VSA Massachusetts promotes involvement of people of all abilities in the cultural life of our communities. The Creative Outlook On Learning Schools Program (COOL Schools) supports inclusive learning by students of all abilities through arts-integrated instruction. The Open Door Gallery showcases outstanding work by artists with disabilities and acts as a catalyst to dispel myths of ability within the community. The Cultural Inclusion Program supports the use of Universal Design to make cultural programs and facilities accessible to the broadest possible audience.
For people with disabilities, the arts represent a world of resources and opportunities. Artistic expression provides an outlet for creative voice and unlimited possibilities for personal, academic and professional success. Through our arts programs, people with disabilities visibly contribute to our workplaces and communities, extinguishing false stereotypes, and creating a global culture that represents all people.
VSA Massachusetts (VSA MA) is a leader in an international network of VSA organizations serving the United States and about 50 other nations. VSA was founded by President Kennedy’s sister, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, at the time that the National Cultural Center was dedicated to President John F. Kennedy; VSA is affiliated with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. today. Originally known as the National Committee Arts for the Handicapped, and formerly named Very Special Arts, VSA changed its name in 1999, eliminating the use of the word "special" to honor the progress made by members of the disability community since the organization's inception. VSA MA was incorporated in 1980.
Each year, we reach over 10,000 people through innovative statewide programs. VSA MA maximizes its efficacy by partnering with schools, universities, community theaters, museums, and cultural organizations. We have strategic partnerships and collaborative programs with Lesley University, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Children’s Museum, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Wheelock Family Theater, Museum of Science, and WGBH. Every semester, we work with interns from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and other universities.
Our school programs have been featured in national publications including “The Contours of Inclusion: Inclusive Arts Teaching and Learning” (2010) and “Universal Design for Learning in the Classroom: Practical Applications” (2012). We have been awarded the Commonwealth Award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council; the Champions of Arts Education Award from the Massachusetts Alliance for Arts Education; and the VSA network’s Award for Excellence in professional development and cultural inclusion.