The scope of the organization’s work is
immense, reaching people of all ages and abilities across the globe. Still, our mission remains
simple—to use the arts to include people with
disabilities in all aspects of society.
ABOUT VSA ARTS
Designated by the United States Congress as
the coordinating organization for arts programming for persons with disabilities, VSA arts is
supported by its affiliate network in offering
diverse programs and events and innovative lifelong learning opportunities at the international,
national, and local levels ranging from training
institutes and artist-in-residence projects to arts
camps and emerging-artist award programs.
LEARNING THROUGH THE ARTS
Programming and initiatives of VSA arts are
guided by four essential principles:
• Every young person with a disability
deserves access to appropriate arts learning
• All artists in schools and art educators
should be adequately prepared to include students with disabilities in their instruction.
• All children, youth, and adults with disabilities should have complete access to community cultural facilities and activities.
• All individuals with disabilities who aspire
to careers in the arts should have the opportunity to develop necessary skills.
Inclusion teaches us that all means all. Everybody. No exceptions. The arts invite people
to leave familiar territory, to explore new
answers, and to seek new questions. The arts
offer a means to self-expression, communication,
and independence. Through the arts, students
become lifelong learners, experiencing the joy
of discovery and exploration, and the value of
each other’s ideas.
WORKING FOR CHANGE
VSA arts is committed to driving change—
changing perceptions and practice, classroom
by classroom, community by community, and
ultimately society. There is still a long way to go
to achieve inclusive arts access and equal opportunity of expression for all.
VSA arts President Soula Antoniou captured
the true mission of the organization at the Start
With The Arts Festival, held in Washington, DC
the week of June 5, 2005, when she said:
“Pearls are a traditional gift to mark thirty
years together, and are a fitting symbol for VSA
arts’ anniversary celebration. As a pearl is made
up of layers, our thirty years are layers built
upon a unique vision that began with Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith.
VSA is an international nonprofit
organization founded in 1974 by
Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith as
Very Special Arts.
For more than thirty years VSA
arts has worked to create a society
where people with disabilities can
learn through, participate in, and
enjoy the arts. Currently more
than five million people par-
ticipate in VSA arts programs
through a network of affili-
ates nationwide and in
over sixty countries.
“In size, shape and color, pearls exist in
a stunning diversity of forms. Likewise, we
are each a rare treasure. Working together
we resemble a string of pearls, connected by
a common purpose and commitment to arts,
education, and disability.
“One of the most distinctive features of a
pearl is its luminosity and the way it seems to
glow from within. This radiance is a caused
by reflection; similarly, the work of VSA arts
reflects the extraordinary commitment of our
nationwide and international VSA arts network of affiliates, the John F. Kennedy Center
for the Performing Arts, and the United States