VSA Texas is spotlighted on the I Live Here I Give Here website with an interview with Danney Ursery, Board Member.
Maren Strachan, 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."
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."
Juan M. Muñoz, Board Vice President, Private Driver
Was born and raised in Santa Maria, California until he moved to Austin in 1992. Since then, he has had various jobs working with people who have disabilities as a job developer, job coach, and a driver. He sits on the Austin Interfaith Inclusive Network Project Advisory Committee which is trying to make all places of worship accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities. In 2008, Juan became familiar with VSA Texas when he joined Actual Lives, their theatre group. He also became involved with mixed ability dance after meeting the Artistic Director of Forklift Danceworks, Allison Orr. As an artist with a disability, he has developed his unique voice that is being heard by the Austin community and beyond. By sitting on the VSA Board, he hopes to help others find their voice in society.
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.
Nancy Baden, 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."
My background is marketing, provider relations, event planning and fundraising. I've always had a passion for helping other's in need. Especially for people with all spectrums of disabilities. Through the years I've gained more and more respect for them, therefore I work hard to get results that will help build a better attitude in order to create a better inner self worth for all in need. As an artist as well, I am happy that VSA Texas specializes in that specifically, as I have a chance assist in to building better lives through creative hearts. Creativity is essential in a person's well being. It allows us to open new doors that we never knew were possible and continue the voyage of life through the eyes of media arts.
Austin Doak, Manager Media Services, St. Edwards University
"It can be funny how life can lead one down a path without them knowing that one day they may be standing at a chance to serve a mission much greater than they realized, much greater than their own. All the sudden, my wife and I found that a series of seemingly inconsequential life events had led us to a unique opportunity to serve on the board of VSA Texas. I'm honored to be part of such a remarkable and just organization whose mission touches so many, and I look forward to participating at every chance I can to positively impact and enrich the lives of others through this opportunity."
Shannon Doak, Artist/Art Teacher
Shannon was born and raised in Gretna, Louisiana until 1992, when she moved to the Houston area. In 2012, she married and moved to Austin. She studied art at the University of Houston and has spent six years teaching elementary art in Conroe ISD and Dripping Springs ISD. VSA spoke to her heart and she is very excited to be a new member on our board.
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.
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
Susan Thomas, LPC-S, LMFT
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."
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.”
Austin Hughes, VSA Texas’ New Summer Intern
Austin comes to us all the way from Boston, MA! Austin recently graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. Despite her name, she’s never been to Austin before and is excited to get to know the city and to be a part of the VSA Texas team! Austin will be taking over VSA’s social media presence and helping out with the VSA Texas summer camps.
Larissa Buglewicz, Web Designer
Has over 13 years of experience working in the arts, from visual communications and community outreach to development and education. She holds a BSW from the University of Texas at Austin. As part of her fieldwork at UT, she was introduced to VSA Texas and served as a visual arts and movement therapy assistant through their partnership with Accessible Arts, working with both children and adults with disabilities. In addition to her work with VSA as web designer, Ms. Buglewicz is a dance coach and choreographer for the JCC School of Dance.
Goodwill Industries of Central Texas
Travis County Constables Office
National Federation of the Blind of Texas
VORTEX Repertory Company
Clifton Career Development School, AISD
Texas Parent to Parent