Since 1986, VSA Minnesota has worked statewide to make art more accessible for people with disabilities. This morning, the organization announced that it would cease operations in September 2019.
VSA leaders are making it clear that while they will be ending services and projects, this isn't a "mission accomplished" situation.
“It would not be wrong to say that Minnesotans with disabilities have greater access to the arts than do individuals with disabilities in the 49 other states," says executive director Craig Dunn. "However, we cannot say that every person with a disability in this state has full and equitable access to the arts in all its forms."
The board of directors made the decision in October, concluding that dwindling resources and the upcoming retirement of two staffers would make it very difficult to continue. In 2020 they would also have faced the loss of the organization's name due to trademark issues with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
VSA Minnesota is hoping that other local groups will be able to pick up the mantle on some of their longtime services, which include educational programs, grants, and storing archives featuring historical artifacts and other works. COMPAS and the Metro Regional Arts Council are in talks to offer educational opportunities.
Leading up to VSA's finale, the nonprofit will offer a final round of grants for emerging artists, and host a variety of performances, exhibitions, and benefits showcasing artists with disabilities and special needs.
“None of us are happy that the organization that began as Very Special Arts Minnesota and grew to the entity now known as VSA Minnesota is to be no more," says board chair Maggie Karli. "However, we are proud to have been part of its many triumphs over the years and we each look forward to the many ways new individuals and organizations will step forward to enliven the mission that has served Minnesota so well.”