Saturday, July 19, 2003

Artist's creativity bursts forth

Deaf student and mother credit St. Rita as big boost

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Maile DeCorte puts finishing touches on "The Deaf Red" for the Bats Incredible project.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
SPRINGDALE - Every day, the little girl in Honolulu would come home from school in tears.

She was failing her fifth-grade courses because she couldn't hear the lessons.

To soothe her feelings, her father would steam up a bathroom mirror and let her draw pictures. From there was born a love of art.

That exercise in creativity, along with years of instruction at St. Rita School for the Deaf in Evendale, have transformed Maile DeCorte into an accomplished young art student.

Her latest project was painting a deaf Mr. Red, the Reds' mascot, for the "Bats Incredible" public art project, which will be on display downtown this month. The player is signing "I Love You" in American Sign Language.

DeCorte's crowning achievement: A scholarship that will pay her tuition and interpreter costs at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in Clifton, where she will study art.

"I love this work," the 19-year-old Springdale resident said through an interpreter at her ArtWorks-sponsored summer apprentice job at Essex Studios in Walnut Hills.

"I can draw exactly what's in my head no matter how complex the idea is. Other people can think of ideas, but it doesn't necessarily mean they can draw it on paper."

DeCorte lost her hearing when she was 9 months old after contracting viral meningitis. Relying on lip reading, she struggled in public schools in Hawaii through fifth grade, before her family moved to the mainland.

"I couldn't communicate with the teachers," she said. "I was totally overwhelmed. I tried to the best I could, but I wasn't successful."

DeCorte attended her first school for the deaf in San Francisco when she was in sixth grade, but her knowledge of American Sign Language was limited.

A year later, after her mother learned about St. Rita from acquaintances, the family moved to Greater Cincinnati. Although she missed Hawaii, her mother knew St. Rita was where her daughter needed to be.

"Maile is and will be a contributing, valuable part of society because of St. Rita School," said her mother, Kelly Fisher. "We thank God for this school."

While at St. Rita, DeCorte attended Scarlet Oaks Career Development Center in Sharonville to study art and printing technology."It was difficult for people to understand her until she went to St. Rita," her mother said. "When she was there, she understood there was a whole culture of people like her out there."

After graduating in June, DeCorte planned to attend the Art Institute of Cincinnati in Springdale on scholarship.

She was awarded more than $31,000 in scholarships from the Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Great Oaks Education Foundation and the Art Institute

However, the cost of an interpreter exceeded the scholarships, prohibiting her from attending the Art Institute.

Instead, DeCorte will attend Cincinnati State, where she will study graphic arts. Cincinnati State has about 10 deaf students and a staff of interpreters.

She said her art expertise comes from her father, a cartoon artist who taught her how to draw and sculpt. Learning to communicate at St. Rita simply unleashed her talent.

Maile DeCorte's artwork has been recognized by Art & Activities, the nation's leading art education magazine. In the February 2001 edition, Maile was named "Young Artist of the Month" for artwork she submitted.


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