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Deaf Students Paint Future Artwork for TCO Performance Center

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Dozens of students from a Metro Deaf School were welcomed to practice after they painted their way into the organization last week as they helped paint pieces of art that will soon hang in Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Metro Deaf School features a mix of kids from all different races and backgrounds, all of whom happen to be deaf or hard of hearing. 

But a majority of the students at the school are big Vikings fans, and they'll now be connected to their favorite football team forever.

Dozens of students from the school painted their way into the organization last week as they helped paint pieces of art that will soon hang in Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

"It is such an honor. We can't wait to see it and how it all turns out," Jack Williams, the coordinator of Metro Deaf's after-school program, signed. "To know that we were a part of making that from our school, it's really cool and we're really proud of it.

"This school … we're from Minnesota, and we should be proud to work with the Vikings," Williams added. "To have this relationship, it's amazing."

Students are represented both physically and artistically in the artwork. 

The total project features 17 paintings, all of which make up 'SKOL Vikings,' the catchy fight song fans know from hundreds of home games.

Students from the school posed for pictures as they used American Sign Language to communicate the song. Leslie Barlow, a Minneapolis-based artist, then painted the outline of each photo and added a light purple background, but left the majority of the painting available for Metro Deaf students to fill it in using a paint-by-numbers system.

Barlow, a Minnesota native who said she wanted to make the project "authentic but easily digestible," laid out 19 different colors of paint to correspond with numbers on the paintings.

"I wanted to incorporate the students here in some way. Instead of just being in the painting, how cool would it be for them to get to actually physically paint?" Barlow said. "The goal was just for them to enjoy the process.

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"I brought in as many colors as I possibly could and wanted them to feel like they were really making a full piece of art. Even the way I blocked in the underpainting on the piece of art, that's the way I would block in my own art," Barlow said. "It was just about them having fun and experiencing the work. These paintings become bold and vibrant, almost like little puzzle pieces."

Students lit up as Barlow explained through ASL and an interpreter what the project was going to be.

Then, they went to work.

Although silence spread across the room, it was filled with happiness and concentration as students carefully added their own flair to each piece of work.

"I knew we'd be painting for the Vikings," signed Anthony Virgen, a fourth-grader clad in a Kirk Cousins jersey T-shirt. "I support them … I love the Vikings. The Vikings are very powerful.

"I really love painting," Virgen added. "I like art class."

Some students lit up as they walked in and saw themselves represented in the artwork.

"I like it," fifth grader Ker Twe Poe signed with a smile as her classmates painted in her clothes and smile.

Barlow, who has artwork displayed at U.S. Bank Stadium and Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, said the project was one of the most unique ones she's worked on.

"It was a wonderful challenge to come into this community," Barlow said. "And also humbling … I had to start learning a little bit of sign language.

"But the concept matter is something I'm definitely interested in … celebrating and highlighting these identities and stories," Barlow added. "It's a very special project."

The artwork is expected to be installed at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center by training camp in late July.

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