Blog For All!
2017 Archive

Experienced Teaching Artists Wanted

Posted Monday November 13 2017 at 5:41 pm in Education

We're Hiring!

VSA MA COOL Schools seeks experienced teaching artists to create arts-integrated programs for for two of our high school programs and one early childhood program during the Winter/Spring semester of the 2017-2018 school year.  The opportunities are as follows:

Henderson Inclusion School (Dorchester) - In this semester-long residency (January-June), the music teaching artist will work daily with students from grades K0-5th and 9th-12.  This position works closely with the school's drama and dance specialist for school assemblies and cultural programming.  Music educators with strong collaboration skills with school faculty and staff and demonstrated success across grades levels, and at least two years experience teaching in public schools are preferred.  One position available for the spring term.

Boston Green Academy (Brighton) - In a 6-week session, the teaching artist will work with juniors in one ELA and one Humanities inclusion classroom twice a week to integrate their artistic expertise into the curriculum.  Visual arts educators with some multidisciplinary arts skills, as well as at least two years experience in public high schools preferred.  One position for the spring term.

Condon Elementary School (South Boston) - VSA MA is seeking a drama teaching artist to create an arts-integrated program in grades K0-K2.  Over the course of 12 weeks, the teaching artist will work with the classroom teachers to explore storytelling and self-expression to enhance and reinforce curriculum.  Teaching artists with a minimum of two years experience teaching early childhood in a public school setting preferred.  Two positions for the spring term (possible for one person to teach both).

COOL Schools participants represent a diverse swath of the BPS population and we seek candidates who identify with the racial, ethnic, gender, ability, and class diversity of the students we serve.  Teaching Artists are term employees and receive competitive rates, including paid training and planning.

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COOL Schools 2016-2017 Report Now Available!

Posted Monday October 23 2017 at 5:39 pm in Education

COOL Schools Report Cover 2016/2017

Hot off the press, a new COOL report.

We are excited to share our latest COOL Report for the 2016-2017.  Download the PDF now to learn about our programming highlights in schools and with educators across Massachusetts.  Our teaching artists, students, school collaborators created beautiful work together -- inclusive arts integration is having an impact and we want to share that with you.  We promise it will be a COOL read!

Click the above image or this link to download, print, read the full report.

We’re Hiring! VSA Massachusetts Director of Programs

Posted Sunday October 22 2017 at 12:13 pm in News

Join Our Team

As the winds continue to take us into new, unchartered, and opportunity-filled terrain, VSA Massachusetts is thrilled to announce that we are commencing a national search for the position of Director of Programs.  This individual will oversee creation and execution of both our signature COOL Schools Programs, as well as our innovative and emergent Cultural Inclusion Programming.

Sorry, deadline for application submission was November 10, 2017.

Aysha Upchurch Departing VSA

Posted Saturday October 21 2017 at 4:48 pm in News

Aysha Upchurch

It is with bittersweet excitement that we announce the departure of Aysha Upchurch from VSA Massachusetts after three and a half years of service, laughter, creation and innovation within our COOL Schools programming, and across the organization.  Aysha started with VSA in September 2014 as an Education Intern, and found that the internship was an invaluable complement to her coursework while in school at the Harvard Graduate School of Education -- it allowed her to ground the theoretical frameworks around school-community partnerships, inclusion, and arts integration strategies.  She was delighted to join the staff full time in 2015 after her graduate studies to explore and implement coaching supports and professional development programming, also while bolstering the organization's framing of the intersectional and social justice nature of its work and mission.

Aysha took a moment to write her own words of gratitude:

My time at this organization, this family, has been invaluable to me as it has afforded me the opportunity to advance and support work I care about, all while becoming more plugged in to the Boston arts and education communities.  When I came to the Boston area three years ago and survived the most evil winter I have ever experienced, I was certain that I would not stay.  (I hate the winter.)  However, weathering tundra-like temperatures became possible largely in part to the fantastic people I had the privilege to work with and learn from at VSA and the network of local community arts organizations.  I believe deeply in the work that is being done for arts and inclusion in schools and the larger community.  I also believe that teaching artists and community arts organizations have an indelible role in advancing truly progressive and equitable school reform, and it has been a pleasure to work for an organization that brings those voices into the conversation.

Read More →

Meet the Intern: Ali Blake

Posted Wednesday October 18 2017 at 08:45 am in Open Door Gallery

Ali Blake

Ali Blake, Associate Gallery Curator at VSA MA and Ed.M Candidate in Arts in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

What are your favorite pastimes?
      "Rollerskating, being in the ocean, questing for delicious food (and to make it!), a newfound appreciation for growing/harvesting/eating food from my deck (or in the wild!), an evening at home cooking and eating great food with friends while listening to some good music."

If you could be a cartoon character, who would you be?
      "Daria Morgendorffer (+ warmth) -- intelligent, subversive, snarky."

You are trapped on an island.  What three items do you want to have with you?
      "A solar-powered, fully-loaded portable music player (iPod), a thriving garden plot to eat from/sustain, a huge book full of blank pages."

Do you have any uncommon talents or quirks?
      "I find that when there is music playing my body will just start moving, I can't help it!  This can also be music playing in my head and not just 'out loud'.  I've also been known to create hybrid 90s nickelodeon characters!"

What brings you to VSA?
      "Before starting graduate study, I previously worked as a Direct Support Professional at an arts-based day studio for adults with disabilities, as a Teaching Artist within a youth arts organization, and as someone who worked to connect people/places doing great and related work!  VSA MA intentionally combines aspects of those experiences and I'm thrilled to be able to join in!  As a new Bostonian, I'm grateful to start connecting with folks doing awesome work here!"

What are you doing during your internship?
      "As Associate Gallery Curator I am assisting in the process of re-imagining the Open Door Gallery space, mission, purpose, programs both within and outside of its walls and across VSA MA's programs!"

HUBweek 2017 - At the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology

Posted Monday October 09 2017 at 11:27 pm in News

HUB week logo

Join us at HUBweek to explore the future being built in Boston at the intersections of art, science, and technology.  HUBweek will kick off with events taking place all across the city, and land on Boston's City Hall Plaza as it transforms into The HUB presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance.  Filled with 80 shipping containers and 6 geodesic domes, The HUB will feature a multi-day ideas festival, live arts experiences, a massive startup showcase, exhibits, parties, and more.

VSA Massachusetts is working with HUBweek to introduce several area artists with disabilities to the event.  These will be multi-art and multi-sensory performances that will engage the audience in a creative experience of shared humanity through the prism of the experience of disability.  The VSA performances at HUBweek are part of the Immersion Art Program, sponsored by Union Point, a new city rising 12 miles south of Boston.

Jon Sarkin is a visual artist and a spoken word performance artist.  He will work with videographer and drummer Emile Doucette and lead guitarist Dan King.  Their performance, Unchained Brain, is a multi-media exploration of the visual art Jon Sarkin produces in the endless creative flow created by damage to his brain caused by a stroke.  Jon will tell his story in a free form rap accompanied by a collection of images ranging from Jon's studio work, to his brain scans, and Jon's performance with indie band Guster.

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Meet the Intern: Amanda Acevedo

Posted Monday October 09 2017 at 8:38 pm in Education

Amanda Acevedo

Greetings!  I'm Amanda and I am here for the year to study for my Ed.M from Harvard's Graduate School of Education, the Arts In Education program.  For the past 11 years I worked as a teaching artist, arts administrator, and performance maker/deviser/curator in Chicago.

What are your favorite pastimes?
      "Taking my husband on self-guided walking tours of new places, dance parties with my friends, and eating french fries!"

If you could be a cartoon character, who would you be?
      "I do not have a favorite cartoon character but I would choose to have a cartoon version of myself created by Maira Kalman."

You are trapped on an island.  What three items do you want to have with you?
      "My cat Abbies, my collection of art postcards, and an endless supply of drinkable water."

Do you have any uncommon talents or quirks?
      "I am a performance artist - which is perceived as a quirk by many!"

What brings you to VSA?
      "In Chicago, my administrative practice was always paired with my teaching practice.  I wanted to find the right opportunity to keep connected to schools, teachers, and students while studying.  VSA MA's inclusive, arts integration programming looked like the perfect opportunity to meet and work with amazing arts educators/administrators and learn from the programming they are implementing in Massachusetts schools.  I am grateful to have been brought into this organization to compliment my time studying at Harvard."

What are you doing during your internship?
      "I'm spending the year as a Teaching Artist Fellow!  I'll be supporting COOL Schools programming by observing classroom sessions, assisting with coordination and documentation, and facilitating communication between VSA MA administrators and teaching artists, as well as teaching artists and teachers."

Meet the Intern: Elli Smith

Posted Sunday October 08 2017 at 9:34 pm in News

Elli Smith

Hey there!  I'm Elli.  I spent my early years in the pink mountains of New Mexico, searching the sky for double rainbows and breaking open rocks in search of fossils.  Most of my childhood days were passed in Southern California, however, where I learned as much as I could in school, played soccer, and enjoyed time passed with friends and family.  I spent four years studying art history and integrative medicine at UC Berkeley, except my junior year where I lived and learned in Bologna, Italy.  I taught moviemaking in New Orleans schools for a few years, after which I relocated to the Pacific Northwest where I took up circus arts and mentoring Native American youth with equal zest.  My greatest artistic feat to date is a documentary film I made on the healing process of Native youth on a tribal canoe journey.  Now I'm grateful to be in the Arts in Education Master's program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where I’m learning things I never knew I never knew.

What are your favorite pastimes?
      "I love to laugh, which means I spend a great deal of time with my friends and family.  I love to wander in nature, hike, run, dance, do yoga, sing and play music."

If you could be a cartoon character, who would you be?
      "My old boss and kids I used to mentor saw Wreck it Ralph and told me 'the main character is you!'  I watched to movie and thought, 'yep, that's pretty much me.'"

You are trapped on an island.  What three items do you want to have with you?
      "A boat, a chart and a musical instrument.  I'm gettin' off this island!  (And gotta have some tunes, of course.)"

Do you have any uncommon talents or quirks?
      "I have a compulsion to combine words to make puns.  Say two words and my brain will find a way to smash them together.  I should probably work for an advertising agency."

What brings you to VSA?
      "My love of kids!  Making art with young ones is one of my favorite things.  I love their unbridled creativity, helping them through the process, and ultimately, seeing the end product.  I have a collection of kid art I've saved over the years; it is some of my favorite art to date!"

What are you doing during your internship?
      "I will be assisting Teaching Artists in the classroom, helping with teacher professional development and creating media content for the website."

ASL Night at Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Posted Saturday September 09 2017 at 10:49 am in Cultural Inclusion

ASL Interpreter at MFA

Photo courtesy Helene Norton Russell

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston is holding it's first ASL Night, a celebration of Deaf culture welcoming members of the Deaf community and friends!  The evening highlights and features the art, language, and culture of the community.  Coinciding with Deaf Awareness Month, the program includes American Sign Language tours and spotlight talks, performances, art-making activities, and more.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
4:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Free admission begins at 4 pm
All ASL Night events are free
More Information

Arts and the Brain: A Symposium on the Healing Power of the Arts

Posted Friday September 08 2017 at 10:36 pm in News

Arts and the Brain

Join us September 22, 2017 at the Worcester Art Museum for a day-long symposium exploring the role that the arts can play in helping people with acquired brain injury cope with trauma, regain mental function, and reorient their lives.

Presented by VSA Massachusetts an affiliate of Seven Hills Foundation in association with The Institute for Arts and Health, Lesley University, and Boston Arts Consortium for Health (BACH).

The backdrop for the symposium will be an exhibition of artwork by Jon Sarkin, an artist whose story of emerging from a brain injury with a new and remarkable capacity for visual art is chronicled in the book Shadows Bright as Glass: The Remarkable Story of One Man's Journey from Brain Trauma to Artistic Triumph.  Jon will share his experience in a multi-media performance.

Speakers will explore the contribution art making and art therapy can make to healing brain trauma.  Ronald E. Hirschberg, M.D. of Harvard Medical School will share his work on the music-brain interface and neurologic music therapy.

More information

Register now

Open Door Gallery Exhibit - Visions of Avalon

Posted Friday September 08 2017 at 6:21 pm in Open Door Gallery

Visions of Avalon painting

This multi media installation is a group effort involving artists from all 5 locations of the Seven Hills Foundation's ASPiRE! Programs.  The participants have made repeated trips to the Worcester Art Museum during the Knights! exhibit following the acquisition of the Higgins Armory Collection and the recent opening of the new Medieval Collection.  In workshops at the museum and in their own studio workshops these artists have created original artwork inspired by the museum's collection.

The exhibit features work in media ranging from ceramics, paintings, collage, and clothing inspired by the period.

Seven Hills ASPiRE!, an affiliate of Seven Hills Foundation, offers innovative and creative programming that provides opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism, and brain injury to develop skills necessary to pursue interests in employment, recreation, and social interaction.  With an emphasis on Innovative Lifelong Learning, Seven Hills designed the ASPiRE! model to help people enrich their lives, broaden core competencies, and enjoy a full range of activities while cultivating a network of relationships in and around their communities.  The model has restructured the way that traditional day habilitation, adult day health, community-based day supports, and workforce readiness & employment services are typically offered by promoting personal choice and self-determination in a more dynamic and dignified, community-driven environment.  Learn more about the ASPiRE! program by visiting the Seven Hills Foundation website.

Visit Visions of Avalon at the Open Door Gallery now through October 15, 2017 - 89 South Street in Boston or online at

Lauren Geraghty, Open Door Gallery Exhibitor and Committee Member, Has Passed Away

Posted Monday August 28 2017 at 3:38 pm in News

Tiger - painting by Lauren Geraghty

Tiger - by Lauren Geraghty

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our friend and colleague Lauren Geraghty.  Lauren shared her remarkable artwork at the Open Door Gallery on several occasions and served as a member of the gallery committee.  She was a devoted supporter of our work and a committed advocate for artists with disabilities.

Visit the archive of her most recent show at the Open Door Gallery.

Read Lauren's obituary.

Lauren will be greatly missed.

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.

Read More →

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).

Read More →

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.

Read More →

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.


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 webpage.

Fashion Accessibility Project

Posted Monday June 19 2017 at 3:12 pm in Cultural Inclusion

Woman model

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.

2017 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference

Posted Sunday June 18 2017 at 10:31 pm in Education

2017 VSA Intersections Conference

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>

August 6-7, 2017 in Austin, TX.

Learn more and register.

Employee of the Quarter - Teaching Artist Jodi Schmidt

Posted Sunday June 18 2017 at 4:55 pm in Education

Jodi Schmidt

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.

Meet the Teaching Artist - Mia Branco

Posted Sunday June 04 2017 at 11:23 pm in Education

Mia Branco in the classroom

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.

Read More →

VSA Help Wanted: Part-Time Teaching Artist at Charlestown High School

Posted Wednesday May 24 2017 at 1:44 pm in Education

Charlestown High Logo

Job Description

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.

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Meet the Teaching Artist - Haley Roth

Posted Saturday May 06 2017 at 10:16 pm in Education

Haley Roth with 3 kids

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.

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"Letting Go of Adele" - IFFBoston - Somerville Theater

Posted Monday April 17 2017 at 2:46 pm in News

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.

Learn more at the film's website.

Purchase tickets at IFFBoston's website.

Teaching Music to Students on the Autism Spectrum Annual Conference

Posted Thursday April 06 2017 at 4:34 pm in News

Woman playing piano with teacher watching class=

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.

Meet the Teaching Artist - Szu-Chieh Yun

Posted Sunday April 02 2017 at 2:07 pm in Education

Szu-Chieh Yun

Artist Statement

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.

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Step by Step! Dance Classes - Down Syndrome and Autism Sessions

Posted Wednesday March 22 2017 at 3:55 pm in Cultural Inclusion

Two boys with teacher

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

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ReelAbilities Film Festival Boston - March 29 - April 6, 2017

Posted Wednesday March 22 2017 at 2:10 pm in Cultural Inclusion

ReelAbilities Boston

The sixth annual ReelAbilities - Boston Disabilities Film Festival takes place March 29 - April 6, 2017.  Films include:

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.

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Kennedy Center Special Ed: NAEA National Convention 2017

Posted Wednesday March 22 2017 at 12:50 pm in Education

Jenna Gabriel - Kennedy Center Manager of Education

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.

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ASL Interpreted High Flying Frisbee Dogs - Boston Children's Museum

Posted Thursday March 16 2017 at 11:45 pm in Cultural Inclusion

Mike with one if his frisbee dogs

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

Amazon Smile 5% Donation to VSA - 3/16/17 Only

Posted Thursday March 16 2017 at 06:20 am in News

Amazon Smile 5% Donation to VSA 3/16/17 Only

Amazon will donate 5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to VSA Massachusetts whenever you shop on AmazonSmile.  That's 10 times the normal .5% donation!

AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know.  Same products, same prices, same service.

Support VSA Massachusetts by starting your shopping at

Upcoming Accessible Performances

Posted Tuesday March 14 2017 at 3:22 pm in Cultural Inclusion

Broadway in Boston Logo

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

ASL Performance
Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 2pm
Online Tickets

The King and I

Open Captioned Performance
Saturday, April 15, 2017 at 2pm
Online Tickets

ASL Performance
Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 2pm or 8pm (awaiting clarification)
Online Tickets

Audio Described Performance
Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 2pm or 8pm (awaiting clarification)
Online Tickets

Mamma Mia!

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:

Performing Arts and Disability: Leadership, Inclusion, and Training Symposium

Posted Wednesday March 01 2017 at 2:34 pm in Cultural Inclusion


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.

More information.

Creative Minds for ABI Survivors - Open Door Gallery, Worcester Art Museum

Posted Wednesday February 15 2017 at 4:14 pm in Open Door Gallery

Creative Minds Logo

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

Sign up here.

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 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.

Open Door Gallery Presents Greg Rogers - Meaning, Life, and the Search for Light

Posted Monday February 13 2017 at 9:55 pm in Open Door Gallery

Greg Rogers - The lemon Flag

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

ASL, Sensory Friendly, Audio Described Performances of "Seussical"

Posted Wednesday February 01 2017 at 2:33 pm in Cultural Inclusion

Students rehearsing Seussical

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.

ASL Interpreted
Saturday February 4, 2017 at 2pm

Sensory Friendly
Saturday February 11, 2017 at 12pm

Audio Described
Saturday February 11, 2017 at 7pm

Tickets $12 and $15
All performances at:
R J Grey Jr. High Auditorium
16 Charter Road, Acton, MA

Dance Performance by Abilities Dance

Posted Wednesday February 01 2017 at 12:01 pm in Cultural Inclusion

Woman dancing

Ellice Patterson of Abilities Dance writes:

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

Employee of the Quarter - Teaching Artist Andy Holiner

Posted Monday January 30 2017 at 10:28 pm in Education

Andy Holiner

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.

Meet the Teaching Artist - Kyle Browne

Posted Sunday January 29 2017 at 8:44 pm in Education

Kyle Browne

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.

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Access 101 for Walking Events - Presented by Cultural Access New England

Posted Thursday January 19 2017 at 06:24 am in Cultural Inclusion


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.
Boston MA
Free admission!
Presented by Cultural Access New England

Upcoming Deadlines for VSA Events

Posted Monday January 02 2017 at 2:13 pm in News

Clock that says deadline

January 15, 2017: Submission deadline for 2017 VSA Intersections call for sessions proposals

January 16, 2017: Submission deadline for the LEAD 2017 call for proposals

February 1, 2017: Application deadline for the Jean Kennedy Smith VSA Playwright Discovery Award

February 8, 2017: Application deadline for the VSA International Young Soloists Award