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VSA Emerging Young Artists Program
A Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program

Since 2002, VSA and Volkswagen Group of America have teamed up to recognize and showcase the work of emerging young artists living with disabilities, ages 16-25, who are currently residing in the United States. This collaboration creates opportunities for these artists at a critical time when many are making the life-defining choice to pursue arts-based careers. VSA and Volkswagen are committed to sustainability and investing in the future of young artists living with disabilities.

click to play the video Watch Emerging Artist
Learn More About the VSA Emerging Young Artists Program

Every year, hundreds of emerging young artists living with disabilities compete to be included in a curated exhibition, formed around a unique theme, to be displayed in Washington, D.C. and then toured around the nation. After a rigorous adjudication process, 15 artists are selected to showcase their work and receive: 1) a $20,000 grand prize, a $10,000 first prize award, a $6,000 second prize award, and 12 $2,000 awards of excellence; 2) 2 days of all-expenses paid professional development workshops in Washington, D.C.; and 3) the opportunity to have their work displayed in an exhibition that opens in Washington, D.C. and tours for one year around the United States.

2015 VSA Emerging Young Artists Program

This year, 2015, the Kennedy Center celebrates the 25th ADA/40th VSA Anniversary Celebration, which honors the history, art, and culture of the disability community. The Celebration will include a retrospective featuring the work of previous VSA Emerging Young Artist Program participants at the Center in July 2015. During this time, the 2014 VSA Emerging Young Artists Program exhibition, The Journey, will continue to tour venues across the country.

The next call for entry will be for the 2016 VSA Emerging Young Artists Program. Check back in January 2016 for more details.

2014:The Journey

Emerging young visual artists with disabilities, ages 16-25, reflect on the theme The Journey- internal and external, personal and communal, human and technological – our journeys shape our aesthetic and environmental terrain and define our daily lives.

The 2014 VSA Emerging Young Artists Program Selected Artists are:

  • Gianna Paniagua
    Pittsburgh, PA | Miami, FL | Age: 23
    Grand Prize Award
    Gianna Paniagua's Never Stopping Never Stopping, 2014
    handcut paper, screenprint, 40" x 60"
  • Timothy Lee
    Brooklyn, NY | Age: 24
    First Prize Award
    Timothy Lee's gookeyes gookeyes, 2012
    watercolor on paper, 60" x 60"
Grace Tinsley
Arlington, MA | Age: 24
Second Prize Award
Grace Tinsley's The Disorient
The Disorient, 2014
digital print, 12" x 60"
  • Allison Anderson
    Cypress, CA | Age: 24
    Award of Excellence
    Allison Anderson's Promise Promise, 2014
    oil and spray paint on canvas, 72" x 60"
  • Amoako Buachie
    Brooklyn, NY | Age: 23
    Award of Excellence
    Amoako Buachie's The Quiet Painter The Quiet Painter"s Peace, 2014
    acrylic on canvas, 24" x 18"
  • Cory Daniels
    Norwich, VT | Age: 24
    Award of Excellence
    Cory Daniels's Untitled Untitled (Construction Site 2014), 2014
    archival inkjet print, 24" x 30"
  • Ethan Engel
    Winner, SD | Age: 24
    Award of Excellence
    Ethan Engel's Overcast Overcast, 2014
    raw canvas and wood burning tool, 30" x 24"
  • Danièle Gabriel
    Miami, FL | Age: 25
    Award of Excellence
    Dani&3le Gabriel's World of My Own World of My Own, 2013
    Etching, 6" x 8.75"
  • Andrew Jacob
    Bear, DE | Age: 23
    Award of Excellence
    Andrew Jacob's Phase Sense Phase Sense, 2014
    wood, steel, 8" x 9" x 7"
  • Andrew Jacob
    Bear, DE | Age: 23
    Award of Excellence
    Andrew Jacob's Phase Sense Performance Phase Sense Performance, 2014
  • Sophie Klafter
    New York, NY | Age: 23
    Award of Excellence
    Sophie Klafter's Dad and Me Dad and Me , 2013
    archival pigment print, 30" x 30"
  • Chloe Leigh
    Rockport, MA | Age: 20
    Award of Excellence
    Chloe Leigh's Clothing the Invisible Clothing the Invisible, 2012
    charcoal drawing, 24" x 18"
  • SaraNoa Mark
    Bronx, NY | Age: 23
    Award of Excellence
    SaraNoa Mark's City of Doubt City of Doubt, 2014
    oil and graphite on canvas, 8" x 10"
  • Paige Robertson
    Fort Wayne, IN | Age: 17
    Award of Excellence
    Paige Robertson's I Think He Forgot I I Think He Forgot I"m Deaf, 2014
    digital photography, 19" x 13"
  • Andrew Weatherly
    Closter, NJ | Age: 22
    Award of Excellence
    Andrew Weatherly's Winter Worlds Winter Worlds, 2013
    acrylic on canvas, 11" x 9"
  • Jason Wellington
    Alexandria, VA | Age: 25
    Award of Excellence
    Jason Wellington's Blood Stains 3 Blood Stains 3, 2013
    archival inkjet print, 27" x 22"

  • Jason Wellington's Blood Stains 8 Blood Stains 8, 2013
    archival inkjet print, 27" x 22"

2013: In/finite Earth

In/finite Earth asked emerging young artists to showcase work that illuminates innovative viewpoints at the intersection of environmentalism, creativity, and disability. Regardless of continent, country, or culture, over six billion people draw sustenance from the shared resources of our planet, repercussions for which are still unfolding. In/finite Earth is a call to artists to engage in the physical, emotional, and creative ties we share across our planet, and present their artistic perspectives regarding the natural world, sustainability, and our collective future.

For more information on In/finite Earth, click here.

2012: Sustaining / Creating

Sustaining / Creating asked emerging young artists to showcase work that illuminates innovative viewpoints on sustainability and contemporary creativity. Beyond its scientific definition, sustainability references notions of responsibility and stewardship of our natural world in all facets of human interaction–from the environmental to the cultural. Sustainability indicates the capacity to endure.

In October 2013, VSA sent Sustaining / Creating to St. Petersburg, Russia where it was exhibited at The Russian Museum. The exhibition highlighted the nascent talent and artwork of past emerging young artists who portrayed unique and innovative viewpoints regarding sustainability, contemporary creativity, and their individual experience of living with a disability. Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, founder of VSA, expressed her thoughts about the exhibition which you can watch by clicking on the following video. One of the artists, Will Copps, accompanied the exhibition to Russia. Read about his experience at

click to play the video Jean Kennedy Smith at the 2010 International VSA Festival Opening Ceremony: Phil Wolf. View captioned video Watch the audio describe version

For more information on Sustaining / Creating, click here.

2011: Momentum

Momentum asked emerging young artists to examine the creative spark behind their work. What is the force that drives their artistic interest? What informs the path they take each day as they move toward their future? The resulting exhibition showcased the diverse viewpoints and variety of creative processes of these artists as they gain momentum in their artistic trajectories.

For more information on Momentum, click here.

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