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    2018 Archive

    Teaching Artist Takeaways: Kathleen Moye at North American Drama Therapy Association Annual Conference

    Posted Wednesday December 05 2018 at 8:06 pm in Education

    Kathleen Moye at North American Drama Therapy Association Annual Conference

    On Oct. 26-29, I attended the North American Drama Therapy Association Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.  As conferences are built to do, it inspired me in several professional and personal directions.  The hardest part was deciding what tool and trick I wanted to try first!

    Drama therapy is an embodied approach to therapy that uses play, projection, narrative, and the power of an audience to help people.  It's practiced in adaptable formats with patients of all ages and abilities in schools, recovery hospitals, trauma centers, community and group homes, private practice, and beyond.

    As a VSA teaching artist, I was keenly interested in sessions that illuminated school-based or classroom-friendly approaches that could help students with physical, intellectual, and emotional needs.  Among the many sessions I attended while there, I learned about:
    ● puppet work in El Salvador with women and teens about domestic violence and sex education,
    ● Sesame Street communities producing trauma-informed support materials and help children process big emotions,
    ● developing plays that educate audiences and demonstrate the strengths and capabilities of diverse and inclusive casts,
    ● using humor in creating therapeutic performances,
    ● new games for encouraging relationship development and conversation among participants,
    ● culturally inclusive and radically sensitive interactions in and out of therapeutic practice, and
    ● autobiographical play writing/processing.

    Read More →

    Meet the Teaching Artist - Allie D'Amico

    Posted Sunday November 18 2018 at 7:37 pm in Education

    I am a music educator.  As an artist, I use music to help my students express themselves, while learning new skills that will allow them to create something enjoyable for the rest of their life.  Music is for everyone and anyone can participate.  I believe that every student has the right to have music a part of their education whether or not they pursue it after school.  I believe that by engaging in music, learners can express themselves with interacting positively with others.

    What is your own arts practice?
          "Music!  Principally French horn, ukulele, and voice."

    Allie D'Amico Playing French Horn

    My experience doing this includes . . .
          "I did my undergraduate training at The University of Texas at Austin (Hook 'Em), then taught a variety of learners for 4 years in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  Now I'm a second year graduate student at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee.  I love singing with friends and playing with community ensembles."

    What grades and art form you will be using in your COOL residency?
          "During my COOL residency I will be working with students ages 14-22 learning music."

    Read More →

    Call for Socially Engaged Art

    Posted Tuesday November 06 2018 at 11:34 pm in Call For Artists

    Call for socially engaged art

    The Open Door Gallery centers narratives and works by artists that identify as part of the disability community, inviting conversations on inclusion, equity and intersectional justice through the arts.  Operated by VSA Massachusetts, the State Organization on Art and Disability, the Open Door Gallery is centrally located near South Station, in the NonProfit Center.

    We are thrilled to announce that in 2019 we will open up the gallery for community and artist collaboration.  To that end, we welcome applications from individual artists, artist collectives, or organizations to share their work at the gallery.

    Applications will be accepted November 5 - December 12, 2018 and will be reviewed by a gallery advisory committee.  Selected shows will be notified January 5, 2019.

    Please help us spread the word to your networks!

    Questions or concerns can be directed to VSA MA's Communications and Gallery Associate, Ali Blake, via: ali@vsamass.org

    ONLINE or

    Job Opening! - Partners for Youth with Disabilities

    Posted Monday November 05 2018 at 3:30 pm in News

    Partners for Youth with Disabilities

    Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) has a new job opening and they've asked us to spread the word.  PYD is committed to equal opportunity and the diversity of their workforce, and strongly encourages diverse applicants to apply.

    Position and description: YEP Career Readiness Program Specialist

    PYD website: www.pyd.org

    Meet the Program Fellow - Lindsay Tanner

    Posted Sunday October 14 2018 at 4:25 pm in Education

    Lindsay Tanner - Program Fellow

    What are your favorite pastimes?
          "Being in nature - hiking, camping, and swimming in any body of water I find.  I also love traveling and have been lucky enough to get to travel a lot for gigs!  And taking advantage of all the arts offerings in NYC, where I've been based."

    If you could be a cartoon character, who would you be?
          "I love Winnie the Pooh.  It'd be great to live in the forest with all my friends (and eating lots of honey wouldn't be too bad either)."

    You are trapped on an island.  What three items do you want to have with you?
          "A copy of Shakespeare's Complete Works, scuba gear, and my trusty, indestructible two-person tent."

    Do you have any uncommon talents or quirks?
          "Pigeons are my favorite animal!  They’re not rats with wings, they're rock doves.  Don't judge - Charles Darwin and Nikola Tesla loved them too..."
          "Doing lots of outdoor summer theatre has honed my ability to perform while being swarmed by bugs.  The worst is when you're lying dead onstage and they’re biting your face and you can't do anything about it... "

    What brings you to VSA?
          "I'm currently a master's candidate in the Arts in Education program at HGSE, and I met Mia last spring at Lincoln Center's symposium on arts & autism!  I've been working as a theatre artist and educator for the past ten years, most recently building an arts program for a therapeutic school in Manhattan, and I believe the arts are a crucial tool for creating a more just and equitable society.  I'm excited to work with and learn from the VSA team and develop my capacity to be of service as an artist-educator."

    What are you doing during your fellowship?
          "I'll be working with Mia on the management and operations side of COOL Schools, tracking data and managing family communication, designing programs and community events, and working on professional development for teachers.  I can't wait to dive in!"

    Meet the Program Fellow - Lauren Shron

    Posted Wednesday October 10 2018 at 1:59 pm in Education

    Lauren Shron - Program Fellow

    Hello, I'm Lauren!  I'm originally from Sudbury, MA and recently graduated in May from Syracuse University.  (And here's me in Sydney, Australia where I studied abroad for 4 months!)  This year, I'm in the Language and Literacy program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for the Ed.M. 2019 class.

    What are your favorite pastimes?
          "Dancing!  I love, love, love to dance and I teach classes in my free time.  I also enjoy making homemade popcorn and watching the Patriots! :)"

    If you could be a cartoon character, who would you be?
          "Wanda from The Fairly OddParents - she is funny, she can fly and has amazing pink hair!"

    You are trapped on an island.  What three items do you want to have with you?
          "1. Pizza (YUM!)  2. Hammock (To relax and watch the waves)  3. My brother's dog named Milo (Buddy to play fetch and swim with)"

    Do you have any uncommon talents or quirks?
          "I can sing all of the states in alphabetical order, I sew blankets for family and friends, and I can make origami sail boats."

    What brings you to VSA?
          "VSA combines the two things I am most passionate about: inclusive education and the arts.  For the past four years, I studied Inclusive Elementary and Special Education and I have been a dancer and performer since elementary school.  I want to support educators to make their classrooms and practices inclusive for students of all abilities.  I believe that everyone who engages in inclusive education will benefit from it."

    What are you doing during your fellowship?
          "As a program fellow, my primary focus will be with the COOL Schools program.  I will help maintain communication within teaching teams as well as assist with data collection and social media."

    Inside/Out: Kinetic Light At Jacob’s Pillow

    Posted Tuesday July 31 2018 at 5:47 pm in News

    Wheelchair Dance

    Working in the disciplines of art, design, architecture, and social justice, Kinetic Light creates, performs, and teaches at the intersections of disability, dance, and race.  They present the work Under Momentum, which celebrates the joy of being in continuous motion, the allure of speed, and the beautiful futility of resisting gravity.  Performed on and around a set of exquisitely engineered ramps, this program of solos and duets ranges through explorations of balance, stillness, and falls as Kinetic Light's disabled dancers release into the forces of acceleration, gravity, and torque.  Dynamic grace and athleticism are on full display in these works.  Extraordinary partnering facilitated by the dynamic combination of slopes and wheels reveal the power of trust and the emotionally compelling relationships of bodies and technology.

    Wednesday August 1, 2018 at 6:15PM
    Jacob's Pillow
    358 George Carter Road
    Becket MA, 01223
    More Information

    "What I See" Exhibit by Dominic Killiany - Open Door Gallery @ Worcester Art Museum - Final 2 Weeks

    Posted Sunday July 15 2018 at 11:15 pm in Open Door Gallery

    Painting by Dominic Killiany

    Dominic Killiany is a 20-year-old man living with autism.  This interpretation of the world reflects his knowledge of order, balance, and symmetry with a touch of abstract expressionism in a symphony of color.  Dominic has exhibited at the Watertown Public Library in April 2014, 2016, and 2018.  His first solo show of 24 artworks was October, 2017 in Landau Gallery, Belmont Hill School, Belmont, MA.

    What I See is on view through July 30, 2018 at the Open Door Gallery in the Higgins Education Wing of the Worcester Art Museum.  You don't want to miss this stunning exploration of color, shape, and perception!

    Worcester Art Museum hours are: Wednesday through Sunday, 10am - 4pm and the third Thursday of the month until 8pm.

    Learn more about Dominic by visiting his website.

    Donna Folan's "Thigh High Boots, a Scooter, and a Stage" Premieres at Wheelock Family Theatre

    Posted Wednesday May 30 2018 at 1:33 pm in News

    Donna Folan - mouth covered by yellow caution tape

    "Thigh-high Boots, a Scooter, and a Stage", a play about the life of 2017 Boston Foundation LAB (Live Arts Boston) Grant recipient Donna Folan, premieres June 1, 2018 at Wheelock Family Theatre.

    This new play is about the life of Boston actress and VSA teaching artist Donna Folan.  She is founder of Access to Theatre, the award-winning, inclusive theatre program with Partners for Youth with Disabilities, and her belief in creative expression and passion for inclusive theater practices also imbues her company, Until Tomorrow Productions.

    Written and directed by Susan Kosoff, "Thigh-high Boots, a Scooter, and a Stage" presents a bias-breaking, assumption-kicking story of a woman driven by the practice of theater.  The play is performed by Folan and interpreted in American Sign Language by Jody Steiner.

    "Donna is that charismatic, slightly deranged storyteller you should probably report to the PC police, if you could only stop laughing." – John Bay; actor, director, educator, colleague and fan.

    "A feisty bad a** truth teller" – Jeremy Alliger; Executive Director, Alliger Arts.

    Buy tickets - June 1, 2018 7:30pm show

    Buy tickets - June 3, 2018 3:00pm show

    More information

    Open Door Gallery - Fashion Accessibility Project Exhibiting Now through August 3, 2018

    Posted Saturday May 26 2018 at 8:45 pm in Open Door Gallery

    Fashion is political.  Fashion is powerful.  Fashion allows us to express the autonomy we have over our bodies and our identities to the world.  However, the many barriers that exist in the fashion industry and its historical marginalization of the disability community have often left people with disabilities out of the conversation.

    To flip this script, Epicenter Community (now Transformative Culture Project), in collaboration with Arts Emerson, convened many partners, including VSA Massachusetts, to launch the Fashion Accessibility Project (FAP) : a celebration of disability, beauty and humanity through fashion.

    FAP convened people with disabilities and fashion designers to create custom-made outfits that were showcased in a fashion show at the Paramount Black Box Theater on June 24, 2017.  The show created a platform for community to get dressed up, feel beautiful and celebrate our common humanity, but more importantly, it gave visibility and urgency to this conversation.

    This exhibit is a visual retrospective of the FAP process and show, and allows us to continue the conversation, highlight the great work that’s happening around adaptive fashion, and create a call for continued change.

    Reception May 31, 2018 6-9pm, Panel Discussion 6:30pm with:
      ●   Nicole Agois, Moderator, VSA MA Managing Director
      ●   Heather Watkins, Activist and blogger
      ●   Keith Jones, Activist, advocate and performer, President of SoulTouchin' Experiences
      ●   Jay Calderin, Fashion designer, and Director of Boston Fashion Week
      ●   Arielle Gray, Writer, and Social Media and #AssembleBOS Coordinator, TCP
      ●   Nicole Olusanya, Special Initiatives Manager, ArtsEmerson

    Teaching Artist Takeaways: Laura Evonne Steinman Mindfulness Training at the SHED Children's Campus

    Posted Saturday May 19 2018 at 6:28 pm in Education


    It was Wednesday, April 11th 2018 and I bundled all up with my winter clothes on (yes in April!) and headed to a 2 hour Mindfulness Training.  I was cold, it was dark, at night and my thoughts were racing with all the items on my to do list for prepping for my next art sessions AND everything else in life, right!?!

    At first, I didn't know if I was in the right location, it was quiet and the lights were off . . . but then I realized that I was in the right place for my whole being!

    As I entered the space, I saw yoga mats were laid out in a circle with blankets on them.  Floor lights lit the space, battery candles were going, and the smell of essential oils from a humidifier filled the air.  A sense of intentional space and calm filled the area.

    At the center of the circle of yoga mats was a spring collection of items like twigs, pine cones, flowers, etc.  Linda shared that by creating a warm and welcoming space, this welcomes in our whole being, and encourages us to already be present without consciously knowing this.

    Read More →

    Teaching Artist Takeaways: Jodi Schmidt at NAEA National Convention

    Posted Wednesday May 02 2018 at 4:22 pm in Education

    Jodi Schmidt at NAEA

    Sometimes, believe it or not, as an art teacher, you can feel like a bit of a weird-o.  You are usually the only art teacher at your school.  You have the largest amount of supplies at schools but often times the least amount of space.  Some adults even think that all you do is facilitate play time and they wonder if the kids really are participating in rigorous learning.

    At the National Art Education Conference you are not a weird-o.  You are in a place that validates strongly held beliefs that art is essential for growth and learning, that it is an anchor and a necessity for so many kids, that art makes learning alive and makes mistakes interesting.

    One sentiment that was repeated by several of the artists who's talks I attended was, art helped them figure out who they are, and remember who they are through difficult times.  Their art, especially as teenagers and young people gave them something that was all their own and grounded them. And like art does, it helps you find your friends and kindred souls.

    Read More →

    Meet the Teaching Artist - Kathleen Moye

    Posted Sunday April 22 2018 at 10:05 pm in Education

    Kathleen Moye in the classroom with students

    Hi!  I am a teaching artist with a flair for the dramatic.  Each lesson encourages improvisation and teaches skills for bringing original characters to life on stage, and storytelling.  Theater education helps people gain confidence and freedom of expression in their communication and creative abilities to share their story.  And I believe everyone has a story.

    Early Inspiration

    As a child, my dad tried desperately to get me to love going fishing with him, but what I loved best were his "Big Fish" stories.  Family dinners were like private performances, watching him spin family legends out of everyday happenings.  I practiced his flair, regaling my friends on the playground with stories of simple adventures about getting ready for school or making cookies.  The topic wasn't important; it was about the action of sharing and entertaining.  Fast forward a few years, and I was singing in choirs and starring in school plays (annoyingly memorizing everyone's lines and cueing them onstage when they got stuck).  The "acting bug" bit me early, and it may be one of the reasons I'm so passionate about designing and directing creative theater programs for children and teens.

    After getting my degree in Theatre from Florida Gulf Coast University, I worked in professional theaters, voiceover acting, and radio journalism.  For 10 years, I told the stories of the companies and nonprofits where I worked, building a career in public relations and marketing by day and creating larger than life comedic and dramatic characters on stage by night.

    Read More →

    Meet the Teaching Artist - Rebecca Elowe

    Posted Wednesday March 28 2018 at 3:16 pm in Education

    Rebecca Elowe

    Hello!  I am Rebecca Elowe, actor/musician/educator.  As a performer and educator, I use the arts to inspire others to question, connect, and engage.  I love when art asks difficult questions, and I believe that through theatrical experiences, we learn to work together to discover possible answers.

    Rebecca Elowe

    At four years old, I decided that I wanted to be a professional violinist.  Too small for a real violin, I was first handed a homemade version - a tissue box with a toilet paper roll attached to it.  I eventually graduated to the real thing and continued to love the violin while also discovering new interests - singing, dancing, acting, and eventually circus arts.  I discovered the true extent of my passion for the arts when I realized that I could combine all of these interests into one piece of theatre.  My favorite performances integrate many forms of storytelling (movement, music, puppets, and more) and inspire a sense of play and wonder.

    Read More →

    Meet the Teaching Artist - Ali Blake

    Posted Thursday March 08 2018 at 5:03 pm in Education

    Ali Blake

    Hello!  I'm Ali Blake, artist, educator, wonderer, maker, and COOL teaching artist in the OSDC program at Dorchester's Community Academy of Science and Health this academic year!

    The largest question that drives my artistic (and research) practice these days is "what is the significance of creating and wearing our own clothes?"

    This experience, I propose, allows us to learn about ourselves and each other through the active work of making and wearing our own clothes (together).  Making our own clothing, on our own terms, sharing that (and thus ourselves) with the world, and engaging with the significance from and future possibilities within this act is a powerful experience.

    This persistent thread of questioning and creating and teaching through wearable making has grown through explorations in my own clothing-making and clothing-wearing experiences throughout my life.  I began to explore this most explicitly as an undergraduate at Rhode Island School of Design, where I studied Textiles along with Gender, Sexuality, + Race and Environmental Studies.

    Read More →

    Meet the Teaching Artist - Mark Fuller

    Posted Wednesday February 28 2018 at 3:34 pm in Education

    Mark Fuller

    Hello friends!  My name is Mark Fuller and I am a Board Certified Music Therapist.  As a music therapist, I use music as my tool to support the abilities of others to further grow and develop both artistically and developmentally.  With evidence based interventions, my goal is to discover the innate abilities that we have through the use of rhythm and harmony.  I believe that our music begins from the first beat of our heart and is carried with us throughout our lives to nurture and align ourselves with the world around us.

    I am a graduate of Berklee College of Music where I furthered my passion for singing jazz and contemporary styles of music while studying Music Therapy.  I enjoy learning and discovering new instruments and listening to music from all over the world.  I am often caught dancing to the music I listen to in my ear buds and using various music platforms to discover new artists.

    In my training at Berklee, I was able to practice music therapy with a variety of different populations including medical systems, nursing facilities, early interventions, psychiatric facilities, and rehabilitation hospitals.  With my clinical internship at Boston Children’s Hospital I found my passion for continuing my career working with adolescents because of the novelty of experiencing music with them.  I find it inspiring to discover new skills and experiences with children and supporting them as they try something for the first time.

    Read More →

    Examining Cultural Equity in the Arts - Arts Connect International

    Posted Sunday February 11 2018 at 11:25 pm in Cultural Inclusion

    Reinforcing feedback loops

    Arts Connect International (ACI); a Boston-based non-profit committed to equity in the arts, released a community findings research report, "Examining Cultural Equity in the Arts."

    "There is a 'cultural equity gap' within the United States arts landscape.  This equity gap constitutes the unequal representation in the arts of various identities, including, but not limited to: race, disability, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status (class).  The cultural equity gap arises from a systemic inequity in access to the arts, as well as access to positions of power within the arts."

    To better understand the cultural equity gap and its implications on access, ACI launched a two-part study in the summer of 2017, in collaboration with UMass Boston, and with support from the Social Science Research Center’s Dissertation Development Program, funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Phase I of the study, whose findings are in the report, cover a national survey and focus groups with local arts leaders, engaged to paint a fuller picture of our arts landscape and leadership.  Phase I focuses on 'influencers' (i.e. arts managers, educators, funders, etc.) understandings and attitudes surrounding the cultural equity gap.  Phase II, set to launch in the summer of 2018, will focus on a community-contextualized perspectives and voices.

    Learn more through downloading or reading the report in PDF.  Text only versions, which read more effectively with screen readers, are available.  Please email Marian Taylor Brown, principle investigator, for said version, and with any questions or comments: marian@artsconnectinternational.org

    Meet the Intern: Alessandra Ruhoy

    Posted Wednesday February 07 2018 at 11:00 pm in Call For Artists

    Alessandra Ruhoy

    Hey!  My name is Alessandra Ruhoy!  I go to school at Learning Prep School in West Newton and I would love to be an actress when I grow up.

    What are your favorite pastimes?
          "I love to laugh, play the drums, work on my original comics, have movie nights, sing karaoke, and dance."

    If you could be a cartoon character, who would you be?
          "I have been working on an original comic and there is a character who is based on me."

    You are trapped on an island.  What three items do you want to have with you?
          "I would like to have a blanket, a heat source, and some sort of boat so I could get off the island."

    Do you have any uncommon talents or quirks?
          "Once I start laughing, it takes a while until I stop!  I also have a lot of energy and ability to talk a lot so my friends wonder when I'll ever grow tired!"

    What brings you to VSA?
          "I am here at VSA because I think it's a great experience to have.  It's my first real job and it's an opportunity to further develop my computer and office skills while working with a great organization."

    What are you doing during your internship?
          "During my internship I'll be working in the office on projects related to COOL Schools."

    Meet the Teaching Artist - Shannon Feeney

    Posted Tuesday January 30 2018 at 9:21 pm in Education

    Shannon Feeney in the classroom
    One on one demonstration during mask making lesson.

    I am a teaching artist.  As a teaching artist, I employ a design process in the classroom.  The students and I research, plan, execute, revise, celebrate and envision each lesson together.  The purpose of this process is to help my students foster a deeper connection to their own creativity and imagination, thus encouraging further exploration and expansion of their own artistic appreciation, interests, and pursuits.

    Ms. Feeney modeling wearable art by a student
    Ms. Feeney modeling wearable art by a nine year old student.

    I am currently in a yearlong visual arts internship at the Dr. William W. Henderson K-12 Inclusion School, Lower Campus in Boston.  My students range from 3 to 6 years of age.  Henderson provides an enhanced arts experience and the school delivers support and enrichment based on an individual student's needs.  It's truly a magical environment, where a student's positive interactions and school/community service are celebrated.

    Read More →

    And Our New Director of Programs is . . . (drum roll please)

    Posted Tuesday January 16 2018 at 11:52 pm in News

    Portia Abernathy Brown

    The VSA MA family is thrilled to welcome Portia Abernathy Brown to the team, as our new Director of Programs!  In this new position, Portia will be overseeing programming both in our Education and Cultural Inclusion programs, as well as supporting development efforts.

    Personally and professionally, Portia is committed to VSA's mission to promote the meaningful inclusion of all people in our cultural community and could not be more excited to have the opportunity to do the work she loves with a team that shares her enthusiasm and passion.

    Portia was inspired early on by a family member with a disability to pursue a career in special education.  She began working for Denver Public Schools as an Affective Needs teacher for students with Social and Emotional disabilities.  In the classroom, she drew on her own background and students' interests to infuse the arts into the curriculum to deepen learning, increase engagement, support self-expression, and connect with general education peers.  It was clear from those experiences how powerful the arts are as levers for equity, access, community, creativity, learning, and inclusion.

    Read More →

    Meet the Teaching Artist - Laura Evonne Steinman

    Posted Sunday January 07 2018 at 5:06 pm in Education

    Laura Evonne Steinman

    Hello, I'm Laura Evonne Steinman, Community Artist/Educator/Activist.  I have been making a creative mess since I was a little kid building forts.  I didn't like the color pink until I was almost 40 years old, go figure.

    I believe that our lives are nurtured and transformed by creating art together!  I create Art in and with community members.  I love working on collaborative projects that are for rituals, social justice rallies, environmental actions, and just because we need more creative outlets in our lives!  My main mediums of creating are with materials that have been discarded or passed along -- already used.  From textiles to containers to stuff on the clearance rack.  I'm a big trash picker and thrift store shopper.  You probably would not find me collecting materials at a traditional art store, but instead at a yard sale!

    My artistic experiences come from a web of many places and people.  From growing up and traveling, to hanging out with my Aunt Brenda volunteering on a community farm, to always moving furniture around to create sacred spaces.  The suitcase that I travel with comes from me having a learning disability when I was growing up in the early 80’s -- when folks didn't know what to do with me.  I didn't like school and found my joys in creating art and exploring in nature.  I got through the K-12 education system with a bunch of support and thrived in art school.  In undergrad I studied Sculpture at Rhode Island School of Design and then went on to receive my Master of Art in Art Education with a concentration in Community Art at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

    Read More →