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  • What’s in a Name?

    Posted Monday April 15 2013 at 7:15 pm.
    Used tags:

    From Very Special Arts to VSA Massachusetts

    Over the past few years, staff and friends of VSA Massachusetts have raised a few brows when they begin to talk about three little letters . . . V S A.  It often goes something like this:

    Parent:  Hi, I'm Sheila's Mom.
    VSA Staff:  Hi, I'm staff from VSA Massachusetts.
    Parent:  VSA?
    VSA Staff:  Yes, VSA - followed by a somewhat lengthy description along these lines - 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 and 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 (OUCH!) 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.
    Parent:  Oh, neat, what is it that you do here at the school?

    What we do is not captured in our name, so most people continue to call us Very Special Arts, a name that seems to still resonate in the broader community.  However, "special" often does not resonate for those with disabilities or those who are advocates.

    In the 1980's, when we were all running around in neon outfits, Very Special Arts seemed like a good fit.  Today, even though there are a few people reviving neon, we need to move past "special" and say VSA.

    Think of it like CVS or CNBC - as soon as you hear it, you know what it means.  We don't go around, saying, "Oh, I need to pick up some toothpaste from the Consumer Value Store (CVS)."

    VSA means arts for all in schools and in our communities.

    One comment

    I usually say VSA stands for our history and then I talk about how great it is that the disability community has moved on from the designation of Special. I do have to say, however, that some children in Vermont have decided VSA stands for Vermont Super Artists. Judy Chalmer, Director, VSA Vermont Judith Chalmer (URL) - April 18 2013

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