VSA Massachusetts (VSA MA) promotes the involvement of people of all abilities in the cultural life of our communities by:
1) Developing multi-sensory arts-integrated teaching strategies in our schools, creating new pathways to success for all students;
2) Sponsoring exhibitions and performances by artists of all abilities;
3) Helping families and communities understand and celebrate the transformative effect of the arts to promote inclusion.
VSA MA is a leader in an international network of VSA organizations serving the United States and about 50 other nations. VSA was founded by President Kennedy’s sister, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, and is a program of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Originally known as the National Committee Arts for the Handicapped 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 and to recognize access to the arts as a basic civil right.
Through the arts, we are breaking new ground. For people with disabilities, the arts represent a world of resources and opportunities. Artistic expression provides an outlet for creative voice and unlimited possibilities for personal, academic and professional success. By engaging in the arts, people with disabilities visibly contribute to our classrooms, workplaces and communities, extinguish false stereotypes, and create a global culture that truly represents all people.
The COOL Schools program creates classrooms where students and teachers have a Creative Outlook on Learning. Through the arts students have a variety of ways to experience academic content, express what they know, and engage in learning. The model engages students and teachers through the arts to transform schools into inclusive communities. COOL teaching artists collaborate with classroom teachers to introduce strategies inherent in the arts to include every student and support their learning in the arts as well as in other academic subjects. We work with each school to identify the grade levels, classrooms, and curriculum areas where programs are likely to have the most transformative impact in their schools' plans to support inclusion. COOL teaching artists and classroom teachers co-create and co-teach instructional units, using Common Core Standards for both arts and academic content.