Members of the deaf community are railing against a new mural in downtown Idaho Falls because the painting incorrectly uses American Sign Language.
The mural — titled “Look and Listen” and commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho in partnership with the Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation — is meant to depict four signs in American Sign Language but the signs were illustrated incorrectly.
The mural was meant to read “ask,” ″understand,” ″listen” and “look.”
But the mural doesn’t translate to American Sign Language, according to freelance ASL interpreter Kimberly Swanson, of Pocatello, and others.
“I honestly couldn’t make sense of any of it,” she said.
Kelly Sheridan, a local landscape artist, and art teacher painted the mural. Swanson said she understands Sheridan’s concept for the mural, but the representation of signs from a hearing artist’s perspective is likely what caused the miscommunication.
The mural was done by local artist Kelly Sheridan who is not hearing impaired.
Sheridan said in a statement on Facebook that she consulted a friend who teaches ASL and did “supplemental research” for the mural.
“That being said, it’s a complex challenge to show hands in movement especially without the context of a face,” she said.
There are currently no plans to alter the mural but that may change in the future, Downtown Development Corporation executive director Catherine Smith said.
Smith told the Post Register that she stands behind Sheridan and that the artist’s intent was not to offend. The committee tasked with selecting the artist did not focus on the sensitive content of the mural, but instead focused on finding a local artist that could represent the Idaho Falls community, Smith said.
“We stepped in something I didn’t understand,” Smith said.
The mural is one of three the ACLU of Idaho commissioned in the state. It’s also part of a larger effort in downtown Idaho Falls to fund public art projects.