VSA Arts of Iowa

Jean Ann Kennedy Smith, sister of the 35th U.S. President, John F. Kennedy,  is the founder of VSA, an internationally recognized non-profit dedicated to creating a society where those with disabilities can engage with the arts. VSA is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts which is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Smith’s sister, Rose Marie Kennedy, had an intellectual disability. Smith’s experiences with helping Rose Marie live a full life gave her an insight into the abilities of people with disabilities. In the ’70s, the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts realized that arts education was not being pushed as much as it could be. George Stevens [who was the chairman of the board] and Smith realized that artists with disabilities in schools needed to be encouraged to develop their talents, and to have a showcase and a voice on their behalf. And so VSA was started.

Each year, people of all ages and abilities participate in VSA programs, which cover all artistic genres—music, dance, visual arts, theater and literary arts. This is accomplished through a network of affiliates in 52 countries and VSA state organizations across America.

VSA Iowa was founded in 1977 and is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit. Our headquarter is in Des Moines, Iowa at the Iowa Department of Education. VSA Iowa has a history of excellence in programming and providing access to creative and performing arts to youth and young adults through our longstanding classroom and community workshops.

VSA Iowa programs are free of cost through funding and grants provided by The Kennedy Center as well as Iowa corporations, foundations and private individuals.

Programming is provided to more than 5,000 Iowa children each year through workshops aimed at fostering a culture of accessible art classes for people of all abilities. Approximately 80 percent of our program participants have some type of disability. Additionally, we estimate at least 60 percent are also low-income. All VSA Iowa programs are designed for children who are at-risk, have a physical disability, mental health diagnosis, and/or behavioral disorder.

www.vsaiowa.org

 

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