Express Yourself Through Art

Did you know the VSA turned 40 this year? VSA (once known as the National Committee on Arts for the Handicapped or Very Special Arts) opened its doors in 1975, focusing on providing arts and education programming to youth and adults with disabilities around the world. Since its founding, it has grown to a nationwide network of organizations and has more than 50 affiliates worldwide. VSA has programs for young soloists, emerging artists and playwrights, and children with disabilities, and sponsors an annual conference on the arts and special education.

The arts can have a powerful affect in a person’s life, whether you are a creator, a participant, or a viewer. For creators, dance, drama, visual arts, creative writing, and music can all have therapeutic benefits, as we saw in our recent reSearch on Arts as TherapyPhotovoice is an example of a program where participants use images (photos and video) to bring the realities of their lives home to the public and policy makers and to spur change (see what NIDILRR-funded projects have done with Photovoice). Other projects have used dance and movement therapy for balance, talking tiles for story creation, and tactile interfaces for creating visual and physical artwork. Browse through these articles from the NIDILRR community on how people with disabilities are creating art and what impact that has on their lives.

Don’t forget the audience! From building accessible theaters and galleries to creating accessible media, people with disabilities have more opportunities to experience the arts. Thanks to innovative technology from NIDILRR-funded projects, you could be watching a new motion picture with captions in a theater or on a flight or wandering through a museum exhibit with a talking or tactile map. See what accessibility means from an audience perspective in these abstracts from our collection.

Do you have a creative outlet? Are you a professional artist, performer, or writer with a disability? If you’re in the audience, what does it mean to you to have access to local performances or exhibits? Tell us in the comment section below!

For more information on VSA, its programs, and opportunities in your community, visit http://www.kennedy-center.org/education/vsa/affiliates/. Happy birthday, VSA!

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