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, Artworks Director
"Before Art Spark Texas was a VSA affiliate, it was called Access Arts Austin. I was the first employee for Access Arts Austin starting at just 8 hours a week in 1997. I left in 1999 to continue my arts administration career at a full time job. I returned in 2002 after Access Arts Austin had become Art Spark Texas and was able to offer me a full time job. 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."
Gina Woodruff, Development Associate
"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 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."
Eric Clow, Project Coordinator, Opening Minds, Opening Doors
“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.”
Board of Directors
Tanya Winters, 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."
Emily Shryock, Vice 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.
Renee Lopez, Secretary
“I first became aware of Art Spark Texas when a friend invited me to a performance of Actual Lives. I wasn't sure what to expect but by the end of the show, I was hooked. I recently retired for working for the State of Texas after 30 years. I joined Art Spark Texas’s Opening Minds, Opening Doors class and found an avenue for my own self-expression. I found self-expression, in whatever form, is vital to every human-being's soul. Often, people with disabilities are excluded from the arts. I joined the Art Spark Texas board in order to support and sustain this extremely valuable organization.”
Kris Tidwell, Treasurer, USAF Veteran 1988-1992
I was introduced to VSA through a writing class offered to veterans with disabilities. It was like finding a family. I had been looking for a way to give hope through the healing of art. Although I have much to learn, I am excited to be part of VSA.
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.
Anson E. Fraser
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.
Ben Marek, McCombs School of Business – UT Austin
Ben is a graduate student at the University of Texas pursuing a JD/MBA dual-degree in law and business. He is working with Art Spark Texas through the McCombs School of Business' Board Fellows program, which places graduate business students on the boards of Austin-area non-profit organizations. He is a native Texan and a passionate advocate of participation in the arts for all.
Nancy Baden, President, CCC-SLP, Speech/Language Pathologist
"My participation in another non-profit that emphasizes inclusion activities of all kinds inspired me to get involved with VSA. Having spent many years supporting improved access and independence for people with communication disabilities, it was a natural fit."
Susan Thomas, LPC-S, LMFT, Past President Integral Care, AISD School Mental Health Ctrs. Counselor
Stephanie Whallon, 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.”