National Symphony Orchestra joined the team to become the music teacher for the project, mixing his (worldwide accepted) method called GOCESSA with our ideas and research to create a new method that will allow Deaf students to enjoy the world of music through the music instruments vibrations.

3. For the first time, Sign Language classes started at the Altos de Chavón Museum, available for the community of La Romana. Creating not only new jobs for Sign Language teachers but also, new Sign Language Interpreters.

Maria Batlle4. Luis Alberto Cancú was the first Deaf student ever to be accepted and awarded with a scholarship for a Drawing Summer Course in the Altos de Chavón School of Design. The 3 artists that taught this course were amazed by his talent and passion, so were the other students. [Luis is pictured right with Maria.]

5. The only company dedicated 100% to make Aviation Watches for women – Abingdon Co – joined The Muse Seek Project and we started designing a collection of aviation watches to raise funds for the music program, the watches will be on sale through their website next year.

6. Pitbull’s concert to support the Hogar del Niño School (organized by the PBO – Patronato Benéfico Oriental, the umbrella organization for the Hogar) was the first concert in the Altos de Chavón Amphiteather to have a Sign Language interpreter during the whole concert. Also, all the Deaf students were holding balloons to feel the music vibrations on a higher level. And finally, Deaf students went on stage to do a Live Drawing Show and the audience could see it on the big screens, it was an amazing show!

7. Last but not least, representing the Hogar del Niño School, I was accepted with The Muse Seek Project at The Arts and Passion-Driven Learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education Programs in Professional Education. A summer course taught by none other than Yo-Yo Ma, The Silk Road Ensemble and amazing Harvard University professors such as Ron Berger. Today, members of The Silk Road Ensemble follow The Muse Seek Project and are constantly sending their support.

@cdcliving: Tell us about the “3 month performance”. What are you doing? And why?

The 2013 National Visual Arts Biennial was coming (August 2013) and it was a great opportunity to raise awareness and let people know about what we’re doing. My proposal for the Biennial was a three month artistic performance, during these three months (from August to October) I’m living the life of a person that cannot speak or hear in public, raising awareness around me (my friends, my co-workers, etc). As part of the performance, all of my music instruments are locked in the museum representing the promise that I won’t be playing until these students from the Hogar del Niño School for the Deaf can play too. You can follow the performance here: www.TheMuseSeekProject.blogspot.com

@cdcliving: How is it going?

The beginning was really hard. But the Sign Language classes made the difference. Almost everybody around me is taking the classes, specially my friends and when we go out, now we can talk, and I no longer feel left out. Which means, the more the people learn Sign Language, the more opportunities we are creating for the Deaf community in general.

@cdcliving: What does the future hold for the Muse Seek Project?

Pharell Williams once said “I am overly ambitious, because I realize it can be done”. I think the future will be whatever we (the team and the students) set our minds to be. But, in the meantime, I can tell you, it’s already confirmed that Dr. Paul Whittaker (Artistic Director, Music & The Deaf United Kingdom) iscoming to support The Muse Seek Project and visit the Hogar del Niño School soon.

pitbull concert@cdcliving: In what capacity are you collaborating with the Hogar del Niño?

#soyPBO full capacity, 24/7. I’m the Artistic Director for The Muse Seek Project, which is a project launched at/by Hogar del Niño and I also work as the head of Advertising & Communication for the School and for the Patronato Benéfico Oriental (PBO).

@cdcliving:  This is the first music program for the Deaf in the DR, how does it work? How can Deaf people appreciate music?

Through the vibrations they can feel the music with an unique level of perception. Maestro Hipólito Javier (their Violin teacher) says he wishes his hearing students could feel the music like the Hogar del Niño School for the Deaf students can feel the music. For me, it’s simply RIGHT and LOGICAL to come up with techniques and ideas to make it possible for the Deaf community to enjoy music. After Pitbull’s concert, I interviewed every single Deaf student that was present during the concert, and they are all convinced (as I am) that they can enjoy a music concert 100%.

@cdcliving: What do you hope to achieve with the project? 

Exactly what we have been achieving since we started: to take the thought of what people think is Impossible and transform it into: I’m-Possible.

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