Blog For All!
July 2017 Archive

Charles Washburn Announces His Retirement and Successor

Posted Tuesday July 18 2017 at 11:05 pm in News

Charlie Washburn and Nicole Agois

A message from Charles Washburn:

When Maida Abrams, founder of VSA Massachusetts, approached me about joining her team over thirty years ago, I thought I would help her build her organization for a while and then move on.  I really had no idea that I was signing on to an international movement that would become my career.  Now the time has come for me to move on, I will retire in November.  Correspondingly, I am happy to announce that Nicole Agois has agreed to accept a new position at the Seven Hills Foundation, as Managing Director of VSA Massachusetts.

Unlike when I started, Nicole already knows VSA intimately and has demonstrated her passion for this work.  Her first exposure to VSA came as a volunteer at the Ann Sullivan Center, the VSA Affiliate in Lima, Peru.  After her studies at the Boston Conservatory and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, we were lucky to recruit Nicole onto our team, moving throughout the organization over the past thirteen years as her leadership and the organization matured together.  She is also well known in the VSA Network, sharing field-leading knowledge and application of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), teaching artist development, and school partnerships.  Last year she served on the City of Boston's Leadership Council surrounding the creation of our sector-wide cultural planning process.  Needless-to-say, she is an exceptional artist, practitioner and leader whom we are deeply lucky to have assuming this essential role.

Nicole's team will include Marian Taylor Brown, who worked with us as an intern while she was in Harvard's Arts in Education Program, as a COOL Teaching Artist, and has also exhibited in the Open Door Gallery.  Marian will serve as Organizational Consultant through a special arrangement with the Institute for Community Inclusion and UMass Boston, where she is a doctoral candidate in Global Inclusion & Social Development.

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VSA Mass. Announces Mia Branco as COOL Schools Program Manager

Posted Monday July 17 2017 at 2:12 pm in Education

Mia Branco in the classroom

After spending a year working as an intern with Aysha, Nicole, Charlie, Jon, and COOL School's many wonderful Teaching Artists, it was a no-brainer for us to offer Mia Branco the position of COOL Program Manager, starting September 1, 2017.

Before moving to Boston to pursue her Masters in Arts in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and interning with VSA, Mia was the Access Program Coordinator for a Children's Theatre in DC called Imagination Stage.  While in this position she developed and implemented arts curricula for students of all abilities, developed policies for family engagement, and worked with the professional theatre to continue to grow the accessibility of their productions.  Mia specialized in programming for students with autism and emotional trauma.  In addition to developing programming in house, she was in charge of the programming for multiple school partnerships and other local organizations.  Through a project funded by VSA and The Kennedy Center Mia also had the opportunity to develop and co-lead trainings about inclusion best practices within arts programming for venues including Roundabout Theatre (NYC) and Wheelock Family Theatre (Boston).

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Marian Taylor Brown Joins VSA Mass. as Organizational Consultant

Posted Monday July 17 2017 at 1:25 pm in News

Marian Brown

Photo credit: Candace Walker Photography

Marian Taylor Brown; a recognized arts leader and innovator in greater Boston, is joining VSA Massachusetts as an organizational consultant.

Marian will support the team during leadership transitions as Charlie Washburn retires, and Nicole Agois assumes the position of Managing Director.  Later in the year she will work with the team to lead a strategic planning process, building the organization's capacity to best serve its mission and to expand its impact in Boston, and across Massachusetts.

Marian first worked with VSA Massachusetts in 2011 as a Research Intern while completing her Ed.M. at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  She also exhibited as a featured solo artist in the Open Door Gallery in 2012.  In 2014, she moved back to Boston after completing a Global Health Corps Fellowship in Malawi, and founded a local non-profit called "Arts Connect International", which has been incubated by VSA Massachusetts for the past three years, finding great mission alignment between the two organizations.  Marian also worked as a Teaching Artist for VSA at Boston Green Academy in 2014 – 2015.  In sum, her work and passion intersect equity, the arts, human rights, intersectionality, research, and practice.

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"Disability Issues" Publishes "VSA MA's COOL Schools Program" by Nicole Agois Hurel

Posted Wednesday July 12 2017 at 3:08 pm in Education

Student holding his clock artwork

VSA Mass. COOL Schools Director Nicole Agois Hurel recently wrote a piece for Disability Issues which discusses our Creative Outlook On Learning program.  The full article is reproduced below and you can find the full issue here.  Disability Issues is a publication of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and archived issues going back to 2007 are available here.

Ever think about what role the arts can play in supporting learning and inclusion?  Recently, a third grader named Shantel told us all about how she experienced this while learning how to make a clock.  A teaching artist had worked alongside her teacher to help her and her classmates with and without disabilities engage with their math curriculum through the visual arts.  As she worked on measuring, estimating and calculating to build this clock with her own hands, she experienced a new sense of accomplishment, creativity and a new appreciation for how math is a part of her everyday life.

Shantel is just one of approximately 1,600 children and youth who participate in the VSA Massachusetts' COOL Schools program each year.  Essentially, COOL Schools transforms classrooms into creative spaces with increased opportunities for imagination, physical engagement, and play within in the learning process.  COOL has brought schools a Creative Outlook On Learning for over 35 years.  By supporting partnerships where teaching artists and classroom teachers teach together using the arts, COOL creates opportunities for children with a wide range of abilities to learn and thrive in school.

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Call for Art - "Breaking Barriers" hosted by Mass. Office on Disability

Posted Wednesday July 05 2017 at 5:13 pm in Call For Artists

MOD Call for Art Flier

The Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD) is now accepting submissions for its 2017 Call for Art and juried art exhibition.  We are calling on talented Massachusetts residents of all abilities to submit their original artwork.

Selected entries will be displayed at a public exhibition at the Massachusetts State House in late 2017 and in an online gallery.

A central purpose in this exhibition is to showcase the talent of Commonwealth residents and to present works to the public that will raise awareness of and challenge the barriers and stigma that persons with disabilities may encounter.  Artists who enter the Call for Art will have an opportunity to gain statewide exposure and recognition in addition to experiencing the process of entering their work for consideration for display in a juried art show.

Part of the inspiration for this exhibition relates to a piece of artwork currently displayed in MOD created by Maurice "Pops" Peterson, Artist in Residence of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).  His work, "Freedom from Shame", shown above, artistically captures the theme of "Breaking Barriers" through its depiction of an athlete with a disability in a moment of victory and celebration.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: August 1, 2017

Jury: Five individuals including our very own Charles J. Washburn and our good friend Marian Brown of Arts Connect International.

For complete information, visit the mass.gov webpage.