About Art Spark Texas
Established in 1996, Art Spark Texas (formerly VSA Texas) has built a legacy of offering high quality, inclusive arts programs and services in Austin, and is the only organization operating at the intersection of arts, education and disability in Texas. We work to create positive change in the lives of people with disabilities through artistic micro-enterprise opportunities, including exhibitions and artist demonstrations; multi-disciplinary classes, workshops and professional internships; dynamic school and community based artist residencies; and groundbreaking performance in dance, theater, spoken word and music. We believe that arts experiences enhance the skills, confidence and quality of life for all people. Our goal is to create an accessible and inclusive community where everyone can participate. We offer programs that enable artistic, educational and career success, provide support and training to the public, enhance personal growth, and promote access to the creative work of people with diverse abilities. Our guiding principles are all people should have full access to cultural facilities and events; everyone deserves high quality arts learning experiences; arts educators should be prepared to include all students in their instruction; and all people who aspire to careers in the arts should have an opportunity to develop their skills.
Art Spark Texas challenges perceptions of how people contribute by creating an arts-inspired, inclusive community of individuals with diverse abilities.
Art Spark Texas is an expert resource on inclusive arts. We create and maintain an accessible and open community where everyone can participate. Our goal is to provide support and training to the public, enhance personal growth, and offer Texans access to the creative work of people with diverse abilities.
Art Spark Texas, a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit, delivers excellent cultural, professional, educational and public awareness arts services to communities with diverse abilities.
Arts experiences enhance the skills, confidence and quality of life for people with disabilities. We support this by offering programs that enable educational achievement and career success, events that feature the work of our artists, and specialized arts training for artists, educators and service providers.
Recognizing that every person has a voice that deserves to be heard, Art Spark Texas partners with supporters, volunteers, community organizations, educators, and state and local governments across Texas to promote and facilitate people with and without disabilities working together to create inclusive and strong communities.
We challenge ourselves and our communities to build bridges and strength by making cultural programming and venues available to all.
Celia M. Hughes, Executive Director, Art Spark Texas
“I have been involved in the arts since I was a young child. I have also worked with people with disabilities from a very early age. Working for Art Spark Texas allows me to bring together my passions and help create change in the world.”
April Sullivan, Programs Director
Before Art Spark Texas was a VSA affiliate, it was called Access Arts Austin. I was the first employee starting at just eight hours per week in 1997. I left in 1999, to continue my arts administration career at the Austin Museum of Art-Laguna Gloria. I returned to VSA Texas in 2002, and have been here ever since.
The philosophy of arts being accessible to all people is what drew me to this organization in the first place, what brought me back, and what keeps me going for all these years. Each day is a new adventure and it is a joy to be a part of people's lives as they discover their artistic talents. As a visual artist, I thrive by being surrounded by creative people. See my fiber art works at www.yarnpaintings.com.
Silva Laukkane, Director of Integrated Dance
In 2009 I attended the first Body Shift intensive and fell in love with this community of dancers. My journey in the mixed ability dance world began while I was studying for my BFA and I had the opportunity to teach at a rehabilitation center in my native Finland. After that experience I decided to refocus my career in dance to work with people whose lives have taken different paths than mine, and whose bodies and minds live their everyday lives differently than I do. My deepest passion and dedication for the field is in high quality dance education that’s inclusive and which ignites a passion for a lifelong involvement in dance art.
Susan Slattery, Director of Outreach
After spending the last few years working outside the arts world for another non-profit, I was thrilled to return to an arts organization, and excited about Art Spark Texas' many programs and initiatives. Working in the arts with the community has always been important to me. I grew up in a family where community involvement and a love for the arts was fostered from an early age, so this is my happy place! My dream is for everyone to benefit from the arts and thrive with as much accessibility and inclusion as possible--and I want people to know Art Spark is here to support them.
As an artist, and arts activist, I continue to be inspired in particular by my mother who experienced a severe hearing loss as an adult. While she still enjoyed the performing arts, she derived the most joy from the visual arts, and from creating her own artwork.
My professional background has been with non-profits, the arts and education. Past highlights in Austin include community radio station KOOP 91.7FM and the Austin Film Festival and teaching art classes. Before moving to Texas, I worked with First Night Alexandria, the Torpedo Factory Art Center and the Institute for the Arts (high school arts program) among other arts-focused organizations.
Boye Nagel, Project Assistant, Opening Minds, Opening Doors
Jerry Slayton, New Media Program Manager
Life for me began in a small coal mining community outside of Birmingham, Alabama. My grandmother introduced me to art at an early age, and my parents’ refrigerator door was always filled with new drawings. In college I studied Fine Art and Design at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and after school, I felt compelled to give back through teaching. I began at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, then moved to Austin to seek out new endeavors. Inspired in part by my sister, who is living with Cerebral Palsy, I began teaching traditional and digital media arts in special education.
In 2018 I began teaching new media art programs at Art Spark Texas. These programs combine tech hardware and software with traditional art mediums such as drawing and painting. The goal in our curriculum is to provide a project-based experience for students in which their artistic creativity is channeled towards a group goal. Through group work students learn critical executive functioning skills as they are introduced to new methods for art expression. Students become designers, solving visual problems as they make.
“I want to help students build confidence in their art-making ability. Help them establish a process for creating that they can apply long after class is over, and take that confidence into life.”
Theresa Bond Zelazny, Mobile Art Program Manager
Age is not a disability, but those who are seemingly ill or less healthy are often attributed a lower expectation in overall capacity and are thus assumed to have a diminished ability to participate fully in society. These social definitions of health are strongly reinforced in the media, literature, and social institutions. My goal when starting the Mobile Art Program (MAP) was to challenge these societal stereotypes.
I became aware of Art Spark Texas and the wonderful programs they provide in 2008, when MAP rented a space in the AGE building. As MAP’s service expanded I became overwhelmed by all of the duties related to operating a non-profit, therefore I reached out to Art Spark’s Executive Director Celia Hughes to see whether Art Spark would be willing to ‘adopt’ us. Luckily she said yes. I am thrilled to be a part of the Art Spark Texas family!
While my educational background is in studio and fine art (personal website: tbondartist.com), over 15 years of working with older adults and those living with cognitive disorders has given me an expertise in this field. The joy I receive from engaging with our clients feeds my soul.
Eric Clow, Communications Specialist
“I first became involved with Art Spark Texas in 2012 as a volunteer for the New Media Arts program. Music, film, and theater have always been passions of mine, and making the arts accessible for people with disabilities is very important to me. As a musician and screenwriter living with Muscular Dystrophy, I understand the challenges of producing and sharing meaningful and engaging works of art, and I am excited to help other artists with disabilities succeed.”
Gina P. Woodruff
"I came to Art Spark Texas in 2018 excited to be back in a creative organization after 20+ years in the high-tech industry. I am an artist, writer and in 2018 I became a certified Creativity Coach (the Austin Creativity Coach) and ZenTangle teacher. I believe in the philosophy of the arts being accessible to all and the powerful impact the arts can have on the individual and community at large."
Board of Directors
Join the Art Spark Texas Board of Directors!
Serving on the Art Spark Texas Board provides a unique opportunity to support the current programs, while also providing input and guidance for the future of the organization. The Board conducts some of the “behind the scenes” work that keeps Art Spark Texas running smoothly by focusing on fundraising and finances, organizational management, community connections and strategic planning. We are currently looking for additional Board members who can help be part of guiding us through the next phase of growth and opportunities. For more information or to apply to be a Board member, visit this link.
Art Spark Texas
Emily Shryock, President, MSSW, Assistant Director of the UT Austin Services for Students with Disabilities
As a social worker, Emily is passionate about educating and empowering people to work toward accessible, inclusive and welcoming communities for people with disabilities. She has served on various boards of directors and enjoys supporting non-profits in accomplishing their goals. Emily believes in the power of art to create connections, develop confidence and contribute to positive change in individuals and communities.
Tanya Winters, Vice President, Travis County Constable 5, Disabled Parking Enforcement Volunteer Coordinator
"I became affiliated with Art Spark Texas in 2005 through Actual Lives Austin where, during my first performance, I was so nervous that I read my poetry with my back to the audience. Eight years later, I am proud to say I’m a disability rights advocate, a dancer, a writer, and an actor. Art Spark Texas inspires me to believe in myself, and to learn more about my disability through working, moving & laughing with others who may or may not have disabilities. As a board member, I want to help others understand that disability is not a stigma to live under, but rather a strength to live by."
Susan Loughran, Secretary
A couple of years ago I made a donation of some art supplies to Mobile Arts. I am grateful that that small act led to a connection with Art Spark Texas - or VSA as it was known then - and eventually to an invitation to serve on the Board. It was an invitation that I happily accepted. I spent many years working in the performing arts, as an actress, director and costume designer. In addition, I spent 40 years teaching the arts at St. Edward's University. Some of those years were spent teaching theater and film in the SEU General Education curriculum. That meant teaching the arts to people who were not necessarily interested and, in some cases, openly hostile to the idea of "having to take a d*** arts class to fulfill a d*** General Education requirement." Working with that population and almost always winning them over, I was continuously struck with the intense power of the arts - the power to help people grow and develop in exciting and unexpected ways and the power to help people communicate and come together in wonderful and enriching ways. Art Spark Texas opens these kinds of "arts doors" for a population who, sadly, might otherwise be shut out. I'm proud to be a small part of that process.
Stephanie Whallon, Treasurer, Texas State Film Commission, Incentive Program Manager
Stephanie moved from Los Angeles to Austin in 2010 where she works at the Texas Film Commission. As a writer and a filmmaker she is proud to be a part of Art Spark Texas. “I am excited to work with artists from all backgrounds and abilities, to encourage them and to be inspired by them, and most importantly to help them contribute their own interesting and valuable stories to the world.”
Afra Al-Mussawir, Educator - Private tutor
Afra Al-Mussawir taught Biology and general science in a public high school in Brooklyn, New York City, before moving to Austin in 1999. She completed graduate study at The University of Texas at Austin while focusing on the fields of cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and Middle East Studies. Her interest in Art Spark Texas is another extension of her lifelong interest in education and social issues.
Dave Dauber, Actor & Accessibility Specialist for Texas Health & Human Services
Dave first recognized the importance of Art Spark Texas as an Actual Lives groupie in 2002. While dating Actual Lives performer, Terri Stellar, he not only fell in love with her but rekindled his love for acting. Dave went on to perform in several Actual Lives shows. He also directed an Actual Lives show and started a TV/Web show with fellow performer, Gene Rodgers. With the encouragement from Art Spark Texas, he continues to pursue his acting career. Through his work on the Art Spark Texas board of directors, he hopes to give that same encouragement to other aspiring artists.
Juan M. Muñoz
McCombs School of Business Board Fellows
- Patricia Bacalao
- Kim Leno