GREAT FALLS – Students with the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind are working on a special project that will be displayed in downtown Great Falls.

Cynthia Weitzel, a deaf visual artist, came from Minnesota to help the students create the piece.

One reason Weitzel likes to travel for her work is that it helps her connect with people in the deaf community.

“The second reason, my mother grew up in South Dakota, in a very rural area. Similar to here in Montana, there are many deaf and hard of hearing who are spread all over the place, one here and one there,” Weitzel said.

Many of the students Weitzel works with have never met a deaf artist and they often become fascinated when she shows them her art.  Weitzel’s visit to Great Falls was made possible by the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind Foundation.

Conservatory ASL Northwest applied, and they were accepted into the Urban Art Project. I think this is the first time they have had a deaf or hard of hearing community involved with the Urban Art Project,” Weitzel said.

The Great Falls Urban Art Project annually presents three exhibitions of site-specific art installation pieces, which fill the eleven windows of the Great Falls Parking Garage located at 315 First Avenue South.  Weitzel said the Urban Art Project is a great way for the Great Falls community to learn about the deaf community.

“When I flew in on Tuesday, I started immediately to go all over the place, searching for things that specifically I felt would fit well visually for this project,” Weitzel said.

Now, she is using her skills to guide kids in creating a found object sculpture.  “Right now, it does not make sense because we are in the beginning stages. It is different. It is not the norm where you sit down and draw,” Weitzel said.

Weitzel said the kids are also learning about commitment, patience, and focus as they put the piece together. Once it is done, Weitzel said it will be bright and full of color and have strong symbolism of the deaf community.

“Being here I feel confident that the process is going very well right. This is an awesome opportunity for this to happen,” Weitzel said.  The project will be on display from June 5th until September 5th in downtown Great Falls. There will also be a reception for the project in mid-June.