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Thinking About a Career in the Arts? - Let's Get Started

Hi, I’m Craig Dunn, Executive Director of VSA Minnesota, the state organization on arts and disability.  Some of you may have heard me in the“Practical Steps to Making a Career in the Arts Possible” webinar that was presented on November 12 in 2015 and that can still be found on Punch-In!’s Webinar Archives in the Video Library.  If you haven’t seen it, you might want to check it out.  I have worked in the arts with people with disabilities my entire professional life, first as a school music educator/therapist, as a choral director of adults with cognitive disabilities and, since 1992, as the E.D. of VSA Minnesota.


One of the things that is tough for a young person with a disability pursuing a career in the arts is that there are not a lot of readily available mentors who share that person’s particular arts interest and/or disability.  A young musician who is blind can’t easily reach out to Stevie Wonder and a young actor with a physical disability can’t easily communicate with Micah Fowler, the person who portrays J.J. on ABC’s sitcom “Speechless”.  Famous personalities aren’t usually available to us regular people.


That being said, there are thousands of people with disabilities who participate and work in the arts that have stories and experiences that can inform decisions you might have as you look at various careers in the arts.  During the summer of 2016, the National Endowment for the Arts (in Washington D.C.) and the National Arts & Disability Center (at UCLA) captured comments from people around the country responding to this question:  “What ideas do you have to increase the career preparation and employment of people with disabilities in the arts?”  Although the opportunity to respond to the question has now closed, all of the submitted comments can be found at https://careersinthearts.epolicyworks.org/a/index


Over the coming weeks and months, I am going to use topics and comments found on this site to guide ideas and suggestions for readers interested in learning more about having a career in the arts.  Feel free to comment either by pointing me in a particular direction you would like to see me explore or with specific questions you might have in this broad topic area.

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Comment by Craig Dunn on October 26, 2017 at 9:37am

Thanks for the comment Adrienne,

Some good connections for you might be: 

Susan Smoluchowski at the Film Society of MSP, http://mspfilm.org/  

Melodie Bahan at the Minnesota Film & TV Board  http://mnfilmtv.org/

Anthony DiSalvo  Sprout Film Festival  www.gosprout.org  anthony@gosprout.org


Susan and Melodie are both in Minneapolis and Anthony is based in New York City.  Anthony’s festival concentrates on themes and actors with developmental and physical disabilities and has over 300 films in its collection.  I think it would be worth your time to reach out to each of them, introduce yourself and see if they might have some ideas for you.

Also, I would be very interested in talking further about your work to see if there might be any way to connect it to our work at VSA Minnesota.  You can find my contact information at http://vsamn.org/about/board-staff/.

Comment by Adrienne Kleinman on October 26, 2017 at 5:43am
Thanks for your encouraging words, Craig! I'm so happy to have you as part of Punch-In. As a woman who uses a wheelchair and is an aspiring director of cinematography, what advice or knowledge might you send my way?
Comment by Great Lakes ADA Center on October 23, 2017 at 3:20pm

Thanks Craig! I'm really looking forward to your highlight on careers in the arts.

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