VSA Wisconsin Stories and Outcomes

Stoughton choir members in rehearsal

Torin Wilke

VSA Wisconsin uses the arts to makes a positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities. The following stories underscore the power of the arts:

Engagement leads to new skills in VSA’s Early Childhood-Healthy Foundations artist residencies

The Healthy Foundations residencies use the arts to promote school readiness for young children with and without disabilities at early learning sites across the state. Suzie Kitson, an educator at Gingerbread House in Sun Prairie said this about the program recently conducted at her site. “Jenn’s [teaching artist] classes are multi-sensory using visuals (objects and pictures), auditory, and tactile with lots of hands-on and movement. She also includes some dramatics which gets the children’s attention. She finds a way to sing many routine directions to make them fun and engage children without telling kids what to do. Many parents commented on how much their child enjoyed the singing and movement activities. They felt it was influential with their child’s language development.”

Science Discoveries: A Puppetry Arts Program

Is art science or is science art?  Students at DC Everest Middle School, Wausau East High School and Horace Mann Middle School investigated this concept during artist residencies led by teaching artist Pam Corcoran. The students explored science-related themes such as inquiry, discovery and change through puppetry and creative drama. The residencies served as an introduction to the properties of light and its role in creating shadows.  During the residency sessions, the students created puppets and learned first-hand what differentiates opaque, translucent and transparent materials.  By performing shadow plays, they also learned how light travels and how an object’s shadow is affected by the intensity and position of the light. 

Making music, making a difference through the VSA Choir program

“This Choir always touches my heart; what a difference you make in the community.” – Audience member from Stevens Point

The choir program uses music to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.  Outcomes include increased self confidence, improved musical skills and a greater sense of belonging to the community. Laurie Mecum, director of the VSA Choir of Stoughton tells us that one member only sings when she has the microphone, however this individual is very expressive in directing the songs when she isn’t singing. In the past another member had been very quiet, but now she is a more active participant and is starting to use a rhythm instrument.

Celebrating visual art accomplishments.....

Torin Wilke of Hortonville received a 2017 Purchase Award and his work entitled “3D Explosion of Water and Trees” has been added to VSA Wisconsin’s traveling exhibition. His art teacher Marcia Streicher tells us, “Torin has endless ideas. He’ll be painting one painting and talk about the next one. He knows just what he’s going to do and he knows exactly where every line is going to go.” According to Torin’s mother, “Our family is so excited for him. They can see how he loves his art. His brothers and his sister are really excited that Torin can show his talent this way. I think his art makes him very happy. Obviously there are a lot of things that he struggles doing because of his disability, but through his art, I think it opens up a lot of people’s eyes.”

2012 Purchase Award recipient Dan Sullivan (D.S. Sully) is an advocate of folk art with its emphasis on shapes, contrasts, and colors which quite literally reflect the way he sees life. He focuses on transforming something as ordinary as old fence posts into not-so-ordinary duck decoys. Shying away from power tools, all work is done with just a handsaw, rasp and hammer. Dan, who is visually impaired, says, “Being cracked, splintered and rough-edged does not make a weathered fence post useless. These things only add to its character. With some persistent crafting and a touch of imagination, even an old piece of wood can be transformed. Perhaps this is how those of us with disabilities need to be perceived. Once given the opportunity to adapt, we each have the potential to evolve into a work of art.”

VSA Art Center classes lead to new skills, awards and micro-businesses for participants