VSA Arts is now Arts Equity

arts equity logoDear RI Colleagues and Community,

A small RI arts & education nonprofit organization will soon be ending, following a successful three decades.  During that time, it has helped artists become more visible and recognized, it has allowed young people to find their artistic voice and it has guided and encouraged state arts organizations to be more accommodating and welcoming to the needs of a significant portion of RI’s population – those with disabilities.

VSA arts Rhode Island, the state organization on arts and disability, is that nonprofit. As of January 1st, VSA changed its name to ‘Arts Equity’ and over the course of the next year will work to transition its critical arts programming to other like-minded organizations. The change in name and affiliation follows a decision last year by officials at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which runs the VSA Network, to end the affiliate structure and revoke state organizations, like VSA arts RI, from using the name as of December 31st, 2019.

Since 1986 when started by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith as Very Special Arts, we have worked diligently to create a Rhode Island where people with disabilities are welcomed in our state’s cultural community, have their talents celebrated and to ensure that we have equitable access as artists and patrons. While we are disappointed in the Kennedy Center’s decision, we remain committed to our mission of building accessible art communities that value diversity and honor differences. Over the last year, we have met with artists, donors, funders and representatives from arts, education and disability organizations in order to evaluate the organization’s current and future prospects;  the feedback validates a continuing need for our unique services.

We know that there are still students with disabilities who do not have full access to an education in the arts in their classroom. We are well aware that there are still arts organizations providing programming that is inaccessible to those who are deaf or blind, who live somewhere on the autism spectrum or who use a mobility device that is not accommodated at an entrance door, an auditorium space or a restroom.  We understand that most adult artists with disabilities continue to have major barriers to having their work seen and heard and earning even a portion of their living through the sale of their artistic endeavors. So please be assured that we are committed to finding permanent homes for the significant programming we have developed over the last 30+ years.

During the next months we will transition several of our longstanding programs and services – including our established RISD Museum and Allen Ginsberg Poetry initiatives – to compatible art and disability organizations to ensure their longevity and advancement. When we began in the 80s there were few organizations in the state providing arts programming to individuals with disabilities. Today, we are extremely happy to point to numerous arts, cultural and educational groups across the state that are our partners and now have their own programs for and provide accommodations to people with disabilities, offering greater participation and inclusion throughout our state. We are gratified that access for people with disabilities has grown to be a shared value held by many community organizations and are confident that they will continue the education and accessibility advocacy in the arts that we helped launch.

We also want to take this opportunity to thank our VSA family: Board of Directors, employees, volunteers, partners and participants who have committed their time, talents and expertise. We are proud of the work we have accomplished together and now look ahead to the next steps in all our journeys: valuing the arts as essential for all of us and making the arts available AND accessible to people of ALL abilities.

Please visit Arts Equity on social media to follow our progress.

Jeannine L. Chartier, Executive & Artistic Director

Dr. Rosemary Burns, Board of Directors President

Arts Equity, formerly VSA arts Rhode Island

RISCA Applauds Federal Support for Arts in Rhode Island!

The National Endowment for the Arts announced today that it has awarded grants totaling $150,000 to six arts organizations and agencies in Rhode Island. These federal grants support projects by some of Rhode Island’s major arts institutions.

In announcing the grants, Chairman Mary Anne Carter said “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support grants throughout the entire country that connect people through shared experiences and artistic expression. These projects provide access to the arts for people of all abilities and backgrounds in both urban centers and rural communities.”

Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, said, “we are delighted that the National Endowment for the Arts has supported Rhode Island through these grants.” He went on to say that, “this federal support, matched by our state’s investment in the arts, provides a significant return to our economy, jobs, education and the quality of life we enjoy here in the Ocean State. The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is proud to work with our federal partner in that effort.”

Here is the list of grants in Rhode Island that were recently announced by the National Endowment for the Arts:

Rhode Island
Number of Grants: 6 Total Dollar Amount:  $150,000
Alliance of Artists Communities
$45,000 Providence, RI
Art Works – Artist Communities
To support an initiative focused on advancing diversity and inclusion for the artist residency field.
DownCity Design
$35,000 Providence, RI
Art Works – Design
To support Creative Adaptation, a series of free design education programs focused on the redesign of existing amenities in public spaces, amenities, or programs within Providence neighborhoods.
$15,000 Providence, RI
Art Works – Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works
To support the touring of Good Grief, a multimedia dance theater work that explores healing after trauma.
New Urban Arts
$15,000 Providence, RI
Art Works – Arts Education
To support teaching artist fees for an arts mentorship program for high school students in underserved communities.
Providence Children’s Museum
$20,000 Providence, RI
Art Works – Design
To support the Creativity Initiative, a program that engages local designers and artists to create immersive, hands-on design exhibits, and educational programming for youth.
Trinity Repertory Company (aka Trinity Rep)
$20,000 Providence, RI
Art Works – Theater
To support a production of Radio Golf by August Wilson and related project activities.

Jamestown Arts Center Announces New Executive Director, Maureen Coleman

The Jamestown Arts Center (JAC) is excited to announce the appointment of Maureen Coleman as its new Executive Director. Coleman brings to the JAC over 25 years of non-profit leadership and development experience.  She will be the JAC’s second executive director when she starts her new role on February 3, 2020. Coleman joins the JAC as it celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.

Coleman’s non-profit work includes leadership and advancement roles at the Norman Bird Sanctuary, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Save The Bay, IYRS, and URI. She also served as VP of Operations at the Buzzards Bay Coalition. In each role, she has focused on engaging community support and inspiring high performing teams to accomplish organizational goals.

For more information, view the full press release from the Jamestown Arts Center.