Our Impact

For over 30 years, VSA Florida has provided programs that make it possible for people with disabilities to contribute to the social, cultural, and economic life of Florida.  Our programs have demonstrated long-term success in increasing artistic skills, fostering creativity, promoting social skills, creating self-confidence, teaching marketable skills, and providing new ways of communication for people with disabilities.

Did you know….

  • Arts education provides skills critical to 21st-century success.  While studying the arts, students hone their perceptual, analytic, and interpretive skills as well as develop their creative thinking, communications and problem solving abilities.

    • ​All VSA Florida artist in residence programs are tied directly to the Florida Standards and meet an average of five standards per residency.  23% of these standards relate to critical thinking and reflection and 11% to innovation, technology and the future.  According to teacher evaluations, 80% of students increased their imagination and creative thinking during their residency


  • The arts improve academic performance. A recent study conducted by Florida State University of 197,932 twelfth grade seniors showed a strong relationship between students who participated in school arts experiences and higher academic success. High school art students had a 15% higher GPA and averaged 6.5% higher than non-art students on SAT verbal (Center for Fine Arts Education, 2013).

    • Most VSA Florida residencies include a focus on vocabulary development.  According to teacher evaluations, 71% of students increased their vocabulary during their residency.


  • Art exercises can improve social skills for students with disabilities.  Students with learning disabilities tested against a comparison group before and after drama exercises showed clear improvement in social skills like courtesy to others, self-control, focus on classwork, and following directions.  The benefits were sustained when tested two months after the end of the program (“Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development”, 2002). 

    • VSA Florida will be conducting detailed evaluations of the benefit of our artist in residence programs on students’ social skills over the next three years.  Currently in our first year of evaluation, we’ve found a noticeable increase in students’ abilities to listen when others speak, follow directions, and accept feedback over the course of their residency.


  • Art experiences help low-income and at-risk youth. Art students on free or reduced lunch scored 33 points higher on SAT math and 51 points higher on SAT verbal than their non-art peers.  They were 4 times more likely to have high academic achievement and 3 times more likely to have high attendance.  The advantages of the arts on low-income students actually increased over time.  Art students were more likely than their peers to have attended and done well in college, built careers, volunteered in their community and voted (“Re-investing in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools”, 2011).

    • 69% of VSA Florida artist in residence programs are at low-income and/or rural schools or Department of Juvenile Justice facilities.


  • Florida’s students with disabilities enroll in art classes considerably less than their peers without disabilities.  Approximately 13% of students in Florida have a recognized disability.  The majority of these students receive elementary music and visual art classes.  As students age, however, their enrollment in arts classes declines.  Only 10% of students enrolled in visual art classes in middle and high school have a disability while only 7.2% of middle school students and 6.1% of high school students enrolled in music education classes have a disability (statistics from the Florida Department of Education- Bureau of Standards and Instructional Support, 2015). 

    • Our artist in residence programs serve students PreK to grade 12 and help reduce the participation gap for students’ with disabilities.  In 2014, 3,439 students with disabilities in 167 school and Department of Juvenile Justice facilities participated in VSA Florida’s multi-week My Art, My Way artist in residence programs.  40% of our programs target middle and high school students with disabilities.


  • The arts can help wounded warriors and trauma survivors.  The arts have been used effectively to treat soldiers, combat veterans, and survivors of physical and emotional trauma.  The arts open avenues for expression, engagement, and other key elements of trauma recovery (Americans for the Arts).  

    • In 2014, VSA Florida reached out to hundreds of cancer survivors, amputees, and veterans through new partnerships with the C.W. Bill Young Veterans Hospital, James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, and Moffitt Cancer Center for our outreach performances of Anita Hollander’s STILL STANDING: A Musical Survival Guide for Life’s Catastrophes.


Our Successes

The following stories and pictures underscore the power of VSA Florida’s programs:

     “[Our Teaching Artist] brought out compassion and manners from this student. He did things for/with her that I never thought he would do and accomplish.” - Classroom Teacher, Volusia County- Tomoka Elementary

      “One of my students has trouble communicating and during our time with the artist he was very verbal. He was even making choices without prompting.”- Classroom Teacher, Pasco County-
Connerton Elementary

      “G is the only student in the class that uses a wheelchair. He and the rest of the class are used to the constant reminders of the teachers and staff to be careful and to not get too close to the chair. So when I suggested  interaction with the chair as a way of creating relationships, he was in heaven. He blossomed [and] discovered something new and we all cheered for him.” - Lucia Lund, Teaching Artist, Miami-Dade County- Hialeah High School 

      “One of the surprise benefits of this program was an increase in my student’s verbal skills. I have one student with a severe language disability. He rarely spoke in sentences of more than three words. During one of the sessions the students were mixing primary colors to create new colors. This student said, “I mixed blue and red. I made purple.” - Classroom Teacher, Duval County- Biltmore Elementary

     “One student uses a wheelchair and hasn’t had many opportunities for onstage performances. She is a cheerleader at the school and loves to perform but wanted most to perform on a stage for an audience. She was ecstatic to learn she was going to be the main star in the opening of the dance. She told me I ‘made her dream come true” and helped “check something off her bucket list”. - Destinee Rhodes, Teaching Artist, Brevard County- Titusville High School