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A Brief History

Since 1977, VSA Michigan – The State Organization on Arts and Disability has demonstrated the need for arts education, and has increased opportunities for experiences and training within educational and community programs for individuals with disabilities. Activities in all arts disciplines include classes and workshops for children and adults conducted by professional artists and creative arts therapists, professional training for artists, educators and others, connections with related programs and resources within communities throughout the state, and information regarding the American with Disabilities Act and its impact on arts and culture in the State of Michigan.  Interest in the field has been strong.  From two original sites, VSA Michigan has expanded to include more than 10 Affiliate and Partner organizations throughout the state with programs conducted annually by a network of more than 100 volunteers reaching more than 25,000 individuals annually.

VSA Michigan is an affiliate of the international network of the VSA and Accessibility Department of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.  VSA was founded in 1974 by Jean Kennedy Smith to create a society where people with disabilities learn through, participate in and enjoy the arts.  VSA has been designated by the U.S. Congress as the nation’s coordinating agency for arts programs for people with disabilities.  Millions of people participate in VSA programs each year through a network of affiliates in the U.S. and over 55 countries worldwide.

VSA Michigan conducts programs and services statewide, including an annual emerging artists’ touring exhibition, a Young Soloist Award program, career development for artists with disabilities, and in-school artists-in-residence and after-school, community-based educational programs for children, youth and adults. VSA Michigan provides technical assistance and training for its Affiliates and Partners in the areas of program development, fundraising, public relations and community networking.  From the state level, deliberate connections with other associations and organizations are made to increase awareness and expand opportunities.  VSA Michigan has received recognition for its efforts from the Office of the Governor and a number of state and federal legislators.  In 1999, VSA Michigan received the Governors’ Cultural Organization Award, and in 2004 the national VSA Award for Excellence in Educational Programming.  The relationship with VSA/Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, offers financial support.  Additional assistance is sought annually from other governmental entities, corporations, foundations, and individuals.  Fundraising events such as raffles and art auctions are also a source of revenue.
Together, educational and community programs are creating a growing network connecting individuals with disabilities to the arts . . . within education . . . for life.  The willingness and dedication of individuals and organizations statewide are making a positive impact for everyone in Michigan.