Concept

VSA (Kennedy Center)

Summary
VSA, is an international organization on arts, education and disability, which was founded in 1974 by former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, and is headquartered in Washington, DC. In 2011, VSA became the Department of VSA and Accessibility at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The purpose of VSA – which started out as Very Special Arts – is "to provide people of all ages living with disabilities the opportunity to learn through, participate in and enjoy the arts." A primary focus is on arts education opportunities for young people with disabilities and to "promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the arts, education and culture around the world." Each year, people of all ages and abilities participate in VSA programs, which cover all artistic genres—music, dance, visual arts, theater and literary arts. This is accomplished through a network of affiliates in 52 countries and VSA state organizations across America. On 28 September 2005 the Board of Trustees of the Kennedy Center and the Board of Directors of VSA arts – as the organization was known at the time – announced their formal affiliation, effective 3 October 2005. The stated purpose of this action was to "enable both organizations to expand and strengthen their arts education programs to better serve children, families and all people with disabilities around the world." Other reasons cited were to allow for the sharing of resources and programming between the two organizations. The affiliation became a full merger in 2011. The four principals which guide VSA are that: Every young person with a disability deserves access to high quality arts learning experiences. All artists in schools and art educators should be prepared to include students with disabilities in their instruction. All children, youth, and adults with disabilities should have complete access to cultural facilities and activities. All individuals with disabilities who aspire to careers in the arts should have the opportunity to develop appropriate skills.
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