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The Kennedy Center

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

2018 logo

2018 – 2019 VSA Emerging Young Artists Program

This call for art challenges artists to embrace life’s detours, to seize and explore those spontaneous forays off the beaten path. With a detour, the destination remains the same but the journey to reach it can be full of surprise and discovery. When making a shift in direction, how do you choose to navigate? Does your artwork bypass the ordinary and challenge the predictable? We’re asking artists to consider what’s possible and to celebrate the marvelous and unexpected.

The VSA Emerging Young Artists Program, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program, recognizes and showcases the work of emerging young artists with disabilities, ages 16-25, who are residing in the United States.

Fifteen winning artists share a total of $60,000 in awards. Grand Prize is $20,000, First Prize is $10,000, Second Prize is $6,000, and the remaining Awards of Excellence are $2,000 each. Winning artwork will be exhibited in a year-long, nationally touring exhibition, and artists will attend an all-expenses-paid professional development workshop in Washington, DC.

The application deadline has passed but check back here to apply next year.

2017 – 2018 Electrify!

VSA Emerging Young Artists Program

Electrify! showcases artwork that excites our senses, awakens our curiosity, and electrifies our very being.

Electrify! Catalog PDF

October 25, 2017 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC

October 26, 2017 – November 30, 2017 Volkswagen Group of America Headquarters
Herndon, Virginia

January 26, 2018 – March 18, 2018 Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO

May 25, 2018 – June 22, 2018 Engine Art Gallery, Biddeford ME

July 11, 2018 – July 30, 2018 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Art
Washington, DC

September 4, 2018 – October 5, 2018 California College of the Arts
San Francisco, CA

October 26, 2018 – November 28, 2018 University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Little Rock, AK

2016 - 2017 VSA Emerging Young Artists Program

(Re) Invention showcases artwork that exemplifies themes of renewal and self-discovery– of reinvention. (Re)Invention Catalog

2015: Focus Forward

In 2015 the Kennedy Center celebrated the 25th ADA/40th VSA Anniversary Celebration, which honored the history, art, and culture of the disability community. The Celebration, which took place in July at the Center, included Focus Forward, a retrospective featuring the work of previous VSA Emerging Young Artist Program participants.

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.

To read more about the 2014 VSA Emerging Young Artists and to see the artworks selected for display in the traveling exhibition, please click here: The Journey Catalogue

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 .