‘Bloom’ spreads deaf awareness in Chico


Valerie Rose

Artist Valerie Rose paints ‘Bloom’ behind Grana and North Rim Adventure

In honor of Deaf Awareness Month, Chico artist Valerie Rose unveiled her latest mural “Bloom” to highlight the importance of sign language and accessibility within the community.

The piece displayed on the back wall of Grana and North Rim Adventure Sports depicts the American Sign Language word “to blossom” or “bloom.” Rose used this piece to comment on how Chico can make better efforts to become more accessible to deaf and disabled people. The mural states: “If everyone learned sign language, we would be happier.”

As a half-deaf child of deaf adults, Rose became an interpreter for her family and hearing individuals when she learned ASL at 6 months old. She has unilateral hearing loss and was born deaf in her right ear. In 2018, she experienced a brain hemorrhage during a scuba diving accident, which caused her to lose hearing in her left ear. Though she is “more deaf,” Rose still identifies as half-deaf.

“To me, it’s not just literal, but a figurative way of identifying myself,” Rose said. “I stand between the deaf and the hearing worlds.” 

A lifelong creative, Rose became a career artist at 26. She incorporates ASL in her illustrations and uses art as an expressive outlet to navigate her life in the half-deaf community. At 31, “Bloom” is her first piece that directly advocates for deaf rights.

According to a demographics report from the deaf academic institution Gallaudet University, approximately 600,000 people in the U.S. are deaf and 35 million are hard-of-hearing. Discrimination and inaccessibilty are common struggles for deaf people like Rose and her family.

Rose described more common forms of inaccessibility, such as having no closed captions in movies, and a lack of interpreters in important fields like doctor’s visits or bank appointments. 

She also explained how discrimination can have severe impacts when dealing with the police.

“It can be very dangerous especially when police think that if you disobey their orders, you’re breaking the law or you’re a threat, when in reality, deaf people can’t hear,” Rose said. “The worst-case scenario would be that someone in my community is harmed or killed, and that does happen.”

“Bloom” brings awareness to sign language and its benefits to hearing people and deaf people alike. On her website, Rose explained how people who are nonverbal or autistic may use ASL to communicate. She described using ASL as another way to connect with others.

“The world would be more accessible, for everyone living in it. We would have another way to communicate with one another. … We would be able to empathize on deeper levels,” Rose said in a blog post.

Rose’s most recent mural, “Holding Hope,” made in collaboration with legally blind artist Chloé DuPlessis, focuses on people with disabilities, rather than just the deaf community. The mural’s statement “Disability rights are human rights” voices the fact that accessibility is rarely made standard.

“Oftentimes, being a person with a disability, you feel invisible,” DuPlessis told CBS Denver. “People will overlook you. You’ll go to spend time with family and friends and basic things will not be available. It’s not special treatment to ask for accessibility … oftentimes persons with a disability are considered an afterthought.”

*Correction: The story has been updated to correct errors of fact regarding Rose’s hearing loss.

Michaela Harris and Shae Pastrana can be reached at [email protected]