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.
Posted Monday July 17 2017 at 2:12 pm
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).
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.
Posted Wednesday July 12 2017 at 3:08 pm
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.
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.
2015 marked the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This milestone sparked a conversation with Epicenter Community members with disabilities that explored what has changed in the past 25 years. The sentiment was that persons with disabilities remain virtually invisible in society and sense of inclusion is lacking. Many of the events celebrating 25 years were focused on disability, workforce developments & workplace accessibility.
To flip the script, Epicenter vowed to launch a series celebrating the beauty, humanity and innovative fashion design. Four amazing designers will design custom and fully functional pieces for models with a range of disabilities to highlight the importance of inclusive and accessible fashion.
Designers Ray Grand of Ray Grand Apparel, Joelle Fontaine of I Am Kreyol, Peda Edouard of Mathmatik Athletics and Jay Calderin of Boston Fashion Week will be designing custom pieces for our amazing models Heather Watkins, Keith Jones, Donald Washington, Cheri Blauwet, Eli Wolff, Laura Ferrone, Marty Harris, Brooks Bard, Jessica Mayer and Hailey Boyan!
Presented by Epicenter Community and Arts Emerson, in partnership with VSA Massachusetts and many others, the fashion show will take place this coming Saturday, June 24, 2017 (doors open at 5pm, show starts at 6pm) in the Emerson Paramount Center Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theater. Reserve your free tickets here.
Posted Sunday June 18 2017 at 10:31 pm
Are you invested in equitable access to art-based and arts-integrated instruction for students with disabilities?
If so, this conference is a must for you. VSA Intersections convenes all involved in this venture: general and special educators, arts specialists, teaching artists, principals, nonprofit administrators, education program managers, university professors, policy makers, researchers, and school administrators. You will find this conference invaluable to your work supporting students with disabilities!/p>
Posted Sunday June 18 2017 at 4:55 pm
Jodi is a delightful recent addition to the COOL Schools family. She embodies the essence of what makes COOL Schools successful: she is a strong collaborator and endeavors to teach and inspire ALL students. When asked how her COOL Schools experience was, a third grader said, "Working with Ms. Jodi changed my life." This student now wants to teach other students and friends more about art. Jodi's years of experience as a classroom art teacher and as a teaching artist are ideal. In fact, the principal and teachers at Ellison Parks Early Education School have been highly impressed with her collaboration skills and ability to engage children collectively and individually. Jodi ensures that students discover the joys of physically making art, especially in the digital age.
Posted Sunday June 04 2017 at 11:23 pm
As a performing artist I use music and stories as a way to create space for interaction, inspiration, and expression. I enjoy working on projects with unlikely partners and seeing what the arts can unearth. I believe that by learning how to imagine together, we are better able to create an inclusive reality.
With strong encouragement from a teacher, my own initiation to art began when I reluctantly joined the backstage crew for a sixth grade musical. This teacher's encouragement changed the course of my life, and has also made me passionate about providing arts education opportunities for today's youth. After graduating from American University with a BA in Musical Theatre, in addition to working as an actor and singer in the DC area, I began teaching with Imagination Stage - a wonderful nonprofit for children's arts education. Through opportunities with Imagination Stage, I began to develop programming for students with disabilities. Such programs included developing a summer program for students with autism to devise a theatre production, implementing drama programming in 4 different schools serving students with disabilities, as well as becoming the Access Program Coordinator for Imagination Stage.
Posted Wednesday May 24 2017 at 1:44 pm
VSA Massachusetts is seeking a passionate and experienced teaching artist (TA) or arts educator for a part-time, five-day-a-week position teaching students with disabilities at Charlestown High School (CHS) for the Fall 2017 semester (with a strong possibility to continue through the Spring 2018 semester). Charlestown High School is part of the Boston Public Schools system and employs a Small Learning Community (SLC) model where students are organized into cohorts based on common matriculation goals. The VSA MA Teaching Artist will be the lead instructor for two classes, bringing their expertise in and enthusiasm for their artistic discipline to students across Charlestown's special education SLC. The school observes a block schedule and each class meets daily for one hour and twenty minutes.
About VSA Massachusetts
VSA Massachusetts, the State Organization on Arts and Disability, promotes the involvement of people of all abilities in the cultural life of our communities. Through our COOL (Creative Outlook on Learning) education program, we partner with schools throughout the state to provide inclusive arts-integrated instruction that creates learning opportunities for students of all abilities.
Posted Saturday May 06 2017 at 10:16 pm
I am a performing artist, yoga teacher, and educational innovator. Over the past ten years, I have combined my two passions (the arts and mindful practices) to encourage identity exploration, positive self-expression, and deep engagement with creative process. In 2012 I founded FLY Learning Arts which incorporates a combination of movement, mindfulness, and arts exercises into classrooms in schools through New York City and Los Angeles. I brought my curiosity and pedagogy to higher ed two years ago first as a student, then a teaching fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
As a lifelong musician, dancer, singer, actor, writer and yogi with twenty years of professional experience on stage, on page, and in classroom, I have discovered that being in my body and heart has greatly increased my capacity to be present minded and creatively curious about the world within and around me. And as an arts activist, I believe that understanding self and others is the key to creating positive, long-lasting change in communities and in ourselves. My joy in education is giving space for playful engagement that enhances student learning by offering nuanced ways for students to relate to academic materials, their personal world views, and the perspectives of others.
Marty Harris -- a painter who has exhibited in the past at the Open Door Gallery -- and Adele, Marty's service dog, will be featured in a documentary called Letting Go of Adele It's a story of the first cardiac alert team to graduate from Canine Partners for Life. Adele has been Marty's constant companion, saving her life every day for 9 years, and the film shares an intimate look at their partnership, leading up to Adele's inevitable retirement, and what comes next for Marty.
You can see Letting Go of Adele at Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFBoston), Somerville Theater, Sunday, April 30th, 2017 at 4:30. The film's director Melissa Dowler, the founder of Canine Partners For Life Darlene Sullivan, and Marty Harris will have a panel discussion after the movie.
An innovative resource for public and private school music educators, the Teaching Music to Students on the Autism Spectrum Conference is a two-day event that will address important topics, such as:
Current research in Autism
Strategies for teaching music to individuals on the Autism Spectrum
How people with autism learn and perceive music
Working effectively with students on the autism spectrum and their families
Using iPads to make and create music with students on the Autism Spectrum
The conference will take place April 28-29, 2017. Presented by Boston Conservatory, founders of Boston Conservatory program for students on the autism spectrum. For more information and to register, visit the Boston Conservatory website.
Posted Sunday April 02 2017 at 2:07 pm
My current practice explores themes of migration, immigration and transformation with a focus on the Chinese diaspora. As a first-generation Taiwanese-American, I am interested in the meeting of cultural identities. Drawn from my personal experiences of crossing between distinct cultures and places, I create works in response to spaces I have traveled to, my surroundings, and in reflection of my own identity.
Due to my experience of studying in Beijing, I became especially conscious of the boundaries of nationality and culture comprising Chinese identity. In China, as an American of Chinese descent, I encountered being both an insider and outsider simultaneously. Although I participate in Chinese culture my identity is only partially recognized as Chinese.
I employ diverse methods of making by applying drawing, painting, digital photography, and sculpture. I create spatial juxtapositions of different cultural scenes and objects to form tension and contrast thereby creating a third meaning. My work aims to examine the effects of globalization in cultural blending, and the slipping away of cultural identity. I am interested in dislocation between objects, people, and spaces.
Boston Conservatory at Berklee is expanding its offerings for children with special needs. This spring, Step by Step will continue its dance program for children on the autism spectrum, while also adding a session for children with Down syndrome.
Step by Step teaches the basics of dance while incorporating social skills and the use of imagination and personal expression. Children dance to live music in a relaxed, fun environment and receive personalized attention from specially trained faculty. Parents or caretakers may stay during class time.
Age Range: 8-14 (If your child is not in the age range but you feel Step by Step is the right fit, please contact Kimberly Haack for approval before registering.)
Down Syndrome Session: Saturdays 9:00-10:00 a.m., March 25 - May 6, 2017 (7 sessions total)
Autism Session: Saturdays 10:00-11:00 a.m., March 25 - May 6, 2017 (7 sessions total)
Tuition: $120 per student for six sessions—the first session is free so that you can determine if this is the right fit for your child
Life, Animated - This Oscar-nominated documentary introduces us to Owen Suskind, a young man with autism who, as a child, was unable to speak until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate—immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films. A coming-of-age story, the film follows Owen as he graduates to adulthood and takes his first steps toward independence. Wednesday, March 29, 2017 – 6:30 pm - Museum of Science Boston, Cahners Theatre.
Posted Wednesday March 22 2017 at 12:50 pm
Our colleague, Jenna Gabriel, Manager of Special Education at VSA International, shares some important learnings and a call for action in this blog post. Arts education matters and arts educators need all the support they can get to successfully meet the needs of students with disabilities.
I walk into the Hilton 2nd floor lobby to pick up my NAEA registration materials and one thing is abundantly clear: I am not in Kansas anymore. The largest education conference I've ever been to topped out at 400 people and when Patricia Franklin, the President of the National Arts Education Association (NAEA) welcomes 7,000 art educators to the NAEA National Convention, my jaw drops. There are more than 350 sessions each day to prompt noisy, messy, and vital discussions of how we ensure that every child receives a well-rounded education enriched by meaningful participation in the arts. I feel like Dorothy in the wonderland of Oz.
I had the privilege of spending 4 days in this glorious cacophony last week, when I traveled to NYC to present "Arts as Inclusion: Holding Ourselves Accountable in Reaching Students with Disabilities" at the NAEA National Convention. In addition to my own presentation, I got to observe sessions, participate in conversations, and connect with arts teachers from around the country. I learned a lot, but want to share 3 things that have stuck with me as I return to the real world here in DC:
1.) Our work at the intersection of arts and special education is vital—perhaps more so now than ever before.
Spare me a quick moment for a #humblebrag: My session was packed. In a room with chairs for 50 people, between 80 and 100 tried to cram in. People sat on the floor in the aisle and by my projector, stood in the back and spilled out into the hallway. As uncomfortable as they must have been, these teachers were actively engaged the entire time, asking questions about IEPs and instructional practice, offering insights from their own classroom experiences, and staying after to continue the conversation.
Some dogs love to run, some love to sit on your lap, and some love to catch Frisbees! Meet Mike and his canine friends, Bullet and Maui. Learn how Mike trains them, and watch some spectacular Frisbee aerobatics. Prepare to be amazed!
March 18, 2017 11 am and 12 noon ASL-Interpreted
Free with paid Museum admission. Free tickets distributed first-come, first-served one hour before each program.
For more information, visit the Museum website or contact:
Saki Iwamoto, Health and Wellness Educator
Open Captioned Performance
Saturday, June 3, 2017 at 2pm Online Tickets
All Shows at: Boston Opera House
Get tickets in person: Box Office, 539 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111
Box Office Hours: Monday-Friday 10am-5pm
Get tickets by phone: 617-880-2419
Get tickets by email: ADABoston@BroadwayInBoston.com
The BU Arts Initiative, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The BU Dance Program, and BU Disability Services host the critically acclaimed AXIS Dance Company for a residency March 13-18, 2017. AXIS Dance Company was founded in 1987 and has paved the way for a powerful contemporary dance form called physically integrated dance, which features dancers with and without disabilities.
As a part of this residency, we invite you to attend a symposium at Boston University March 13, 2017 from 1-5:30pm. The symposium will feature regional artists, activists, and arts leaders participating in a panel discussion and break out conversations. The panel will be moderated by Charles Washburn, Vice President and COO of VSA Massachusetts.
A monthly casual social art experience for adults with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). Engage with the world of art by creating art through studio experiences led by knowledgeable art instructors. Discuss art throughout history from antiquity to contemporary. No previous art experience required and refreshments are included.
Upcoming Meetups at Open Door Gallery, Worcester Art Museum:
Saturday, March 4, 2017 at 10AM - Mary Cassatt
Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 6PM - Patterns & Zentangels
Saturday, April 1, 2017 at 10:30AM - The Art of Couples
Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 5:30PM - Impressionism
Please note, to be included as a member, participants need be at least 18 years or older and have an acquired brain injury. If you need help determining if you are eligible, please contact Krystal Carl, Program Coordinator, at 774-272-0753 or email@example.com and include your phone number if you would like us to contact you by phone. Friends are welcome and personal care assistants, or other support persons are welcome and required, if needed.
Greg Rogers uses acrylic, oil pastels, Chalk, and india ink on paper, offering a mixed media of rich textures and lively color contrasts. Greg uses his feet to accomplish most fine motor skill tasks including his striking paintings.
Greg Rogers - Meaning, Life, and the Search for Light
Open Door Gallery
Now through April 13, 2017 9am - 5pm
Reception February 16 2017 4-7pm
Open Door Theater of Acton presents it's production of Seussical, the fun and fantastic musical adventure, which features many of your favorite Dr. Seuss characters including Horton the Elephant, the Cat in the Hat, the Grinch, and the Whos. All these and more are brought together through the tale of a boy named JoJo, who is unnoticed by his peers and thinks "unusual thinks", but finds an ally in Horton the Elephant. Audiences will journey into the storybook world of Dr. Seuss as this creative duo tries to convince their friends to see that "anything is possible" if they can only imagine beyond what is right in front of them.
Abilities Dance was created to provide a professional platform for dancers of all physical abilities. We create the choreography to emphasize the dancers' strengths and build on their limitations. We utilize composers to create music customized to the movements and emotions conveyed in the piece. The customized piece gives an organic and unique experience that will engage and inspire audiences.
Our first show entitled "Abilities" centers around how physical challenges can affect a person and their relationships, specifically familial and romantic. Throughout their personal and relationship struggles, they learn to find the strength within themselves, re-connect in their relationships, and embrace their abilities.
Friday, February 3, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Multicultural Arts Center
41 Second Street
East Cambridge, MA
General Admission $25
Students $20 More info and purchase tickets
Posted Monday January 30 2017 at 10:28 pm
The minute Andy walks in through the door and begins strumming his guitar, students' faces light up and smiles abound. Everyone shares in Andy's enthusiasm, wanting you to join in and make music with him. He cares passionately about each and every student he works with and takes the time to let them know. Andy has been a teaching artist with VSA MA for over 20 years. He leads the Creative Kids Program at the Boston College Campus School, where he brings music to students with significant disabilities and medical needs. For the past two years, Andy has also taught songwriting and drumming to young students in a Department of Mental Health program, enabling them to write songs that help them express feeling and thoughts in a safe way. Andy teaches with contagious gusto, care, and commitment—excitement that inspires those who are fortunate to work with him. He has contributed immensely to the COOL Schools family of teaching artists, sharing valuable resources, ideas, and creativity.
Posted Sunday January 29 2017 at 8:44 pm
I am a visual artist and educator. As a teaching artist I use hands-on visual inquiry, imagination, collaboration and critiquing as a way to engage students more deeply in content, creativity and self-reflection. I believe that by engaging in visual arts processes, ranging from drawing to sculpture and animation, learners can develop critical life skills as well as joy in the learning experience. I am especially interested in the intersection of two (or more) disciplines to ignite creativity. My experience with this practice includes working across disciplines, specifically in art, science, technology and nature in museums, at universities, in public school and out-of-school time programs for the past 10 years. Currently, I also direct the Cambridge Creativity Commons, a program that serves youth and teachers in Cambridge to enrich learning through the arts.
Looking to develop street experiences that are better for everybody? This workshop will cover the basics for pedestrian-based tours and events; effective communication, intentional planning for a variety of participants, and some practical tools for ensuring hospitable inclusion of visitors with disabilities.
January 25, 2017 from 6:00 - 7:15pm
Boston Society of Architects
290 Congress St.
Presented by Cultural Access New England