10 Great Reasons to Attend the LEAD® Conference

Thinking about attending the annual Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD®) Conference? Here are the top 10 reasons why it’s a smart choice for professional development for arts administrators of every level.  

  1. Access to ideas. Tap into the collective “brain trust” of arts administrators from museums, theaters, parks, zoos, libraries, and other cultural venues.


  2. Become indispensable to your organization. What you’ll take away from LEAD® will show current and future employers that you’re knowledgeable and dedicated to inclusion and accessibility in the arts. Plainly put, it’s a great resume builder.


  3. Networking. Connect with arts managers from around the world who have similar passions and knowledge of accessibility.

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  4. One-of-a-kind professional development. No other conference focuses on accessibility in cultural venues like LEAD® does. The conference provides an intimate, rich atmosphere, where arts professionals of all levels can learn and share what they know.


  5. Experiential opportunities. LEAD® provides the opportunity to experience accessibility services and programs. Through our pre-conference Capacity Building Workshops and optional performances with accessibility services, you can see access in action!


  6. Access to experts. The Kennedy Center engages leading thinkers in the field to present at the conference. And after the event, attendees are invited to join an exclusive listserv to continue the conversation and ask questions.


  7. Straight from the source. Get ADA and accessibility law information directly from the Department of Justice.


  8. Practical information. You’ll bring ideas and practices to your organization that can be implemented right away.


  9. Something for everyone. LEAD® has sessions and workshops for beginners and the more experienced. It doesn’t matter what your background or knowledge level is – we have sessions for you.


  10. Registration candy. Say hello to the staff and help yourself to our always-stocked registration candy basket. If this doesn’t sell you on attending, we don’t know what will…



Austin Educators Make Creative Movement Accessible to All Students

In Austin, Texas (U.S.), the Creative Learning Initiative seeks to provide a quality arts-rich education for every child, as well as professional development and ongoing support for teachers in arts-based instruction strategies. This work is made possible through a collaboration between MINDPOP, the Austin Independent School District, the city of Austin, and over 50 arts and cultural organizations, foundations, and philanthropists. Krissie Marty and Silva Laukkanen, two Austin-based dance educators, have created a series of movement strategies for the Creative Learning Initiative, along with adaptations so those strategies can be successfully implemented in every classroom and with every student.

Photo of a woman standing in a grassy field wearing a polka dot top.

Krissie Marty

Marty is Director of Education at Forklift Danceworks, a dance company in Austin that makes dances for the masses. She worked in collaboration with MINDPOP to create a series of movement-based creative teaching strategies for the Creative Learning Initiative (CLI) with an eye towards what would be successful in all grade levels and learning stages, from early education through secondary education. Laukkanen, a master teaching artist with VSA Texas and Forklift Danceworks, then worked with Marty to adapt the strategies for different populations, specifically looking at the special education classroom.

Marty calls one of the strategies “Idea and Movement,” in which students are challenged to make movements based on ideas. “This can easily connect movement to a curriculum source,” says Marty. From there, students can take a series of movements and build a phrase, adding their movements together.

Another CLI movement strategy is called “Pathways,” or “Draw Map Move.” Students and teachers make a drawing of their planned movement on paper, then put it in action in the classroom. Marty says this strategy not only encourages gross motor movement in students, but also allows flexibility for educators to incorporate movement in whatever space is available. She says, “Not everyone has access to a dance studio, but that does not mean they cannot use movement in the classroom.”

A woman with short reddish hair wearing a dark shirt.

Silva Laukkanen

In the CLI professional development trainings, Laukkanen works with teachers to brainstorm ways to make the movement strategies work for every student. For instance, she says “Draw Map Move” can be adapted for students who are blind or have low vision by putting rope at waist height and tape patterns on the floor from one end of the room to another for students to follow. She has also put ropes inside of long foam pool noodles so students can experience moving independently in both straight and curvy lines.

Laukkanen offers teachers myriad ways to adapt the strategies, from incorporating props and visual aids to chopping the lessons into smaller segments. She encourages educators to pay very close attention to their students, including those who are non-ambulatory, to recognize any independent movement they make. “Even the smallest independent movement can be a reaction to something, which can then turn into even more creative movement,” says Laukkanen. She adds that allowing students to move as much as they are able is valuable for those with and without disabilities.

Both Laukkanen and Marty emphasize the importance of giving students choices in the movement exercises. “The strategies are designed to allow students to initiate movement and express their ideas and interpretations of curriculum,” explains Marty.

When Marty and Laukkanen train teachers on the CLI movement strategies, they are struck by how excited the educators are to put the strategies into practice immediately. “They feel like they can do this right now,” says Marty, continuing, “…all they need are their students’ bodies!” Laukkanen says the special education teachers she works with express both excitement and relief in the professional development sessions, since the movement strategies are designed to be so accessible.

Laukkanen and Marty will present a session on the Movement Strategies of Austin’s Creative Learning Initiative at the 2017 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference, August 6-7, 2017, in Austin, Texas. The session will include opportunities for attendees to learn about the movement strategies, experience them through movement exercises, and ask questions about adapting them for use in their own classrooms.

Check out Silva Laukkanen’s tips for teaching creative movement and dance to students with disabilities, posted on the VSA blog in October 2016.

Promising Practices in Inclusive Dance Education at Australia’s Restless Dance Theatre

A dancer leaps across a dark stage while three other performers, all wearing red, watch.

Dancers Chris Dyke, Lorcan Hopper, Josh Campton, and Michael Hodyl of Restless Dance Theatre performs in Touched, a piece developed by the company’s Youth Ensemble. Photo: Andy Rasheed

Restless Dance Theatre describes its inclusive work as being “informed by disability.” The dance company, based in Adelaide, Australia, creates new works with its youth and senior ensembles, and conducts dance workshops for young people with and without disabilities. We spoke with Artistic Manager Roz Hervey about what makes Restless’ dance education programs work well for all students.

VSA and Accessibility: Can you cite some specific ways you adapt your Restless Central and Links workshops for students with disabilities?

Roz Hervey: We approach our workshops as we would approach our performances. Restless has developed a way of working where participants are given a series of creative challenges and asked to respond in movement. For example, we might ask two people to choose different ways to wrap themself around their partner’s body; the partner responds by removing him or herself from the wrap. Dance sequences are then built up from their responses. This produces unique, distinctive, and very striking dance through a process that nurtures the creative voices of the dancers.

Access requirements are built into the planning of the workshops. For example, when working with the South Australian School for Vision Impaired, the workshop used tactile props and a tactile border to define the space. We also engaged an audio describer to work with the creative team.

Your website specifically mentions that the youth ensemble and workshops are open to both students with and without disabilities. Can you talk a bit about the importance of the inclusive dance environment?

We embrace diversity and create an inclusive environment to be able to create real raw and uninhibited dance theatre. We don’t focus on people’s disability; instead, we highlight each individual’s unique personality and movement vocabulary.

How does Restless prepare their teachers for working in inclusive settings?

Every few years we run a Dot to Dot tutor training program (resource available online). Our tutors have usually started their journey with the company as one of our ensemble members, or have assisted our artistic director in the rehearsal room making a work. In all our workshops, we have a lead tutor, a senior tutor, and a tutor with disability. New tutors gain experience working with the lead tutor and eventually go on to lead workshops themselves. We encourage potential tutors to attend our Central workshop to gain knowledge about the company’s working methods.

Do you have any recommendations for arts organizations that want to make their education programming more inclusive of students with disabilities?

We would encourage organizations to have people with disabilities as part of planning sessions. Don’t be scared! Just ensure there is a positive and safe environment for everyone.

To learn more about Restless Dance Theatre, visit its website or follow the company on Facebook.

Five Tips for Creating an Inclusive Dance Experience

By Portia Abernathy, M.Ed., M.A.

Creating an environment for high-quality, inclusive dance education requires preparation, flexibility, and creativity. These tips for creating an inclusive dance experience aim to help educators offer excellent arts learning opportunities to every student.

  1. Shift Your Mindset – When working with inclusive populations, it is important to remember that the unique needs of our students are not barriers. Our students don’t need to change who they are, how they learn, or how they communicate to participate in dance. It is up to us to creatively adjust how we teach, what we teach, and where we teach to make sure all students can access our instruction and meaningfully participate in the dance experience.


  1. Use Inclusive Language – The words we use matter and set the tone for our instruction, programs, and institutions. It is best to use language that is inclusive, strengths-based, emotionally neutral, and that places the individual before his/her disability, label, or diagnoses.


  1. Conduct Intake Interviews – Each dancer you work with will have unique needs. Conducting intake interviews with all new students and families will help you get a sense of who they are, how they move, how they learn, and what they need before you start dancing together. Make sure to ask about communication, behavior, physical, and sensory needs as well as preferences, motivators, and interests.


  1. Make Time for Free Dance – It may sound like all fun and games, but including free dance time in each class can be very meaningful. Free dance time allows students to apply and demonstrate what they have learned in an authentic and personal way. Free dance can promote choice, independence, self-expression, creativity, and artistry. It can also help build audience skills and empathy while students wait for their turn to dance.


  1. Incorporate Props – Props can be very useful for creating structure and making movement accessible for all dancers.

Chairs: Seated formations can be containing and grounding for students; seated exercises can help build strength while avoiding fatigue, and chairs can help create a sense of inclusion and equity for dancers who use wheel chairs or mobility devices.

Rubber Floor markers: Star or circle shaped floor markers can help identify assigned places, formations, pathways to travel along, and can help make movement or music patterns visible for dancers.

Scarves: Scarves can help dancers who are apprehensive to move (sometimes it is easier to move an object instead of your body) and are great for helping students increase the fluidity of their movement.


A picture of Portia Abernathy, a smiling woman with long blonde hair and a blue jacket

Portia Abernathy, M.A., M.Ed., is Assistant Director of Education and Community Initiatives at Boston Ballet, where she oversees accessible and inclusive dance education and professional development programs. A former special education teacher, she is a presenter at the 2017 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference.

JFKC: A Centennial Celebration of John F. Kennedy at the Kennedy Center

During the week of May 22-29, 2017, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is celebrating JFKC: A Centennial Celebration of John F. Kennedy, in celebration of JFK’s 100th birthday. Below are pieces of art selected from the VSA Permanent Collection, which illustrate the five enduring ideals embodied by JFK: COURAGE, FREEDOM, JUSTICE, SERVICE, and GRATITUDE. We welcome you to celebrate #JFKC with us all week on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.


vsa1997.002_chandRadhika Chand began making art as a young child to help develop her fine motor skills—one part of a program designed to minimize the symptoms of Down syndrome. Chand continued to make art when she saw the positive effect that her work had on others. As she said of her first solo exhibition, which took place in Delhi in 1992, “that made me feel happy, good and fulfilled because I could do something which gave others so much joy.”

Having grown up in Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Hong Kong, and Sydney, Chand’s exposure to diverse cultures and countries has influenced her work. Her abstract paintings, a combination of watercolors and acrylic paint, are a spontaneous response to the world around her.

Radhika Chand
Redflower, 1997
Watercolor and acrylic (19 in x 28 in)



Ernie Pepion grew up working on his family ranch on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. In 1971, after a car accident rendered him quadriplegic, Pepion began painting. He studied painting at Montana State University, and developed a substantial body of work by 1991, when the Missoula Museum of the Arts recognized his achievements with the retrospective, Ernie Pepion: Dreams on Wheels, the first major solo exhibition of a contemporary American Indian artist in a Montana museum.

For Pepion, painting allows him to be “…a person beyond the limitations of racial prejudice and disability.” His work does this by offering dreamlike scenes and improbable scenarios. This can be seen in Buffalo Hunter (1986), which depicts Pepion hunting buffalo from his wheelchair/hobby horse turned steed.

Ernie Pepion
Buffalo Hunter, 1986
Oil on canvas (47 in x 52 in)



Maria Jankovics was born in 1949 in Budapest, Hungary, just before the collapse of the Hungarian Republic. In 1956 her family fled the country during the Hungarian Revolution for Montreal, Canada, where Jankovics began studying art. Jankovic’s work draws on her cultural heritage and experience with illness that began when she contracted scarlet fever at age four. As seen in Dragonfly, she often borrows imagery from her mother’s Jewish and her father’s Catholic faiths, using images and text that recall illustrated books for children. Her work is bright, energetic, and playful, but also conveys themes of physical suffering, anxiety, and political strife. As Jankovics explains, “My paintings are very colorful with a sense of anguish, irony but with a ray of hope and a bit of humor. The work has a childlike quality all coming from my imagination.”

Maria Jankovics
Dragonfly, 2000
Collograph (36 in x 26.5 in)


vsa2011.007_frankAs a young adult, Alyce Frank moved to New Mexico where the landscape made a deep impression upon her. “New Mexico was so powerful and demanding that the way I made peace with it was to paint it,” she explains in Joseph Dispenza’s book The Magical Realism of Alyce Frank. Frank became a prominent figure in the southwestern art community, and pioneered a style that she would term “Taos expressionism.” Taos expressionism draws its stylistic elements, such as color palette and paint handling, from the expressionist painters and its subject matter from the dramatic southwestern landscape.

Alyce Frank
Hayfields – Arroyo Hondo, 1990
Serigraph (30 in x 22.5 in)


vsa2011.037_yamagataIn 1989 artist Hiro Yamagata began his ongoing association with VSA when he was commissioned to design a poster for the first International VSA Festival, which exhibited the work of artists with disabilities from numerous countries. Invited to serve on the Board of Directors, the artist also helped established the Yamagata International Visual Arts Institute and Fellowship, an annual arts program that selected international artists with disabilities and teachers to study adaptive techniques and develop their work at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington. In 1993 he was awarded the first annual Freedom of Expression Award for his contributions to VSA.

Hiro Yamagata
Statue of Liberty, n.d.
Serigraph (68 in x 41 in)

January 2017 VSA Webinar: “The Design and Use of Inclusive Surveys in Arts Programs”

Every day you make decisions based on some type of information. Learn how to do it more systematically, reliably, and inclusively for arts programming with some tips and strategies from the Research and Evaluation team at the Kennedy Center!

In this webinar, we will present some tips for good question writing, and some strategies for more inclusive survey design and administration. We will explore the big ideas about why language choice for questions is important for reliability and accuracy, as well as how variation in answers can be productively used to understand and improve programs. As take-away resources, we will share checklists for Survey Design and Universal Design for Evaluation

Click on the play button below to watch a free recording of the Webinar. (You will be prompted to enter your email address and contact information prior to viewing the Webinar.)



The panelists are from the Kennedy Center’s Research and Evaluation Team, Bina Ali and Don Glass.



Links and Resources:

We want to know-what did you learn from this webinar?

Meet the 2017 VSA International Young Soloists Award Winners

This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the VSA International Young Soloists Competition, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program that recognizes talented, emerging artists ages 14-25 with disabilities from all over the world. The four young musicians who have been named winners of the 2017 award are: pianist Elliott McClain, age 23, from Nashville, Tennessee; Kohlin Sekizawa, a 17-year-old pianist from Davis, California; 21-year-old mezzo-soprano Natalie Sheppard of Cincinnati, Ohio; and Jessica Tucker, a 21-year-old saxophonist from Carson City, Nevada.

Photo of a man with brown wavy hair, a dark collared shirt, and a dark blazer.Elliott McClain, age 23, is a pianist and graduate student at Belmont University in Nashville studying commercial music performance. He is an independent artist and musician, specializing in jazz and popular forms of music for live performance and session recording. Blind since birth, Elliott started playing piano as soon as he discovered a keyboard, and has been known ever since for his exceptional aural and improvisational skills. A recipient of the Woods Piano Scholarship, he has performed with Belmont’s top jazz ensembles, and has been a guest performer in many of Nashville’s most prestigious venues. Elliott is the 2016 VSA Tennessee Young Soloist Award winner.

Photo of a young man with a black collared shirt with silver tie, sitting at a piano.Kohlin Sekizawa, age 17, is a high school junior in Davis, California. He has been taking piano lessons for 12 years with Mrs. Huei-Ping Chen Lin. Kohlin, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, has won numerous local and statewide piano competitions, and performed in the honor recitals of the Music Teachers’ Association of California and the California Association of Professional Music Teachers. Last year, he earned a Paderewski Gold Medal from the American College of Musicians. He is currently playing the harpsichord and the violin in the Davis High School Baroque Ensemble, and he performed J.S. Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto with them in April 2017. Besides music, he enjoys basketball and tennis in TEAM DAVIS, a Special Olympics program.

Photo of a young woman with long, black hair, green eyes, and red lips wearing a shirt with purple and blue flowers.Natalie Sheppard, age 21, is a mezzo-soprano from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, receiving a scholarship to study voice under William McGraw, as well as pursuing studies in International Human Rights. Natalie has performed roles including Dido from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and will sing Cherubino from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro this summer in Berlin. She has worked with composers such as Jake Heggie and Libby Larsen at the prestigious SongFest art song festival in Los Angeles, California, and will return this summer as a Colburn Fellow in the Young Artist Program. Natalie, who has anxiety disorders and depression, has recently been recognized by Aspen Opera Theatre, the Opera Guild of Dayton, Cincinnati Three Arts Foundation, and Classical Singer, and has sung on stages around the world.

Photo of a young woman with long, dark hair wearing a black dress and holding a saxophone.Jessica Tucker is a 21-year-old classical saxophonist from Carson City, Nevada. She has performed across the United States and Canada, including in Vancouver, Seattle, Reno, San Francisco, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Jessica was born with amblyopia in her right eye, which renders it effectively blind. She graduated in May 2017 with a Bachelors of Music in saxophone performance from the University of North Texas, studying under Dr. Eric Nestler. While at the University of North Texas, Jessica performed with the North Texas Wind Symphony under the direction of Eugene Corporon, and can be heard on several of their recordings. She will begin her Masters in saxophone performance this fall at the Russian Academy of Music, Gnesin.

These four young artists receive a $2,000 cash prize and travel to Washington, D.C. for a performance on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage on May 25 at 6:00 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public, and will be streamed live online at www.kennedy-center.org/millennium; a recording of the concert will be available for viewing after May 25 in the Millennium Stage online archive.

In Amazement Square art program, students ask, “How Can I Help?”

A girl with black hair and a burgandy sweatshirt holds an art project made of cardboard boxes.

A student from the Amazement Square program shows off her creation.

Students who live in rural areas may not have access to the same kinds of cultural resources as their peers in metropolitan areas. For their VSA Visual Arts Discovery Program contract, staff at Amazement Square in Lynchburg, Virginia, sought out students with disabilities living in more isolated areas. Thanks to Amazement Square’s teaching artists and their expertise in using the museum’s Visual Arts Outreach Program framework, students with disabilities all over Central Virginia are having valuable arts learning experiences in their own classrooms.

According to Gwyn Tatum, director of education and programs at Amazement Square, opportunities for cultural engagement are very limited for students with disabilities in Central Virginia. The children’s museum jumped at the opportunity to expand their outreach to this community.

“We specifically reached out to schools that are far in the countryside, with students who are not going on field trips, so we can bring them lessons,” says Tatum, adding that their instructors are driving an hour or more to the school sites for the visual art residencies.

A girl with brown hair and a striped shirt holds an art project made of cardboard and plastic cups.

A student holds her creation from the “How Can I Help?” lesson.

Caitlin Seaman, one of the lead instructors for the Visual Art Outreach Program, says the teaching artists have been using two lessons from VSA’s 2016-2017 Teacher Resource Guide in their sessions with the students. Seaman says the “How Can I Help?” lesson, which focuses on the idea of service to one’s community, inspired the students to think outside the box.

“I was amazed with what [the students] came up with,” says Seaman, continuing, “…they had tons of ideas about problems in the world and many wonderful inventions for how to address the problems.” Seaman found the lesson worked best over the course of two one-hour sessions, so that they had enough time to make modifications as needed and ensure a meaningful experience for every child.

The “How Can I Help?” lesson is available on the VSA blog and on pages 9-15 of VSA’s Teacher Resource Guide. More information about Amazement Square is available on their website.

“How Can I Help?” – A visual art lesson plan from the VSA’s Teacher Resource Guide

A robot made of clay with a red top, square body, and striped legs.

A clay sculpture inspired by the “How Can I Help?” lesson.

In this lesson, students investigate possible solutions for concerns and/or needs in their community. They will design and create a machine to serve their community by addressing this need. The machine sculptures will be made out of clay or from found objects.

NOTE: This is an abridged version of the “How Can I Help?” lesson plan. To view the complete version, including in-depth adaptations and modifications for students with disabilities, example artworks, and a vocabulary list, see pages 9-15 of VSA’s Teacher Resource Guide.

EXPECTED LENGTH: 2 – 3 class periods

For clay sculpture:
Clay tools – simple tools such as plastic knives and forks
Clay mats
Acrylic paint

For found object sculpture:
Recycled materials (cardboard tubing, plastic bottles, cardboard)
Glue/Glue gun

Art Making: Students will create a machine that can solve one of the world’s problems using found objects or clay and exemplifying the artistic principle of unity.

Critical Inquiry: Students will investigate how the title character of Wall-E was designed and created to solve a problem in the fictional society created in the movie.

Art History Inquiry: Students will reflect on the art- making of Michael Rakowitz and Tim Rollins + K.O.S. and how the artists talked and listened to the individuals they worked with (in other words – did research) in order to create their art.

Aesthetic Inquiry: Students will uncover how art can be an agent for social change through their examination of the stories behind the creations of Tim Rollins + K.O.S. and Michael Rakowitz.

Show a clip of Wall-E that establishes the reason for Wall-E’s existence. Point out the vast and lonely landscape. Ask: Where are the people? Why would Wall-E be alone? Who created Wall-E and why?

Begin to generate ideas of problems we need to solve. What are some of the challenges that you or others must face each day? How could these challenges be made easier? Consider investigating topics being covered in other academic areas (e.g. if science class is addressing climate change). Make a brainstorming list on the board. Be prepared to pepper the list with suggestions to expand ideas. Record (or have a student record) this list for future reference.

Share the work of Michael Rakowitz and Tim Rollins + K.O.S. Highlight the research aspect of their work. Both artists asked questions and honored the voices of community members in their artistic process. In advocacy communities, this approach is embodied by the slogan: “Nothing about us without us,” which implies that people doing services that affect others (for example, policymakers) should do that service with the people it affects, not for them. Have students share times when things have been done “for them” but “without them.” Has someone ever helped you with your chair when you didn’t need it? Or answered a question for you without asking your opinion?

Revisit the brainstormed list created at the beginning. Who do we need to talk to and what do we need to ask in order to find out what is really needed?

A sculpture made of plastic cups, pom poms, and styrofoam balls.

A found object sculpture inspired by the “How Can I Help?” lesson.

Students should begin by identifying the problem they wish to address and thinking about a machine that could solve it. They should focus on how the machine would work, and what this will tell them about its design. For example, if the machine is designed to plant wild flowers on highway medians to support the Monarch butterflies during their migration, it might need something to rough up the soil to prepare for the seeds, something to sprinkle the seeds onto the dirt and something to water the seeds to help them start to germinate.

Choose the studio—clay construction or found object. Base your decision on either your access to the materials (clay construction will require access to a kiln), or the issue being addressed. For example, if investigating the concern for the excess trash that has created the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the use of recycled materials for the artwork would be most relevant.

Clay Construction

  1. Construct slabs of clay. Using a rolling pin, roll out clay with even pressure until it is 3/8” thick. Consider making the slabs in advance so the clay begins to dry out, which will make it easier to construct the machine.
  2. Create a base. Cut out shapes from a slab in the shape students want their machines to be: a square, rectangle or circle. If a square or rectangle is selected, then sides can be cut out using the base as a guide for the width of the pieces (2 for each dimension). If a circle is the base, a slab can simply be cut into a rectangle the length of the circumference of the circle.
  3. Prepare clay slabs to be connected. Have the students score the slabs by scratching the surfaces of both edges using a plastic fork or knife.
  4. Spread slip over the scored edges.
  5. Press the pieces together and smooth out the seams for a firm bond. Sides can be supported while drying with wads of newspaper.
  6. Once the frame of the machine is built, additional elements can be added using the slip and score process.
  7. Allow the work to dry, then fire in a kiln.
  8. The fired piece can be painted with acrylic paint to add details.

Found Object Construction

  1. Select materials from found objects, such as cardboard, toilet paper or paper towel tubes, or water bottles.
  2. Cut, tear or bend the selected material to match the students’ plans.
  3. Using glue or a glue gun, assemble the objects.
  4. Add embellishments, using glue for details (eyes, feathers, pompoms, etc.)

Have students write artist’s statements about their work. What does the machine do? How does it work? How does it address the identified need?

December 2016 VSA Webinar: “Arts As Inclusion: Holding Ourselves Accountable in Reaching Students with Disabilities”

As schools work to educate students with disabilities in the least restrictive environments, oftentimes the first place a student learns alongside his peers is the arts classroom. Indeed it is the assumptions on which arts learning is based—every student has something to express, there is no “wrong answer,” everyone can participate—that make the arts classroom an inviting place for all students. How, though, do we move beyond the intuitive belief that the arts work for all learners and hold ourselves accountable to the promise of inclusion: to provide opportunities for students with disabilities to access instruction and meaningfully engage in learning with their peers?

This session challenges the notion that arts instruction is inherently differentiated, thereby pushing practitioners to demonstrate (in concrete, assessable ways) differentiated instruction for students with disabilities in the arts classroom. It provides arts educators with frameworks for designing accessible arts lessons, tools to evaluate student learning, and language to effectively discuss the performance of students with disabilities in inclusive settings with other members of a student’s IEP team—transforming art educators into powerful advocates for the inclusion of students with disabilities throughout the school day.

Click on the play button below to watch a free recording of the Webinar. (You will be prompted to enter your email address and contact information prior to viewing the Webinar.)



Jenna Gabriel is theIMG_1603_credit_Sarah_Hitchcock_Burzio Manager of Special Education at The Kennedy Center, where she supports all education initiatives affecting students with disabilities or their teachers, including the annual VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference.  Ms. Gabriel was previously based in Boston at IBA-Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, where she designed and supervised out-of-school-time programs for ELLs and struggling readers. Ms. Gabriel is the Founding Executive Director of Daytime Moon Creations, a NYC-based nonprofit providing arts programs to children with disabilities, and has led arts-based special education programming throughout NYC. Her most recent publication, “Use of Theatrical Techniques and Elements as Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders” was released in 2016 by Bloomsbury Press. Ms. Gabriel holds a BFA with honors in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and studied Intellectual Disabilities and Autism at Teachers College, Columbia University before completing her Masters in Education at Harvard University.

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We want to know-what did you learn from this webinar?