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Featured Charity: VSA Texas
This week’s Featured Charity, VSA Texas, The State Organization on Arts and Disability, is working to create a society where Texans with disabilities can excel in, learn through, & enjoy the arts.
What our organization does:
Located in central Austin, VSA Texas, The State Organization on Arts and Disability, is a member of the international network of VSA affiliates, and is a program of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Recognized nationally for our ground-breaking programming, VSA Texas uses a collaborative model to deliver programs and has extensive partnerships with community-based arts and disability organizations across Texas.
Poised to begin our 16th year, VSA Texas is working to create a society where Texans with disabilities can excel in, learn through, and enjoy the arts. Raising awareness in communities about the importance of inclusion, we have directly served over 50,000 children and adults with disabilities in every major region of the state.
VSA’s programming is designed to cultivate people with disabilities as both consumers and creators.
A sample of VSA Texas’ diverse programming includes:
Artworks: Creative Industries – a multi-layered program, designed for emerging artists with disabilities, that provides:
- career development
- regional networking forums
- skills-building workshops
- formal artist to artist mentorships
- micro-enterprise learning experiences for young adults with Autism and other intellectual disabilities
- artist support services for disabled Veterans and wounded warriors
- New Media Arts - a fusion of new media and traditional art forms for youth and young adults with disabilities, especially young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Activities are designed to enhance pre-vocational skills while providing a bridge to the media arts community and the world of media employment.
- Accessible Arts – an arts enrichment program designed to support special education teachers through innovative arts-based activities integrated into their daily classroom routines. These semester-long residencies have demonstrated impact in improving classroom environment, communication and social performance, and academic achievement.
Performance Partnerships - promoting public awareness of the artistic talents and achievements of emerging and professional performing artists with disabilities from all disciplines including:
- Dance (Body Shift, a partnership with Forklift Danceworks)
- Theater (Actual Lives Austin)
- Music (Sight.Sound.Soul, a partnership with Knowbility)
- Performances by internationally acclaimed artists (i.e. Wings Are Given to All (Moscow); Bill T. Shannon (NYC); Divadlo z Pasáze (Slovakia); Henry Butler (New Orleans and NYC); and The Thing That Ate My Brain…Almost (Perishable Theatre, Rhode Island)
How you can make a difference:
In order to offer our groundbreaking programming, VSA Texas relies on contract specialists and more than 200 volunteers each year to supplement its six-member staff. September and October are generally the months when we need support from donors most, since tremendous financial outlay is required upfront to produce the variety of programs, services, and events that we offer.
How you can help:
- Donate: You can support us by making a generous donation on our website or through your workplace-giving program.
- Volunteer: Visit www.vsatx.org to learn more about volunteer opportunities in your community and join the VSA Texas team.
How your company can help:
In order to serve as a statewide arts and disability organization and provide all of our services, we are always in need of program partners. Partnerships can take several forms: financial, programmatic, long-term or one event.
CVS/Caremark: joined forces with VSA Texas in 2008 to provide funding support for arts-based instruction for teachers and students in special education classrooms, and to provide volunteer support at VSA Texas festivals, such as Art in the Park at Morgan’s Wonderland and Fiesta at San Antonio’s State Supported Living Center. As a result of this partnership, we have provided artist residencies in 43 special education classrooms, and supported hands-on arts activities and experiences for almost 6,000 children and young adults with disabilities at inclusive VSA Texas Art in the Park festivals.
Some of our other partners include, Moody Gardens, Target, 3M, and Best Buy, who have teamed up with VSA Texas to support teaching artist residencies and inclusive art-making festivals in communities across Texas. Click here for contact information and to learn more about our community partners.
Your donation's impact:
VSA Texas used donations from individuals and businesses to support all aspects of our arts educational programs - from covering fees for space rental and supplies, to updating technical equipment like cameras and computers, to providing scholarships to our New Media Arts summer camps, to underwriting the Audio Description program that enables individuals who are blind or have low vision to attend the movies, theater or outdoor event with their sighted friends and family.
Here are some examples of how your donation can make a big difference:
Why we are successful:
Operating at the unique intersection of arts, education and disability, VSA Texas is successful because of our founders’ vision for an inclusive world; the shared knowledge and wisdom of people who have gone before; and the incredible support and commitment to artistic excellence we receive from our board of directors, staff, grantees, corporate partners, donors, volunteers, and the disability and arts community. Such support enables us to provide meaningful and inclusive arts education and experiences, which benefits thousands of individuals with disabilities and their friends and family members across the diverse communities and regions of Texas.
Also key to our success is the VSA Affiliate network of 36 domestic affiliates and over 50 international affiliates. Comprised of dedicated arts and disability professionals, the VSA Affiliate network operates a peer support process that helps organizations in program initiative development and review, board recruitment and fundraising strategies, by sharing information and expertise through monthly regional teleconferences and an annual meeting, convened each year in Washington, DC by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
What we wish more people knew:
During the 1990’s, VSA worked with the Veteran’s Administration to support arts programs in VA hospitals across the country. This program ended in early 2000, but the national VSA Affiliate network is committed to the needs of our returning veterans, and VSA Texas carries this commitment forward. In 2009, with support of local veterans’ organizations and individual artist veterans, VSA Texas hosted its first exhibition by artist veterans with disabilities. The 1st Annual Distinguished Artist Veteran: Disabled American Veteran exhibition showcased veterans from the Korean and Vietnam Wars and Desert Storm.
Since 2009, our Distinguished Artist Veteran (DAV) initiative has helped to further the artistic skills and career development of 50 Texas veterans and wounded warriors and we are the only arts organization providing services of this kind in Texas.
In 2012, VSA has been working with Texas Commission on the Arts to survey arts organizations across the state to determine the extent of arts programming focused on disabled veterans and their families, with the intent to support existing programs and replicating similar programs in other locations.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 (Starting at 8:30am):
What: White Cane Day
Meet in the front of the State Capitol at 8:30am.
From there, we will march to City Hall and end with a
celebration at Republic Square Park.
November 15 – December 24th (9am – 5pm):
What: Annual Holiday Art and Gift Show at the AGE of Central Texas, Austin
What: Stand Up for Mental Health Comedy Night at Dougherty Arts Center, Austin
Learn more about VSA Texas?