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A man playing a saxophone on stage. Painting of a hand cupped around a tiny infant. Vibrantly colored painting of geometric renderings of faces. A woman sculpting a bust out of clay. Close-up of a painting of a human eye in shades of black, red and orange. A woman performing in a play on stage. A young boy smiling at a hand puppet. An exuberant group of participants in the Actual Lives program. A young boy participating in the Arts Alive program. Painting with white and blue hair-like strokes on a background of deep turquoise. Man in a wheelchair viewing artwork in a gallery. Blind artist standing in front of his work. Group of women performing with colored scarves. Man speaking into a microphone with open captioning on a large screen behind him. Group of young students playing a musical game with the teacher.

About Us - Board & Staff

Board of Directors

Executive Committee

Susan Thomas, Board President, LPC-S, LMFT

Maren Strachan, Past Board President, Senior Consultant
"VSA Texas has inspired me because it encourages people’s voices to be heard and considered. Voices and stories in all mediums enrich our community by offering us deep paths to understand ourselves, and a sometimes wordless ways to connect and augment."

Nancy Baden, Board Vice President, Speech/Language Pathologist
"My participation in another non-profit that emphasizes inclusion activities of all kinds inspired me to get involved with VSA. Having spent many years supporting improved access and independence for people with communication disabilities, it was a natural fit."

Danney Ursery, Past Board President, Professor of Philosophy, St. Edward’s University
"The arts are important in understanding not only who we are as individuals, but also who we are as a community. I volunteer and support the goals of VSA because they create an accessible and inclusive space for artists who often do not have a place in our society. This allows new and different voices to express themselves through their art and further creates in people a sense of dignity and worth. My working with VSA is something I do so I can give back to our community."

Tanya Winters, Board Secretary, Travis County Constable 5, Disabled Parking Enforcement Volunteer Coordinator
"I became affiliated with VSA Texas in 2005 through Actual Lives Austin where, during my first performance, I was so nervous that I read my poetry with my back to the audience. Eight years later, I am proud to say I’m a disability rights advocate, a dancer, a writer, and an actor. VSA Texas inspires me to believe in myself, and to learn more about my disability through working, moving & laughing with others who may or may not have disabilities. As a board member, I want to help others understand that disability is not a stigma to live under, but rather a strength to live by."

Stephanie Whallon, Board Treasurer, Texas State Film Commission, Incentive Program Manager
Stephanie moved from Los Angeles to Austin in 2010 where she works the Texas Film Commission. As a writer and a filmmaker she is proud to be a part of VSA Texas. “I am excited to work with artists from all backgrounds and abilities, to encourage them and to be inspired by them, and most importantly to help them contribute their own interesting and valuable stories to the world.”


Afra Al-Mussawir, Educator - Private tutor
Afra Al-Mussawir taught Biology and general science in a public high school in Brooklyn, New York City, before moving to Austin in 1999. She completed graduate study at The University of Texas at Austin while focusing on the fields of cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and Middle East Studies. Her interest in VSA Texas is another extension of her lifelong interest in education and social issues.

Sarah Koestler, Project Manager at Austin Children’s Services
Sarah Koestler recently relocated to Austin and works at Austin Children’s Services as the Project HOPES Project Manager. She is excited to be a part of an organization that provides resources and opportunities to artists with diverse abilities.

Renee Lopez
I first became aware of VSA Texas when a friend invited me to a performance of Actual Lives. I wasn't sure what to expect but by the end of the show, I was hooked. I recently retired for working for the State of Texas after 30 years. I joined VSA Texas’s Opening Minds, Opening Doors class and found an avenue for my own self-expression. I found self-expression, in whatever form, is vital to every human-being's soul. Often, people with disabilities are excluded from the arts. I joined the VSA Texas board in order to support and sustain this extremely valuable organization.

Victor Martinez, Educator, Semi-Retired

Allison Ply, Tax Examiner
I have known of VSA Texas for years, but four years ago my daughter participated in the Opening Minds, Opening Doors (OMOD) program. She was able to take her life experiences and turn them into learning experiences for the groups she presented to. It was incredible to see her personal growth and watch her gain confidence with public speaking and advocacy. VSA Texas programs provide the guidance and support for individual growth and the creative process. These are programs worthy of our support.

Executive Director

Celia M. Hughes, Executive Director, VSA Texas
“I have been involved in the arts since I was a young child. I have also worked with people with disabilities from a very early age. Working for VSA Texas allows me to bring together my passions and help create change in the world.”


April Sullivan, Artworks Director
"Before VSA Texas was a VSA affiliate, it was called Access Arts Austin. I was the first employee for Access Arts Austin starting at just 8 hours a week in 1997. I left in 1999 to continue my arts administration career at a full time job. I returned in 2002 after Access Arts Austin had become VSA Texas and was able to offer me a full time job. The philosophy of arts being accessible to all people is what drew me to this organization in the first place, what brought me back, and what keeps me going for all these years. Each day is a new adventure and it is a joy to be a part of people's lives as they discover their artistic talents."

Janelle Matous, Development Director
"I have always been interested in how art brings people together, as it is the most universal form of communication that exists. Having supported myself as both an artist as well as non-profit fundraiser, VSA Texas allows me to utilize all my skills to introduce more people across all abilities to the beauty and importance of art in our lives. It allows me to make a difference in the world."

Lynn Johnson, Community Relations and Outreach Services
"I came to VSA Texas in 2007 excited to be in the world of art as well as theater. After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater I pursued different careers in Film and professional theater as a Props Designer, back stage and House Manager and volunteer. Having theater and film as my passion, I hadn’t fully realized that what I took for granted in being in these professions was not accessible to so many in our community and a new vision approached me. The culture of arts is for everybody and being a part of that mission opened up a new way of participation."

Eric Clow, Project Coordinator, Opening Minds, Opening Doors
“I first became involved with VSA Texas in 2012 as a volunteer for the New Media Arts program. Music, film, and theater have always been passions of mine, and making the arts accessible for people with disabilities is very important to me. As a musician and screenwriter living with Muscular Dystrophy, I understand the challenges of producing and sharing meaningful and engaging works of art, and I am excited to help other artists with disabilities succeed.”

Larissa van der Steen Quon, Web Designer
“I was introduced to VSA Texas through my field work at UT in 2004 seeking to merge my passions in art and activism. As a visual and performing artist, I believe the arts are an essential element of humanity, and having accessibility to quality arts programs and education as well as opportunities for artistic expression and development are crucial for driving creative innovation in society. I am proud to continue to serve in support of VSA Texas' mission."

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