Our Story


Originally incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in September of 1986 as “Very Special Arts Rhode Island”, we joined an International Network of Affiliates started by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith as an educational affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts located in Washington, D.C.

A decade later the International Organization then changed the name to “VSA arts”, eliminating the use of the word “special” to recognize and honor the progress made by members of the disability community since the organization’s inception. The letters VSA reflected the Vision of an inclusive community, Strength in shared resources and Artistic expression that unite us all.

In 2000 the VSA International Organization changed it’s structure and updated the logo all the affiliates used. We then became VSA arts Rhode Island, the State Organization on Arts and Disability.

Now, with the Kennedy Center ending the Affiliate Network, we are changing our name to Arts Equity. While our core mission remains the same as we continue to promote inclusive arts and education services to individuals with disabilities of all ages, the transformed Arts Equity will work to bring together individuals and community arts organizations with advocacy to create a shared purpose of inclusive and accessible practices that supports both social justice and growth of the field.

What is Equity?


Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.

Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

Here is a short video that explains the difference between equity and equality.