THE HISTORY OF VSA ARTS OF GEORGIA…
VSA arts of Georgia has a long history of making the arts accessible to Georgians who are disabled and/or living with low income. The organization was founded by Don Robinson in 1974 as Hospital Audiences, with a mission to make the arts accessible to Georgians who are disabled, disadvantaged and institutionalized. Original programs included providing donated tickets to arts and cultural events and taking artists into human service agencies for performances and workshops.
The organization incorporated in 1977 under the name Special Audiences, Inc. (SAI), and services were later expanded to include audio description and American Sign Language interpreting services for arts and cultural venues, as well as accessibility training and site surveys for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In 1987, Very Special Arts Georgia (VSAG) was created as a subsidiary of Special Audiences, and became part of a national network of arts organizations dedicated to serving persons with disabilities. VSAG shared office space with SAI and collaborated on a number of projects. VSAG programming included coordinating festivals for students with disabilities and bringing arts programming into schools throughout the state.
In 1996 Special Audiences and Very Special Arts Georgia worked closely with the Olympic and Paralympic committees to provide access to people with disabilities for the Cultural Olympiad, as well as tickets to disadvantaged youth through the Children's Ticket fund and the Paralympic Ticket Fund. In collaboration with many other arts and culture organizations, the two organizations led the first Cultural Paralympiad. This involved artists with disabilities from around the world performing and exhibiting their artwork during the 1996 Paralympics. The Atlanta Arts and Business Council presented Special Audiences and Very Special Arts Georgia the ABBY Award for their work on these events.
In 1997, the two organizations merged into one entity, under the name Arts for All. The following year, the administrative office was moved to the Healey Building, in Downtown Atlanta's historic Fairlie-Poplar district. Funding from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation enabled the new organization to create a new program, Arts for All Gallery, a visual art exhibition space dedicated to exhibiting artwork by artists with disabilities.
In September 2000, the organization joined the international VSA network as a full-fledged and accredited affiliate under the name VSA arts of Georgia, continuing our efforts to fulfill our vision of an inclusive community that encourages everyone to enjoy and participate in the arts.
In 2010, the national organization known as VSA became the Office of VSA & Accessibility, within the Education Program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. VSA arts of Georgia continues to serve as the state affiliate serving the citizens of Georgia.