This week I had the opportunity to attend the VSA Arts Congressional Reception with my mentor Yoshiko Dart. Shout out to Andy Imparato who was also there. VSA is basically an international, cross-disability organization focusing on disability and arts, working to ensure people with disabilities have access to the art world either through presenting their own works or participating in inclusive art education programs. The program was founded by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith in 1974 and is affiliated with The Kennedy Center.
The event was pretty neat as it featured a young artist from every state that participated in the CVS Caremark competition to have their artwork displayed at the reception- other pieces can be seen on exhibit at Union Station. There were also a variety of VSA artists in attendance who are showcased in the International VSA Festival. The festival features a wide variety of art forms, from music to performance to readings. I enjoyed the reception because of its fusion of the art/ creative world and the advocacy/ political world. This is not to say the two are mutually exclusive, but the two circles do not often intersect despite having a broadly similar goal of promoting equality for the disability community. When Ambassador Kennedy Smith spoke she mentioned the importance of making art accessible to the disability community, emphasizing its importance as a medium of self-expression. Self-expression is vital to the promotion of the disability community's rights. Too many times we are the subjects of photos, of literature, of news stories without our true voice being heard. Art, as sponsored through this organization, has the power to represent the reality of the disability community, providing another avenue for advocacy. One of my professional goals for the summer was to learn about the different ways I can be a disability rights advocate so this reception opened my eyes to a new avenue of involvement. The reception also included speeches by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Patrick Kennedy, and Senator Harkin to name a few, discussing the importance of Healthcare Reform, VSA arts, and this year’s ADA anniversary.