Monthly Archives: June 2016

RIT/NTID appoints alumnus Fred Michael Beam outreach coordinator for theater program

Fred Beam wearing goatee and long dreds in short sleeve brown shirt leaning on chair

Actor, choreographer and deaf community advocate Fred Michael Beam has been named outreach coordinator for Sunshine 2.0, the new theater outreach program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Sunshine 2.0 is a professional theater troupe that will travel to schools, organizations, conferences, civic groups, festivals and other venues, offering performances and activities for children and adults that highlight the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as well as educational topics pertaining to the deaf experience. The performances are presented in voice and American Sign Language, are accessible to all audience members and cover subjects for people of all ages, free of charge.

Sunshine 2.0 is a 21st-century reboot of Sunshine Too, a similar on-the-road performing arts program that was established in 1980 and, during its 19-year history, visited 48 states and several countries presenting programs developed around the themes of deaf awareness, social issues and the environment. The troupe provided more than 12,500 performances for more than 1.3 million people worldwide.

Beam, an RIT/NTID alumnus from Tampa, Fla., has a varied theatrical background, including acting, choreography, directing, administration, advocacy and leadership. He served as president of National Black Deaf Advocates from 2007 to 2009, and executive director of Invisible Hands International, which promoted deaf awareness through the performing arts.

He previously performed as one of the Wild Zappers, an American Sign Language/dance ensemble of black deaf men, which he co-founded with Irvine Stewart and Warren “Wawa” Snipe in 1989. The troupe performed throughout the United States and abroad. Beam also directed the National Deaf Dance Theatre.

“Fred’s career has been devoted to building bridges between communities,” said Aaron Kelstone, Sunshine 2.0 producer. “NTID looks forward to having him working with Sunshine 2.0 to establish connections between NTID and schools and programs throughout the nation.”

For his outstanding work with the deaf community, Beam was chosen one of Essence Magazine’s Real Men of the Year (2006), and was DEAF LIFE magazine’s Deaf Person of the Month in December 2007.

“NTID is one of the few colleges in the world to offer deaf and hard-of-hearing students a fully accessible performing arts program of theater, dance and music,” Beam said. “I’m honored to be part of this exciting venture and to bring Sunshine 2.0 and our message to new audiences.”

Visit for booking information.

RIT/NTID’s Dyer Arts Center hosts showcase to bring deaf and art communities together

abstract art painting of a woman with short dark hair with Choose to Rejoice in red on her chest.

The Dyer Arts Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will host an exhibit by members of Arena Art Group entitled “Explorations: A Visual Conversation.” The show opens with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. June 17 and runs through Aug. 20 in RIT’s Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The summer-long exhibit features paintings, mixed media, photographs, installations and sculpture and addresses the theme of communication across cultures and includes events that are structured specifically to include deaf and hard-of-hearing members of the Rochester community.

“Members of the Arena Art Group were asked to produce works that specifically addressed our theme,” said Sharon Jeter, co-chair of the exhibit committee. “Many have commented that the directive required them to dig deeper and think harder about their own cultural norms and how they related to others in their community, specifically with deaf and hard of hearing people. I am very proud of the work that we are bringing to this exhibit and hope that it will spur thoughtful discussion among those that we share it with.”

Each work is accompanied by a written personal statement by the artist about the piece and its importance.

For Rochester artist Lee Hoag, an American Sign Language interpreter for Monroe BOCES, the exhibit has special significance. His father, the late Ralph L. Hoag, was instrumental in helping RIT become the host site for NTID more than 50 years ago, and was the author of “The Origin and Establishment of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.”

“I have a deep connection to RIT/NTID through my father, and my pieces in this exhibit are dedicated to his memory,” Hoag said.

Arena Art Group is in the process of finalizing specifics concerning the events that will accompany the show. They are looking to include artist guided tours, panel discussions and informational talks. American Sign Language interpreters will be requested.

“The RIT/NTID Dyer Arts Center and Arena Art Group have collaborated on numerous occasions,” said Tabitha Jacques, Dyer Arts Center director. “This is the first time that we’ve focused on bringing together two large communities in Rochester—the art community and the deaf community. We’re excited to see what creative ideas and discussions happen as a result.”

For more information and directions to the gallery, go to

Deaf entrepreneurs on the rise

Deaf entrepreneur Alec Satterly wearing a green shirt seated at a desk, working on a computer.

This article about the growth of Deaf entrepreneurship by W. Scott Atkins, a business studies professor at RIT/NTID and nationally recognized deaf entrepreneurship expert, originally appeared in the Rochester “Democrat & Chronicle” and is reprinted with permission. (Photo credit:  A. Sue Weisler, RIT)

Deaf entrepreneurs on the rise, locally, nationally 

There is a revolution happening in Rochester and all across the United States. The number of deaf people running their own businesses has grown by leaps and bounds. Technological advances have made it possible for these individuals to access networks, customers and suppliers. There are now growing networks of deaf entrepreneurs.

Last weekend, I attended an event for local deaf entrepreneurs sponsored by Convo, a deaf-owned video relay service (VRS), and run by CEO Jarrod Musano, a deaf graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. There were 30-35 deaf business owners at the event, and they were grateful for the opportunity to network. I overheard a deaf realtor say to a deaf business owner who owns several rental properties, “Contact me and let’s see if we can do business together.” Convo has coordinated these types of events in other cities and has invested in a “Deaf Business Ecosystem,” which includes the creation of an online directory that now contains information on more than 250 deaf-owned businesses from all over the country.

Last semester at RIT/NTID, I was involved with a student business competition called the Next Big Idea, sponsored by VRS provider ZVRS, which provided opportunities for students to work on cross-disciplinary teams to innovate new products and services. This year, 15 teams competed for the opportunity to win cash prizes. It is my hope that many of these concepts will develop into full-fledged businesses.

In a class that I teach at RIT/NTID, called Introduction to Entrepreneurship, deaf and hard-of-hearing students create their own business with less than $20 of their own money. One student, Alec Satterly, established a bike repair business and was able to earn $650 during his winter break. Over the next few years, Alec participated in several entrepreneurship efforts on the RIT/NTID campus and has been very successful.

In 2014, his team, Cenify, won the ZVRS Next Big Idea grand prize of $5,000, and that summer, he and his team gained entry into the Saunders Summer Start-up Program, an incubator program at RIT. Cenify has since moved into RIT’s Venture Creations business incubator, which helps companies move to the next phase of their businesses. This is just one illustration of how RIT/NTID fosters entrepreneurship on campus. In addition, RIT/NTID brings alumni who are business owners to campus to speak with students. Alumnus and RIT Trustee Rob Rice, owner and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm BayFirst Solutions, presented last year. RIT/NTID also works closely with RIT’s Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship in an effort to boost the number of deaf entrepreneurs on campus. Currently, we have two all-deaf teams who are part of the Saunders Summer Start-up Program.

This is only the beginning. There are many deaf and hard-of-hearing people who want to create their own businesses, but they are not sure where to start. It is important that we invest in new infrastructures to make this happen. This requires a collaborative effort by universities, agencies, corporations and other entrepreneurs. With their support, I am optimistic that we will continue to see the growth of a new generation of deaf entrepreneurs, especially here in Rochester.