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The Kennedy Center

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

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2019 – 2020 VSA Emerging Young Artists Program

This call for art asks artists to plug in, to span new distances, and to see unexpected relationships. When is connection, or disconnection, most needed? What roads lead there? Overlapping stories and interconnected ideas can overwhelm or can create important new discoveries. We're asking artists for work that resonates deeply and may spur greater shared connections and understanding of our connected lives.

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, living in the United States.

Fifteen artists will be selected by jury. 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. Selected winning artwork will travel in a yearlong national exhibition. Winning artists will receive an all-expenses-paid professional development workshop at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

2019 Emerging Young Artists Applications closed on June 9, 2019

Past VSA Emerging Young Artists Program

2018 – 2019 Detour

VSA Emerging Young Artists Program

Detour showcases artwork that takes us in new directions celebrates and the unexpected. This art exhibit is currently touring the United States.

Detour Catalog PDF

December 3, 2018 - February 6, 2019 VSA Massachusetts
Boston, MA

February 14, 2019 - April 11, 2019 Dedalus Foundation
Brooklyn, NY

April 24, 2019 - June 23, 2019 Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center (SKYPAC)
Bowling Green, KY

August 1, 2019 - August 23, 2019 Access Gallery
Denver, CO

September 7, 2019 - October 3, 2019 The Kennedy Center, Hall of Nations
Washington, D.C.

2017: Electrify!

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

2016: (Re) Invention

(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 .