VSA Arts of Texas

Art Works: Creative Industries

  • Impact
    • Artists with developmental disabilities (DD) were able to attend group meetings, workshops across the state, and show and sell their work at Access Gallery and other exhibitions
    • Students were taught art techniques by mentors and led through a process where they priced work, prepared an artist statement, photographed work and presented work for consideration for sale
    • A musician from the pilot program is now in a successful local band and has produced her second CD
    • A young man learning metal arts is now enrolled in Austin Community College in the welding program
    • Artists who exhibited work in Access Gallery have gone on to pursue Master of Fine Arts degrees in studio art or have successfully pursued artist residencies and solo shows in other galleries
    • Between six and eight solo or group shows, as well as Open Mic Nights, were held at Access Gallery yearly
    • Information about Artworks, a monthly newsletter about creative industries programs and services, was distributed to almost 3,000 people across the state

Statewide Need
National studies continue to indicate that people with disabilities have higher levels of unemployment than people without. Self-employment can solve certain problems associated with unemployment and/or insufficient income; however, starting a small business or micro-enterprise can be difficult, especially for people who do not have the necessary capital or the borrowing power. Furthermore, working for oneself can result in isolation or difficulty finding ongoing social support. Other existing employment models have been successful in enabling many people with DD to be employed successfully. Continued funding of projects that demonstrate innovative activities can systematically increase employment opportunities for people with DD.

Project Goal
Develop micro-enterprises in the arts to increase competitive employment outcomes and bring about a cultural change related to more enterprising, self-directed and innovative attitudes toward work and personal life management systems for people with DD.

Project Summary
VSA Texas supported artists through Artworks Network group meetings and workshops across the state. In the Network groups, artists discussed topics pertinent to their specific needs and to plan workshops. VSA Texas hosted trainings in vocational, social, artistic and life skills in the areas of applied and fine arts, marketing, financial management, pre-employment and career readiness skills. VSA Texas partnered with local organizations for special trainings and workshops.

A survey reported findings that artists with disabilities needed and wanted assistance in marketing and pricing artwork as well as the opportunity and support to develop business administration skills. Project focus expanded from a self-directed business model to one of supported business. The Paid Mentoring and Micro-Enterprise Mentoring models were chosen for replication for youth with DD and were extended through high school transition programs around Central Texas.

The Micro-Enterprise Model placed artist mentors to work with a group of young adults with DD to design and create artwork. Students were taught art techniques, work pricing processes, artist statement preparation, work photography and how to present work for consideration by galleries. In addition, mentors conducted an artist residency, which has become an ongoing project. The group created artwork together and sold these pieces at a gallery and an art exhibit.

The Paid Mentoring Model started with two mentorships, a musician in Austin and a young dancer with Down syndrome in Denton. Four other young artists were matched after the launch of the model: a metal worker, a painter and two students at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

VSA launched a summer camp that focused on young adults transitioning to work with a focus on theater visual art and new media. The VSA Texas executive director and teaching artists designed a teaching curriculum that provides students with activities to help develop social, digital and pre-employment skills.

  • Resources
    • Video Training – Information on how to fill out the artist registry form, how to form an artist network group, and how to fill out a call for art
    • New Media Arts Trainings – Training on new media arts

Project Period
Aug 2007 – Jul 2012

3710 Cedar Street Box 7
Room #128
Austin, TX 78705

Geographic Reach

Orange shape of Texas indicating state wide coverage