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Helping South Carolinians with disabilities have arts access

Arts Access South Carolina (AASC), formerly VSA South Carolina, is the only 501(c) 3, multi-service statewide organization in South Carolina guided by the mission to create an inclusive society in which people with disabilities learn, participate, and enjoy the arts. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="37823,37824"] Click on images to enlarge.

For over 32 years as VSA South Carolina, AASC has actively engaged with community partners in Education, Health, non-profits and other organizations to inspire and empower people with disabilities through rich experiences in the arts. Although AASC changed its name in 2013, we continue to envision a world where people are no longer defined by their limits. We simply see people with incredible artistic abilities! [caption id="attachment_37822" align="alignright" width="150"] Julia Brown-DuBose[/caption] Executive Director Julia Brown-DuBose, long-time advocate for inclusive arts in South Carolina, also serves as the ADA/504 Program Director/Consultant for the S.C. Arts Commission. “Borrowing the words of my colleague, Betty Siegel, director of the Office of VSA and Accessibility at the Kennedy Center, ‘we share a deep passion for this work that we do. It’s likely that we share the desire to make a larger difference in the lives we touch. For many of us, we contribute to the stories with our words, with our actions and become agents of change…’ “Recently, someone asked me what am I most known for in life? Had to ask – are you really ready for my story? It’s something we all share, the commitment to invest in others. I give my time, talent and treasures to people with disabilities and for me it has always been through the arts. If you work in education and want to bring the arts to special education students, call me and tell me your story!” AASC provides classes, workshops, internships, apprenticeships, and support to professional and emerging artists in the cultural industry and to many businesses that support the creative arts industry in South Carolina. One example of our impact of is their C.O.T.T.A.G.E. Industries℠ concept, a highly important way for individuals with disabilities to turn the various skills they acquire through our projects into sustainable career opportunities. Throughout the state, those involved in AASC programs learn: In the arts, anything is possible!
For more information about opportunities to support or participate with AASC, visit their website: artsaccesssc.org.

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Textile artist Arianne King Comer helps young people thrive

The May issue of Charleston Magazine features batik artist Arianne King Comer, who works with Arts Access South Carolina (formerly VSA Arts), a South Carolina Arts Commission partner.

Textile artist Arianne King Comer shines a light on unrecognized creative talent, helping kids with disabilities thrive “Art is not what you see,” said French impressionist painter Edgar Degas, “but what you make others see.” Thanks to her work with nonprofit Arts Access South Carolina, formerly VSA (Very Special Arts): The State Organization on Arts and Disability—which identifies artistically gifted children with disabilities and provides them with teachers in a variety of creative disciplines—local Arianne King Comer is using batik art to not only open eyes, but hearts and minds as well. For some 20 years, the esteemed textile artist has shared her skills with kids. In 2007, she began to teach batik in high school classes that include young people facing physical, mental, and emotional challenges. This year, King Comer has spent 90 minutes of each school day at Stall High, guiding 20 students through the process of batik, in which wax, natural dyes, and stamping tools are used to create designs on cloth. But her supply kit contains a tool less visible yet equally as penetrating as the deep indigo that is a trademark of her work. It is empathy, driven by her own experience as a child who could not read until the age of 10 in a time when dyslexia was not diagnosed. Her parents gave her crayons and paper, and she learned that “keeping your hands busy creatively gives you a chance to work out your problems without getting deflated.” Michael Johnson was more than deflated before King Comer came to West Ashley High in 2008. “I could not control my anger, because I was bullied by people who didn’t know I have autism and ADHD. Letting out my emotions on fabric taught me how to not throw a hissy fit in class. It taught me how to focus,” says Johnson, who went on to apprentice with King Comer and show his work in several local exhibits. The transformative effect of King Comer’s instruction is “stunning,” says Holly Annibale, whose daughter, Michelle, has Down Syndrome, bipolar disorder, and autistic spectrum disorder behaviors. Michelle exhibited behavioral issues at West Ashley High, so Holly was shocked to see her daughter—who previously shoved aside those who came too close—giving King Comer a hug, then sharing a pot of wax with fellow students, who had greeted her warmly. Now 22, Michelle creates beautiful scarves to sell through MHA Batik, a company her mom started on her behalf. Holly says batik was like magic, bringing out the brilliant hues hidden in her child. “There’s clearly something about Arianne that is unique,” she adds before offering a direct quote from Michelle: “That’s the best lady ever!” Foster the Arts: Due to funding cuts, Arts Access has had to drastically reduce the number of teachers they place in schools. To learn more about the nonprofit and donate, visit www.vsasc.org.  Via: Charleston Magazine

Statewide organization on arts and disabilities to create ornaments for National Christmas Tree display

VSA South Carolina and textile artist Arianne King Comer have been chosen to design and create ornaments for South Carolina’s tree for the 2012 National Christmas Tree display in President’s Park in Washington, D.C.  Artists and youth from each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia were selected by the National Park Foundation to create 24 ornaments for their trees. “It is an honor to be selected, and we look forward to collaborating with North Charleston students, seniors and veterans -- some with disabilities and some without --  to create these special ornaments,” said Julia Brown, executive director of VSA South Carolina. Comer, a master batik and teaching artist for VSA South Carolina, will lead a workshop to create the ornaments on Friday, Nov. 9, from 9 am to noon at the Felix C. Davis Community Center, located at 4800 Park Circle in North Charleston. Other textile artists assisting with the workshop include Peggie Hartwell, Cookie Washington and North Charleston’s current artist-in-residence, Kristy Bishop. Ornaments will be made using batik, quilting and other textile design processes. The workshop is presented as a component of the City of North Charleston’s Veterans Day celebrations and is open to students from Stall High School and Gregg Mathis Charter School, as well as local seniors and veterans. Those interested in participating should contact Julia Brown at (803) 603-4450 or jbrown@arts.sc.gov before the workshop date, as space is limited. The 90th National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony (date to be announced) is one of America’s oldest holiday traditions. It began on Christmas Eve in 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit a Christmas tree in front of 3,000 spectators on the Ellipse in President’s Park. Each succeeding President has carried on the tradition of what has become a month-long event presented by the National Park Foundation (the official charity of America's national parks) and the National Park Service. In addition to the tree display, President’s Park hosts a variety of family-oriented holiday attractions, such as Santa’s Workshop, holiday performances, a Yule log, a nativity scene and model train display. Formerly known as Very Special Arts, VSA South Carolina is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 1986 to provide quality accessible arts experiences throughout S.C. for children, youth and adults with disabilities. Founded in 1974 by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, VSA has an international network which includes 37 state affiliates and 51 international affiliates. VSASC is affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts under the VSA /Arts Accessibility Program. For ticket information, talent announcements and other event details, visit www.thenationaltree.org.