Within the many art museums of the Smithsonian Institution, new exhibits by the masters are almost an everyday occurrence. But a unique exhibit featuring the work of artists with disabilities recently opened thanks to the work of VSA – The International Organization on Arts and Disability. An international nonprofit organization founded more than 35 years ago by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, VSA offers people with disabilities the opportunity to learn through, participate in and enjoy the arts. For nine years, Volkswagen Group of America has partnered with VSA to recognize these emerging and accomplished artists, reflecting our commitment to diversity and inclusion, and our support of the visual and performing arts.
Jim and Sharon Forsythe, parents of VSA artist, Daniel, comment, “Drawing and painting have been Daniel’s daily experience since he was three years old. As a person with Down Syndrome, Daniel lives with moderate mental retardation; he is unable to read or write except at the most rudimentary levels. Daniel also has a speech impairment, which makes communication difficult. But Daniel’s disabilities end where his art begins. He views the blank page without fear or paralyzing self-analysis. He works with joy and confidence because he loves painting and drawing, creating worlds filled with beauty, adventure and exquisite proportion. Daniel’s self-assurance has blossomed since winning his VSA award. He understands the magnitude of that honor. We are grateful to VSA for recognizing what we have always known: Daniel’s artistic voice communicates while spoken words fail him. It is very gratifying to see Daniel have an opportunity to transcend his handicaps through others’ appreciation of his artwork.”