Kentucky School for the Deaf students and graduates enjoy DeaFestival

Published 12:50 pm Wednesday, September 7, 2022

People who are deaf or hard of hearing traveled from all over Kentucky and surrounding states for the DeaFestival on Saturday. The event was held at the Norton Center and featured many deaf performers and artists, including some from Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) in Danville.

Held by the Kentucky Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, this year’s festival helped start the celebration of KSD’s 200th anniversary, which is happening in many events over the next year. KSD Principle Toyah Robey said the anniversary celebrations have been five years in the making.

“It’s an honor to be working during the 200th year,” Robey said. “There have been so many people that have been planning this 200th event … and we’ll have people coming in across the country.”

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Robey said many KSD students attended the DeaFestival, and some graduates had booths where they sold artwork.

One KSD graduate Ben Justice had a booth showing his digital artwork and acrylic painting on small glass panels. Justice is now a student at Centre College majoring in pre-law with a minor in education. He likes creating art in his free time.

“I like to brag on Ben; Ben had a perfect score on the ACT reading section, a very high composite and is on a full ride at Centre College,” Robey said.

Another booth featured husband and wife duo Gloria and Billy Cannon selling crafts and hand-made quilts. They are old-time graduates of KSD who went on to teach at the school for many years. Now retired, they still substitute sometimes.

Micah Tucker, a 17 year-old senior at KSD, said this was his first time attending the annual DeaFestival. He loved seeing the deaf music performances and seeing old friends.

“I liked seeing all the booths, meeting all the people, people we know from growing up and KSD alumni, and just being with everyone,” Tucker said.

His favorite performance was by ORL B THA CODA, who is a Mexican-American ASL interpreter with a passion for making and signing music, in order to make the music industry more visual and accessible. Tucker also said Renca Dunn’s performance was fascinating, which was an interactive visual music and dance routine.

Other KSD graduates featured at the festival were Jennifer Harris, a successful architect in Seattle; Kellie Martin, who does all types of visual and performing arts; and Sandra Mae Frank, a successful actress currently starring as Dr. Elizabeth Wilder in NBC’s hit drama New Amsterdam.

“It’s wonderful to see some of our graduates here,” Robey said. “This is just like a big party.”

A full schedule of 200th anniversary events is listed at