The Tennessee Arts Commission and VSA Tennessee are partnering on this
series of four webinars to provide resources, encouragement, and
inspiration to artists with disabilities. At the end of each webinar, you’ll
give us feedback on your experience.
After you finish four webinars, and provide feedback, you’ll receive a
certificate of completion.
The Tennessee Arts Commission is a state agency that funds and supports
quality arts experiences that add value to the lives of every citizen, and
enhances the quality of life in Tennessee communities.
VSA Tennessee is part of an important history of equality and opportunity
in the arts through a national organization created in 1974 by Jean
Kennedy Smith to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to
participate in, learn through, and enjoy the arts. Formerly Very Special
Arts Tennessee, the statewide organization, founded in 2001, offers a wide
range of programs for varied artistic interests and abilities, with an
emphasis on serving young people.
In this first webinar, you’ll be introduced to the topics to be covered in
more detail later. You’ll get some tips on getting started and notes on
resources which may be helpful to you. You’ll also hear from a successful
professional artist with a disability. Throughout the webinar series, more
artists will add their voices, giving you practical advice and inspiration.
Like you, they know the challenges and the joys of pursuing a career in
First, you’ll hear from J.P. Williams, a Nashville-
based performing songwriter signed to renowned
publisher Major Bob Music. As a signed songwriter,
he earns a living writing country pop songs. He
goes into Major Bob’s every day of the work
week, usually collaborating with another writer.
JP has performed everywhere from the Kennedy Center in Washington,
D.C. and colleges throughout the Northeast U.S. to pubs in Ireland on
assignment for Budget Travel Magazine. Along the way, he's opened for
Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs and Randy Travis, to name a few. He also
has taught private music lessons. JP has a music degree from University of
Tennessee – Chattanooga.
“When you go into a creative field, remember that it
is a business. Criticism is par for the course. You have
to take the good criticism and leave behind the
bad. If you want to go into a career in music,
painting, acting or dance—whatever the medium of
art—recognize from the start that it is a business.
Don’t take things too personally.”
JP’s early musical influences included James Taylor, Garth Brooks and Billy
Joel. More recently he’s found inspiration in the music of John Mayer and
Reflecting on his early influences and aspirations, JP says…
“It’s hard enough to be a teenager, but if you’re
completely blind, that’s a tough deal. Any time you
find that you have a talent in something, it’s a really
good thing. In high school, I was the blind guy who
showed up at the party with a guitar. Then, I’m just
one of the guys. It’s always been a great way to
connect with others and to find common ground
with people. You get affirmation from others.”
“My voice teacher in high school was the first person
who really encouraged me, outside of my family
and church. She said that with a lot of practice and
instruction I could get good at this and to keep
plugging away at it. She took me seriously and took
time out of her schedule to be supportive.”
Who are your artistic influences and
Increase Your Awareness and
Enjoy the arts.
Feed your soul.
Network with other artists.
Become an expert on your local arts scene.
What opportunities in the arts are available to you in your own
If you take some time to think about this, you might be surprised at the
length of the list you generate. Get creative when you consider the
possibilities and investigate ways to build your resume, network, and
increase your visibility as an artist.
Do you have a local arts council?
If so, what programs do they offer and how can you tap into them?
What’s available to you in terms of education and training?
You might take a class. If you don’t have a degree, explore
opportunities at local universities and community colleges.
Have you explored career counseling services?
The local office of the state employment commission and other
organizations offer advice, programs, and career-building workshops on
such topics as creating a resume and applying for jobs.
As your journey begins, it’s well worth the time to explore four important
Each is rich source of ideas, programs, and inspiration.
The web site of the Tennessee Arts Commission features an overview of
accessibility and inclusion initiatives, information on grants, helpful links to
other resources, and listings of dozens of offerings and events. You or an
arts organization in your community may be eligible for funding
Tennesseans for the Arts emphasizes advocacy and support, including a
comprehensive online advocacy toolkit and links to contact information
for state and local government officials.
The web site of VSA Tennessee is your portal to workshops and special
activities throughout the state. Sign up to receive the newsletter for
upcoming events to stay informed and network with other artists.
The Kennedy Center is the administrative home of VSA, the international network on
Disability and the Arts, including the affiliate in Tennessee.
Here, you’ll find a full library of resources, including a number of helpful and inspiring
publications on career development.
On the main page, click on “Resources” from the listing on the right side. From there,
select “for artists” beneath the resources heading, also on the right side of the page.
Gain Experience and Promote
Imagine the possibilities.
As an artist, you have an advantage - your own imagination!
Get yourself “out there.”
Share your talents.
Here are just a few tips on gaining experience, which may already be a
part of your career development.
• Perform at your church, local nursing homes, and special events like
receptions and festivals (where stipends may be available).
• Volunteer to teach children or adults, including senior citizens at
community centers, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes.
• Get involved in community theatre as a performing artist or
• Join a local chorus or orchestra.
• Exhibit your art in places besides galleries – a community center, a
business, or an arts venue. Think creatively about non-traditional
locations that might be willing to show your work.
• Pull together a great resume and portfolio. Create a biography and cover
letter. Gather references.
• Create a brochure about you, including photographs of your work in the
visual or the performing arts.
• Produce a dynamic packet to promote yourself and keep it up to date.
• Your own personal promotional plan may include a web site, along with
Facebook and other social media.
Evaluate the accessibility of arts and education facilities in your
• If you see the need for improvements, contact key people within an
organization and advocate for increased inclusion. These key people
will range from community outreach and public relations staff to chief
administrators. See the web site for Tennesseans for the Arts,
mentioned earlier, for a comprehensive advocacy toolkit.
Why is this important?
• Your own personal advocacy will contribute to a cultural mindset of
inclusion and accessibility for all people. Here’s an example from the
Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) in Nashville.
TPAC is one of the most accessible arts facilities in the state with a mission
to serve all of the citizens of Tennessee. In addition to seating, with
companions, for people who use wheel chairs, accessible parking is
designated nearby. Assisted listening devices are available. In addition
to other basic services, TPAC provides, on request, personalized
assistance to audience members.
The accessibility overview on TPAC’s web site (www.tpac.org/visiting)
includes contact information, also available from customer service
agents by telephone, 615-782-4040.
For each show in its Broadway series, TPAC provides American Sign
Language and open captioning for patrons with hearing impairments,
along with audio description - live narration of the action on the stage -
for patrons with visual impairments.
These services are offered on the first Sunday matinee of Broadway tours.
TPAC also is committed to exhibiting the visual art of people with
disabilities - not something you might expect from a performing arts
center. This is a great example of a non-traditional exhibit opportunity.
These lobby exhibits showcase the work of Tennessee artists, increasing
visibility and raising awareness about the organizations they represent.
TPAC actively partners with a variety of advocacy groups on
accessibility. Their feedback, advice, and promotion are vital to the
success of providing services to people with disabilities.
TENNESSEE DISABILITY PATHFINDER
Tennessee Disability Pathfinder is an excellent general source for people
with disabilities, with listings on the regional, state and national level for a
wide variety of organizations and programs. Pathfinder staff members
work with individuals, guiding their search for information and resources
on a wide variety of concerns.
Visit the web site or call
CENTERS FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING
Centers for Independent Living (under a variety of names) offer resources
and general assistance to people with disabilities. Visit this web site and
click on the state of Tennessee to view offices in your area (or call
Tennessee Disability Pathfinder for a recommendation).
Visit the web site
This concludes the introductory webinar to Arts Expedition, a project of
the Tennessee Arts Commission and VSA Arts Tennessee.
Before you give feedback on this session, let’s hear again from JP
Williams, who believes in the inspirational power of a dream.
“When you have a dream it helps you to get up in
the morning. Whether or not you achieve that
dream, you have something to look forward to.
I ask myself, “What can I learn today?” That’s what
kept me persevering all these years. A dream gives
you direction, a trajectory, something to point
yourself towards achieving.”
WHAT’S YOUR DREAM?
The ultimate goal of this webinar series is to support and encourage you
as you pursue a career in the arts in Tennessee.
Please fill out the brief questionnaire at the end of this presentation!
• Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, Funding Support
• Christian Kissinger, Narrator
• Public Consulting Group, Inc.
• PCG Education, Design
• Lori Ward, Script
• JP Williams, Guest Artist
• Always Near Recording Studio
ARTS EXPEDITION QUESTIONNAIRE
Please fill out the brief questionnaire by clicking the link below! For assistance or more
information, contact VSA Tennessee at firstname.lastname@example.org or (615) 826-5252.