VSA Ohio is an affiliate of VSA, the international organization on arts and disability, founded by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith 40 years ago. In 1979, Ohio presented the first regional Very Special Arts Ohio Festival. By 1986, Very Special Arts Ohio was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) with offices at Wright State University presenting festivals, newsletters, exhibitions, and arts education experiences. In 1991, VSAO moved to the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts in Columbus and expanded programming with training for educators, art therapy, and a statewide art exhibition.
In 2000, the VSA affiliate network changed names to respect constituents with a more progressive brand, and became VSA arts of Ohio. In 2006, VSA arts international became an affiliate of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, bringing additional resources and best practices to the affiliates. In 2010, the affiliate network again rebranded, and VSAO became VSA Ohio, the state organization on arts and disability.
Today, 28 years after its founding, VSA Ohio is a community that helps inspired aritsts connect with their passion, service providers with resources, and all citizens with creative opportunities. Ever-evolving programs provide an inclusive environment in which people with disabilities are given the opportunity to celebrate life through the arts, education, and creative expression. A network of local, regional, and state-level partners, grass roots efforts, and twenty-first century outreach strategies allow VSAO to serve many of Ohio’s 88 counties. VSAO is an advocate with services that directly impact more than 20,000 lives at the dynamic intersection of arts, education, and disability. Public awareness efforts in classrooms, galleries, and other community spaces across Ohio ensure that thousands more indirectly benefit from programs and learn more about arts and disability.
VSA Ohio is a state affiliate of VSA, a program of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Our connection to these national networks afford access to information, best practices, and operational guidance. Our ability to bring high-quality resources to Ohio advances our position as the go-to organization on arts and disability. We have a demonstrated record of success and accountability, sustaining and expanding partnerships with institutions at all levels to increase access and inclusion. With a Columbus office, much of our work and partnerships are grown in, and have a strong impact on, central Ohio. VSAO raises awareness about people with disabilities, arts, and arts education. One aspect of success is empowering constituents to be advocates for themselves and these issues. VSAO staff and board are quick to see challenges as opportunities and are dedicated to continued improvement.
VSA Ohio directly impacts thousands of Ohioans with and without disabilities and reaches tens of thousands more through outreach. Since 2009, we have streamlined operations to increase efficiency and sustain programming. The board diligently monitors our financial position and alignment of services with mission to maintain focus amidst a tumultuous economy. A fresh look at governance, new fundraising strategies, and program prioritization have favorably positioned VSAO for the coming years. I have been a board member for many years and just began my first year as president. Working with this outstanding organization has changed my life. Seeing the creativity and talents of artists with disabilities and creating opportunities for those individuals and families to share their abilities with others has had a profound effect on my personal and professional life. I am honored to lead this dedicated board and small, passionate staff to advance access to the arts and arts education.