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An Open Letter From VSA

The following post was originally published on the website of VSA Minnesota, the state organization on arts and disability. Even though we know that VSA made a difficult decision, we are pleased to see some of the services will get incorporated into the work of Springboard for the Arts, COMPAS, and the Metro Regional Arts Council.

Dear VSA Minnesota Supporter,

It is never easy to share bad news; no one wants to do it and no one wants to hear it. And yet, there are times when it has to be done, so here goes.

VSA Minnesota – the state organization on arts and disability – will be closing its doors and ceasing its operations at the end of September 2019.

The Board of Directors made this decision in October following nearly a year of community inquiry, financial analysis, and organization examination. The primary factors leading to this decision included:

  • Ever-decreasing financial resources to support its work;
  • The imminent retirements of its two staff members, Craig Dunn and Jon Skaalen; and
  • The loss of rights to our name, VSA Minnesota, as of January 1, 2020, due to trademark issues with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

You will notice that “mission accomplished” is not one of the factors cited in the list above. The organization cannot state that we have completely created a community where people with disabilities learn through, participate in, and access the arts. We have created strong inroads to this mission and more Minnesotans have access to arts programming and arts education than did prior to our founding in 1986. In fact, 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. 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.

Given this lack of complete arts access, our staff and board are working this year to establish new “homes” and stewards for our long-standing programs and services. Thus far, Springboard for the Arts has agreed to incorporate our services to artists with disabilities program into their program offerings. Likewise, COMPAS will be absorbing our school arts programming for students with disabilities and special education needs. The Metro Regional Arts Council, which has funded our ADA Improvement Grants for the past nine years, will administer the program in-house beginning in October 2019. In the coming months, we will work to find organizational stewards for our access assistance services, our Accessible Arts Calendar, and for the artist with disabilities grant program. We are confident that our search for program partners will be successful and that the work begun during our organization’s 33 years of existence will continue.

VSA Minnesota will close with grace, thoughtfulness, and care. Employees will be let go having been fully paid, all current program obligations will have been discharged, all vendors will have been paid, and all physical assets of the organization will be released to appropriate nonprofit entities. We are hopeful that the organization’s records and historical artifacts will find an archival home.

Prior to our end-of-September closing, board and staff will engage our various communities – arts, disability & education – in celebrations of our organization’s achievements and successes. It is our hope these celebrations will include those who have supported and benefited from our past work as well as the new program stewards who will continue the work we have begun.

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. 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 our mission of creating a community where people with disabilities learn through, participate in, and access the arts in this great state of Minnesota.

Should you have any questions or comments about this closing process, please send those communications to View the FAQ document for further information describing our impending closure in deeper detail.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of VSA Minnesota and its staff, thank you for your support of our efforts over the years – it has been greatly appreciated.


Maggie Karli
President, Board of Directors
Jeff Prauer, Vice President
Michele Chung, Treasurer
Stacy Shamblott, Secretary
Steve Danko
Susan Tarnowski
Sam Jasmine
Jill Boon
Ray Konz
Nic Ambroz
Mark Hiemenz

Topic: Arts

December 2018