VSA Arts of Indiana: Very Special

VSA Arts of Indiana
, Inc. (VSAI) makes its home in the Harrison Center for the Arts in downtown Indianapolis. This is Indiana’s spearhead organization for promotion of the arts among people of all ages who have disabilities.

Part of what they’ve accomplished, over the years, is to raise the consciousness of the public in general regarding the way they perceive the disabled, basically fighting and educating on behalf of a less biased way of interaction on all levels. The core idea behind VSA, then, is to bring the arts to all people, regardless of ability.

VSAI – the Indiana Affiliate of VSA

VSAI is a member of the international program called VSA arts, initialed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. At its inception, VSA stood for “Very Special Arts. The program was the brainchild of John F. Kennedy’s sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, in 1974. Today, the meaning of VSA has been expanded to mean “the Vision of an inclusive society, the Strength of shared resources and Access to artistic expression that unites us all.”

Across the country and around the world, VSA participants offer educational programs for over 3.5 million disabled people to encourage an outlet in the visual and performing arts.

VSAI Today

VSAI is actually the natural offshoot of a previous similar program from 1982, called Arts Unlimiting. VSAI, incorporated in 1986, has been training disabled artists not only in the arts but in the practical perpetuation of the organization for over 20 years.
VSAI moved into their present digs in the Harrison Center for the Arts in the year 2000. There the organization enjoys plenty of useful space for studios, meetings, performance areas and the en ROUTE Gallery.

Reaching out from their epicenter is what VSAI does as a norm, but the organization has had an enormous effect on art in Indianapolis. A surprising percentage of artists in Indianapolis got their start at VSAI. It is a non-profit organization with a staff and the teachers who carry out their educational programs. Coordinators work with partner programs around the Indianapolis arts community and the state to keep their outreach program alive and well.

Activities, Programs and Services

Just a few of the many ongoing and special activities provided to the public by VSAI are: classes for the community, school residencies, arts and performance events and festivals, teachers training and the Lolly Project.

A major school-based program offered by VSAI is  their Artist in Residence program, which organizes courses of varying length for students of music, dance / movement, drama and the visual arts. Any Indiana school with disabled students is eligible to be the recipient of these programs. Schools in Indianapolis participate heavily in this program, and art classes in Indianapolis depend on their influence as well.

VSAI’s Urban Artisans vocational program coordinates internships for young adults between the ages of 16 and 22. This program allows the students to develop lifelong skills in arts, crafts and music. Interned artists are expected to pitch in with the practical chores of running an art gallery and studio, as a part of the course, which also gives them a valuable learning experience.


Community Art Classes at the VSAI center are for everybody, with or without disabilities. Classes are popular and fill up early. The lucky students get the opportunity for hands-on practice in painting and drawing, ceramics, music and drama. Tuition fees are quite low.

Festivals and Special Events

VSAI produces events and festivals throughout the year in all types of live and visual arts. Attendees might see anything from movement exhibitions to storytelling stations.
These occasions are part of the ongoing community outreach program of VSAI. Other outreach programs include the arts and drama classes that VSAI Teaching Artists bring to Indiana’s Dayspring Center. The Center provides temporary housing and basic health care, education and employment assistance to those in need.

Bosma Rehabilitation Services visit the Indianapolis VSAI studios on a regular basis to study art and music. Bosma clients are blind or visually impaired individuals who often do very well in creative expression.

The Lolly Project Hospitalized children throughout Indianapolis can experience artistic activities and get in touch with their creative sides through outreach classes offered by VSAI teaching artists, who come to them in the hospitals.

Expressions in Clay provides safe bonding and creative expression for people with HIV.

The Children’s TherAplay Foundation in Carmel, Indiana regularly partners with the VSAI to do arts and music workshops for young disabled children and their families.

The Gallery
Opened in 2003, VSAI’s enROUTE Gallery is the salesroom and show place for VSAI’s Urban Artisans and other artists within the program.


Though still a young program, VSA of Indiana, Inc. has earned awards and recognition from all over the state and nation for its stalwart, continuous dedication to the promotion of the arts and accessibility. In its hometown, Indianapolis, children and adults who are special have had their lives enhanced by this program for Very Special arts in Indianapolis and throughout Indiana.


VSA arts of Indiana, Inc.
Located in the Harrison Center For The Arts
1505 N Delaware St
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202

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