MRAC Accessibility Work

Six ADA symbols in black and white in a grid with the AD, Braille, Listening Device logos on top, Sign Language, A Blind Person, and a Person in a Wheelchair on the Bottom

Metropolitan Regional Arts Council wants to thank VSA Minnesota for their expertise and work as the state organization on arts and disability for the past 33 years, and for being such an important partner to MRAC over the last 10 years.

MRAC and VSA Minnesota have partnered on the ADA Access Improvement Grant program since 2010. The purpose of the program is to enable nonprofit arts organizations in the seven-county Metropolitan area to improve their programs, projects, equipment, or facilities in ways that have the potential for significant or long-term impact in involving more people with disabilities as participants or patrons in arts programs. Over the 10 years of grants, VSA Minnesota has administered the program awarding $1,791,495 to 78 organizations for 156 projects.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. We deeply appreciate VSA Minnesota for helping us advance our mission by administering this program.

Earlier this year, VSA Minnesota announced that they will be closing their doors and ceasing operations at the end of September 2019. Since then, MRAC has been on an accelerated path to take back the program. This has required an honest look at our internal capacity, recognizing knowledge gaps, and learning and unlearning ways to be a more accessible organization for people with disabilities.

As part of this process, we have had the privilege of working with an amazing advisory committee including Lyla Brown, Bryan Boyce, Craig Dunn, Candida Gonzales, Julie Guidry, Nevada Littlewolf, Donna Ray, Peg Reagan, Tommy Sar, and Cindy Tarshish. With the thoughtful and direct advice of these advisors, MRAC was better prepared to hire our first Accessibility Program Director. We look forward to announcing our new Accessibility Program Director later this month when the individual assumes the role and gets started on the work.

MRAC is committed to continuing this work, this learning, and the goal is to have the first grant round available in the second half of FY20.

Additionally, MRAC has been meeting with the other stewards of VSA Minnesota to make sure that VSA’s programs may continue. These groups include COMPAS, Minnesota State Arts Board with Minnesota Access Alliance, and Springboard for the Arts.

As with all change, there will be challenges, but we hope this transition will be smooth. And, we encourage all of our constituents to consider these resources to increase access for people with disabilities to your organizations and art projects.

For more information, contact: Kathy Mouacheupao, MRAC Executive Director, at kathy@mrac.org or 651-523-6390.

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