Mission Statement & History

VSA New Hampshire uses the power of the arts to work toward creating a society where people with and without disabilities have the same opportunities to experience the arts as artists and as audience members.

The arts - music, theatre, visual arts, sculpture, dance, movement, and writing - are a place where diversity and originality are valued and respected. The creative process itself leads us to better understand one another, and it helps to break down personal and societal barriers.

VSA New Hampshire motivates organizations to include the arts in existing programs, to embrace universal design, and adopt program improvements that will fully include people with disabilities and benefit all people.

artistic mosaic displaying the letters NH

History in New Hampshire & the USA

VSA New Hampshire was established in 1986 and is fortunate to be a member of a worldwide network of international VSA arts organizations.

Our headquarters organization, VSA, was established in 1974 and is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. VSA is an international organization that creates learning opportunities through the arts for people with disabilities. There are VSA affiliates and programs in nearly all states and the District of Columbia, and 70 international affiliates in 67 countries. VSA programs now serve 4.3 million Americans and 1.3 million people in other parts of the world.

VSA arts is the sole national organization charged by Congress with serving all persons with disabilities through the arts.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Young girl holding artwork

1. What does "VSA" stand for?

Late in 1999 Very Special Arts changed its name to VSA arts and in 2010 to VSA - The National Organization on Arts and Disabilities.   As VSA New Hampshire we use this name to represent the wide range of ways that we advocate and support access to the arts for all individuals.

2. Why arts for people with disabilities?

From the beginning of a child's education to the time when he or she becomes an adult and pursues a career, studies have shown that the arts enhance both personal and academic success. Studies published in the Journal of Research in Music Education report that elementary school students who participate in music programs score higher in reading, mathematics, language, and overall achievement tests. Recent reports from The College Board indicate that students who study the arts in high school earn higher S.A.T. scores. And the National Arts Education Center reports that students who participate in studio art courses improve their writing and vocabulary skills. All of these findings underscore the value of the arts in positively shaping the lives of all people.

Boy Raising Arms in a Dance
photo by Althea Haropulos

This value is evident when we look at the lives of people with disabilities. For hundreds of years, people with disabilities have fought negative images and stereotypes, and have often been denied equal opportunity within communities worldwide. Now, through the arts, we are breaking new ground. For people with disabilities, the arts represent a world of resources and opportunities, providing an outlet for creative expression and unlimited possibilities for personal, academic, and professional success. And, because art is an infinite and unconditional field, people with disabilities are free to express themselves without physical, social, or attitudinal barriers.

Marcel Proust wrote: "Only through art can we emerge from ourselves and know what another person sees." When we see art as the universal language that has the ability to unite all people, we understand the importance it has in the lives of people with disabilities. For a person who cannot speak, a dance performance may clearly communicate even the most complicated message. For a person with a mental disability who cannot communicate effectively through words, a painting rich with color and life may say more than verbal sentences ever could. And, for a person who has limited mobility, a song sung with emotion and spirit may elicit movement toward a state of clarity and joy. By engaging in the arts, people with disabilities are able to greatly contribute to our workplaces and communities, help extinguish old stereotypes regarding disability, and create a global culture truly representative of all people.

Person in a wheelchair raising arms while a teacher instructs
photo by Althea Haropulos

3. Why are the arts essential to learning?

Many people still see the arts as an extra. However, the world is beginning to discover that the arts provide critical tools for learning in all academic disciplines, thus helping young people become better students today, and better employees tomorrow. According to the College Entrance Examination Board, students who participate in the arts score nearly 100 points higher on the SAT than students who don't. In addition, the more years students participate in the arts, the higher their SAT scores. Recent studies show that students who participate in school music programs score higher in reading, mathematics, language, and overall achievement test scores. Research summaries show that a complete arts education, including dance, music and drama, contributes to improved academic performance for students with disabilities. By employing the multiple learning potentials of the arts, VSA arts programs cultivate lifelong educational skills and help people with disabilities contribute to the cultural and economic life of their communities.

Two women playing persussion instruments
photo by Althea Haropulos

4. Are you an arts therapy organization?

Many people with disabilities involved in our programs use art to nurture independence and self-worth. The medical practitioners and patients benefiting from our program are using art as a means of therapy.  But our goal is not the same as that of the art therapy profession. We aim to provide access to the arts. What people do with that access is up to them, but you can be sure we encourage that access every step of the way.

 

Creating strong community

One of the things that we have discovered over the years is that the arts provide children and adults with so much more than an artistic or cultural experience. For individuals with disabilities, VSA arts of NH sees that these programs provide a new sense of community participation, personal accomplishment, and a feeling of having a "voice" and being heard - sometimes for the very first time.

When appreciated in this way, these programs are ultimately about building community at a very elemental level. They help create personal, social, and community connections.

Art, whatever the medium, is always about finding one's voice and it is all of our voices that make the chorus of community strong.

 

VSA arts of New Hampshire Staff

VSA New Hampshire Board of Directors

James Raymond President Concord
 
Deborah Stuart Program Committee Chair Wentworth
Kelly Doremus Stuart Secretary Concord
Dr. Cynthia Vascak Assistant Secretary Campton
Maureen Hall Treasurer Merrimack