Exciting News for National Volunteer Month

NobleCause logo

The NobleCause logo is depicted in blue and green.

We have some exciting news to kick off April as National Volunteer Month!  VSA Vermont has been selected for one of only 107 NobleCause grants across the United States for our volunteer program. We will be using the grant monies to develop 4 specialized workshops/trainings for our volunteers—with and without disabilities. These NobleCause grants were made possible by an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation and organized by Noblehour.com, a volunteer management tool that promotes a culture of civic engagement and charts meaningful, measurable acts of goodness.

Here’s a brief outline of the training sessions we will be offering in the coming year:

  • Creating Accessible and Inclusive Programs and Services for People with Disabilities(2-hour training) – this general workshop would be provided to all of our volunteers, service-learning students, and collaborative partners and would include information about various disabilities, people first language, disability access symbols, communication strategies, accessibility and accommodations, and more.
  • Working as a Sighted Guide and/or Verbal Describer for People with Low Vision or Blindness(2-hour training) – this informative and hands-on, experiential workshop will be for volunteers, service-learning students, and collaborative partners who will be working with people with low vision or blindness at a VSA Vermont event or program. One of our trainers will be an individual with low vision or blindness.
  • Learning about Autism(2-hour training) – this informative workshop will be for volunteers, service-learning students, and collaborative partners who will be working with people identified on the Autism Spectrum at a VSA Vermont event or program.
  • Drumming Instruction for People with Disabilities(1-day/6-hour training) – this highly specialized training is for up to 8 professional/amateur drumming volunteers who wish to work with people with disabilities in VSA Vermont drumming programs.

If you are interested in volunteering with VSA Vermont or in learning more about our training programs, contact Heidi Swevens, Volunteer Coordinator, at heidi@vsavt.org.

Recruiting Mentors with Disabilities

We’re Recruiting Mentors with Disabilities!

VSA Vermont, with a grant from Mobius—Vermont’s Mentoring Partnership, is accepting applications for the second year of its arts-based mentoring program and is currently recruiting adults with disabilities to be mentors to youth with disabilities in the Burlington and Barre areas for the 2016-17 school year.  No arts experience is necessary—just an interest in trying new things and connecting with a young adult as they prepare to leave school.  VSA Vermont will provide training, arts materials, and instruction. The application to be an adult mentor can be found at:  http://www.vsavt.org/arts-education/high-school/  Applications are due by April 15, 2016.

As the first mentoring program in Vermont, and according to Mobius, first in the nation, matching adults with disabilities with youth with disabilities to participate in VT’s cultural life, VSA Vermont’s program meets a real need for youth receiving special education services.  “It’s so hard to imagine your future as a person with a disability if you don’t know any other adults with disabilities,” says Toby MacNutt, who designed this unique program for VSA Vermont, “and that’s what is so valuable about the relationships we’re creating.”  Adults with disabilities have an opportunity to make a difference in the life of a young person with a disability.

For more information or to express your interest in being an adult mentor, please email Toby MacNutt at toby@vsavt.org or call 802-857-5653.  Relay calls are welcome.

This program is made possible with the support of a large number of community partners, including the Vermont Arts Council, Mobius:  Vermont’s Mentoring Partnership, Burlington City Arts, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Vermont Youth Orchestra, Lost Nation Theater, Aldrich Public Library, Vermont Agency on Education, Vermont Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Vermont Association of Business and Rehabilitation, and multiple Vermont high schools.

FREE Drumming Classes for Deaf or Hard of Hearing Vermonters

In coordination with performances by visiting deaf musician, Dame Evelyn Glennie – renowned composer and the world’s first solo percussionist – VSA Vermont and the Community Engagement Lab are offering two short series of drumming classes.

Dame Evelyn Glennie stands in a field of faded gold grass, carrying a large drum on her back.

Dame Evelyn Glennie stands in a field of faded gold grass, carrying a large drum on her back.

Classes are:

  • For people of all ages who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and their families. Attendance is free for all participants.
  • April 4, 6, and 8, 6-8pm in Burlington (Burlington Taiko), or
  • April 5 & 7 from 5:30-7:30pm and April 9 from 7-9pm in Montpelier at the Vermont College of Fine Arts
  • ASL interpretation provided, along with drums and equipment. Instruction will be by Stuart Paton of Burlington Taiko.

Interested? To register, or with any questions, please contact Toby at toby@vsavt.org or by phone 802 857 5653, relay calls welcome.

More about the Community Engagement Lab: http://www.communityengagementlab.net/

More about Dame Evelyn Glennie: https://www.evelyn.co.uk/

Start With The Arts to add Family Engagement to our Award-winning Program

We’re so proud of Start With The Arts childcare providers, Erica Brooks, Erin McKechnie, Nancy Munn, and Linda Sweeney, and Start With The Arts teaching-artists, Cheryl Wells and Lisa Condino, who used skills learned in Facilitative Leadership training and from their participation in Start With The Arts to help us design a new professional development opportunity for childcare providers. Along with VSA Vermont’s Director of Children’s Programming, Peggy Rainville, and VSA Vermont’s Executive Director, the team has created a professional development model intended for childcare providers who have graduated from Start With The Arts in engaging families in arts-based literacy activities. As some of the participating childcare providers said, “I’m closer to my families. The trust is on a different level. I moved out of my comfort zone and I’m problem solving with parents… I think I can tackle almost anything. Hand me something. With a little support I can do it.” Many thanks to the A.D. Henderson Foundation for supporting the development of this new project to increase family-child engagement in arts-based literacy.

The Year in Review

VSA Vermont’s fiscal year runs from October 1st to September 30th. At the end of each year, we take a look at all that we have done and accomplished. Our activity map below shows where we provided our programs and services in 2014-2015. We are especially proud of our accomplishments this past year:

Engaging Families in our Pre-K Arts-based Literacy Program

This year we deepened our Start With The Arts (SWTA) Pre-K arts-based literacy program by providing Facilitative Leadership training to childcare providers who have graduated from our program so they can create a family engagement curriculum, deepening their work and bringing the joy of arts-based literacy into children’s homes.

Mentoring for High School Students with Disabilities

VSA Vermont has taken the next step in bridging school and community for young adults with disabilities by establishing a mentoring program with intergenerational creative connections. Students with disabilities are matched with adults with disabilities, and together they connect with local cultural organizations. VSA VT is helping cultural organizations build their capacity to welcome people with disabilities in various capacities: interns, volunteers, staff members, or artists.

Engaging Students with Behavioral Challenges

For over 2 years, VSA Vermont teaching-artist, Lisa Condino, has been working with students with behavioral challenges at the Baird School, successfully collaborating with classroom teachers in activities that use arts-integration and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to improve student engagement and social interactions in the classroom. In FY16, we will expand training resources so more teaching-artists can work in trauma-informed classrooms and with students with behavioral challenges.

Awards and Presentations

At the June 4th Turrell Children’s Day, VSA Vermont was joyfully surprised to be recognized as a finalist for the S. Whitney Landon Awards for our Start With The Arts Program. VSA VT teaching-artist Lisa Condino and David McIntyre, a Baird School teacher, gave a successful workshop–Arts to Smarts: Integrative Arts Engagement–at the June 22-25 BEST Institute’s Summer Conference in Killington, VT. VSA VT staff and community partners presented at this year’s VSA Intersections! Conference in Virginia from August 3-4; their presentation was entitled Pathways to Partnership: How organizations share resources to support inclusive teaching with UDL and arts integration.

Moving to New Digs

On June 1st VSA VT moved from Winooski to a new office in Essex Junction. Our new space is bright and cheery and provides improved building accessibility, private offices, as well as a shared meeting space. Please come and visit us! At VSA Vermont, Art Beats For All!

Help VSA VT keep great opportunities coming.  Donate online at – https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=TMDZS276EDS8N PayPal!





We are preparing our annual appeal for mailing and need a few volunteers to help out.

We’ve scheduled the following times:

  • Monday, November 16 from 2 to 5 PM (stuffing envelopes)
  • Tuesday, November 17 from 5 to 8 PM (addressing envelopes and writing personal notes)
  • Wednesday, November 18 from 2 to 5 PM (addressing envelopes and writing personal notes)
  • Friday, November 20 from 2 to 5 PM (stamping and sealing envelopes

If you can come and help out for a few hours on one of these days, we’d really appreciate it.

Let Heidi Swevens, VSA VT’s volunteer coordinator, know when you can come by emailing her at heidi@vsavt.org or calling her at 802-238-5170.

New Remo Comfort Sound Technology Drum Tables at VSA Vermont


With a grant from the Mervyn L. Brenner Foundation and assistance from Arts & Services for Disabled, Inc., VSA Vermont has been able to purchase sound-adapted drums:  four, 22-inch drum tables and two, 30-inch drum tables. These new percussion instruments use Comfort Sound Technology, specifically to aid as a tool for people with sound sensitivities. The drums were developed with input from music therapists, clinicians, and other educators that wanted adapted instruments to further access their students and clients’ greater health, therapeutic, learning, and recreational needs.

In early 2015, the drum makers at Remo Inc. released Comfort Sound Technology, a drumhead composite material designed to deliver a unique quality of sound by suppressing high-frequency overtones. These specialty drums have a BIG vibration with a focused, controlled sound that delivers beautiful tone, while remaining accessible for individuals or groups with sound sensitivities.

According to Alyssa Janney, Health Program Development and Marketing Manager for Remo, Inc., “Strong vibration, shortened decay, and focused low frequencies provide a comfortable sound that is not overstimulating, and is described as ‘irresistible.’” Janney notes that “There are no wrong notes on these drum tables. Rhythm can be used to orchestrate a better quality of life without requiring mastery of the instrument.”

Cognitive studies are suggesting that being able to synchronize to an external beat may correlate not only to improved health, but also to better language and reading skills. Furthermore these drum tables fits in virtually any music activity for any group for recreation, education, or therapy, and are particularly effective for individuals with autism, Alzheimer’s, and dementias.

VSA Vermont demonstrated these new drum tables at its October 4th BOOM VT Drum Festival at the Fletcher Free Library. If you are interested in learning more, contact Marguerite Adelman at marguerite@vsavt.org or 802-871-5043.