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The Kennedy Center

VSA Intersections:
Arts and Special Education Conference
A Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program

2019 Conference — Irvine, CA

Preconference Workshops:
October 25-26

October 27-28

2018-19 Regional Events

December 7-8, 2018: Columbus, OH

March 29-30, 2019: New Orleans, LA

Join us!

Every year, the VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference provides professionals in the intersecting fields of arts education and special education the opportunity to share current information in research, practice, programs, and policy, and serve as a leading catalyst for change. Through innovative, thought-provoking, and interactive sessions, attendees build new skills, transfer knowledge, network, and, ultimately, help to shape the best practices to educational experiences for students with disabilities learning in and through the arts.

The 2019 national conference, hosted in partnership with the Orange County Department of Education, will take place in Irvine, CA, and is the first VSA Intersections conference to take place at its new time of year. During the 2018-19 school year, the Kennedy Center is thrilled to host two smaller, regional conferences in December 2018 in Columbus, OH and March 2019 in New Orleans, LA. These smaller versions of our national conference will offer practitioners even more opportunity to engage with arts and special education content and will invite educators from two new cities — each arts and education hubs in their own right — to join us in our work.

Register now for the New Orleans regional conference

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Click here for more information about the 2019 national conference in Irvine, CA.

Learn more

Who attends?

VSA Intersections provides professional development for:

  • General and Special Educators
  • School-based Arts Specialists
  • Teaching Artists and Museum Educators
  • Curriculum and Instruction Professionals
  • Arts Education Program Administrators
  • School Administrators and Central District Staff
  • University Faculty and Researchers
  • Undergraduate and Graduate Students

VSA Intersections does not address professional development for artists with disabilities or accessibility considerations for arts and culture institutions. For resources for artists with disabilities, please visit the VSA Programs page. For information on accessibility in cultural arts institutions, please visit the LEAD Conference Page.

Why attend VSA Intersections?

Here are just a few reasons why VSA Intersections is the largest and most-respected conference on arts learning for students with disabilities:

  • One-of-a-kind professional development. VSA Intersections is unique in the education field: no other conference specifically addresses the learning needs of students with disabilities in arts-based and arts-integrated instruction while welcoming professionals from school and community settings.
  • A community of practice. Learn with educators and leaders from across the country to share ideas, ask questions, and build new connections so you don't have to be an island in this work.
  • Access to experts. The Kennedy Center engages leading experts in the field to present at the conference, and uses innovative model programs as "case studies" to learn from.
  • Hands-on learning. VSA Intersections offers experiential learning opportunities that allow you to learn by doing. Conference sessions will get you up on your feet to try out new strategies, and preconference workshops offer an even deeper learning experience with extended time to learn new tools!
  • Networking opportunities. VSA Intersections offers numerous networking opportunities during the conference and at evening receptions, offering you informal opportunities to connect with like-minded peers.
  • Tools to implement. Every session has a direct and intentional tie to practice, meaning you'll leave VSA Intersections with tools and strategies you can begin using as soon as you return to your setting.
  • Something for everyone. VSA Intersections has sessions and workshops for beginners and the more experienced. It doesn't matter what your background or knowledge level is — we have sessions for you.

Call for Proposals

The Special Education team in the Office of VSA and Accessibility at the Kennedy Center is seeking proposals for sessions at the 2019 VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference that:

  • Approach the arts and special education from an education equity and civil rights perspective,
  • Provide practical information about how students with disabilities learn in and through the arts,
  • Actively engage participants through discussion and/or hands-on activities,
  • Propose relevant learning objectives that can realistically be accomplished within the activities, time, and format proposed,
  • Empower educators and leaders in a variety of educational settings, including academic classrooms, school-based art or music rooms, teaching artist residencies, universities, afterschool programs, and community-based arts organizations, and
  • Target new, mid-career, and/or seasoned professionals.

The deadline to apply is February 22, 2019 at 11:59 PM EDT.

Apply Now

Session Topic Areas include:

  • Identity, Intersectionality, and Responsive Pedagogy: Develops cultural competency and responsive practices for supporting students with disabilities who are, for example, also English Language Learners or have experienced trauma, or students with multiple disabilities (for example: 2E, Deaf Plus)
  • New Research: Presents findings from new studies or pilot programs exploring arts learning for students with disabilities
  • Arts Integration: Provides practical strategies for utilizing the arts in academic classrooms
  • Differentiation Strategies within Discipline-Based Arts Instruction: Explores approaches to teach students with specific disabilities content in art form (music, drama, visual art, dance) instruction
  • Administrator Focus: Addresses issues of particular concern to school and program administrators, such as program design, teacher training/assessment, and collaboration between schools and arts organizations

Session Types

  • Breakout Sessions: 60-minute sessions offered concurrently during the conference October 27 and 28. All sessions must include an interactive component that will engage adult learners and can be offered in several formats:
    • Lecture with Q&A — These sessions provide practical tips and resources or present new research that attendees can use to improve instruction of students with disabilities in their setting. Presenters must include time for questions.
    • Panel Discussion — These sessions offer multiple perspectives on or approaches to a single topic. Proposals must include presenters from more than one organization and a moderator who will ensure that panelists each have an opportunity to present. Presenters must include time for questions.
    • Experiential Demonstration -These hands-on sessions are designed to teach participants a tangible skill. Presenters must devote a significant amount of session time to activities allowing participants to practice and refine the skills introduced during the session.
  • Table Talks: 15-minute informal presentations given at round tables with 10-15 participants at a time. Table Talks should offer participants a "snapshot" of a particular strategy, program, policy, or approach and will be repeated 3 times during the presentation time slot to rotating groups of attendees. Audio-Visual equipment is not provided for Table Talk Sessions. Table Talks will be offered either October 27 or 28.
  • Workshops: 2.5 hour in-depth, hands-on professional development workshops addressing a specific topic related to the arts and special education. A limited number of workshops will be offered either October 27 or 28.

If you are unsure of which session format is most appropriate or you would like to propose a 4- or 8- hour preconference workshop, please email

Deadlines and Important Details

Proposals must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, February 22, 2019. Incomplete proposals will not be considered. Sessions will be selected by and at the sole discretion of the VSA Intersections Content Committee under the supervision of the Kennedy Center. Applicants will be notified of their status by April 12, 2019. All presenters are required to register and pay the applicable conference registration fee. Presenters are also responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from Irvine, CA.

Additional Information

More information, including registration details, hotel accommodations, and a schedule of sessions, will be made available in Spring 2019.

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