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Minnesota arts for the disabled nonprofit to close in 2019

Saint Paul Pioneer Press - 12/6/2018

Dec. 06--A Minnesota nonprofit that works to connect people with disabilities to the arts will close in 2019.

VSA Minnesota, previously known as Very Special Arts Minnesota, will close on Sep. 30, after more than three decades of service.

The closing comes after decreases in federal and state resources the past seven years, said Craig Dunn, VSA Minnesota's executive director. Two longtime employees will be retiring soon, as well.

The organization was started in 1986 and has been dedicated to ensuring that music, theater, dance, creative writing and visual arts play a part in the lives of all people.

"It's been my life's work," said Dunn, who has worked with VSA Minnesota since 1992. He previously worked as a music educator and therapist in different school settings for children with disabilities.

"When I took over (VSA Minnesota) it was really just an extension of what I had been doing on a daily basis," he said.

Those experiences, Dunn said, "helped me and the organization spread our message to connect people with disabilities with access to programs they could use."

Since 2011, the organization lost 20 percent of its nearly $500,000 budget through funding re-allocations from the U.S. Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Education. Much of the remaining funds are used in VSA Minnesota's grant programs.

Dunn said that, while the organization's closing is sad, he is encouraged by the growing number of nonprofits that will continue to help people with disabilities access programs in the future.

Community Programs in the Arts, COMPAS, is one of three organizations that will pick up some of VSA Minnesota's work.

Dawne Brown White, executive director at COMPAS, said they will focus on grant writing and school programming for students with disabilities.

"I do think it is a blow," she said, "because (VSA Minnesota) is the go-to resource for any nonprofit, any school, any arts organization looking for consulting and expertise in this area."

White said she appreciates the training, consultations and outreach VSA Minnesota has provided to ensure groups of citizens are not left out of the arts.

Springboard for the Arts and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council will also help incorporate VSA Minnesota's programs and activities into their own organizations to help limit the impact of losing the nonprofit.

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(c)2018 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

Visit the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) at www.twincities.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 
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