Advocacy Partner


Shawn Henry, Director

The Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) partners with VSA Ohio as a resource and advocate for people with Autism and Low-Incidence Disabilities. OCALI features VSA Ohio artists at the annual OCALI Conference (OCALICON) as well as partners with VSA Ohio staff for the ReelAbilities Columbus Film Festival and Autism and the Arts Roundtable Project.


Jessica Wallace

Grandview Heights

Jessica Wallace’s Fancy Frank won an award for First Place in the 2013 Accessible Expressions Ohio Juried Exhibition. The artist works out of the Open Door Art Studio in Grandview Heights.


Chris Leonard


Chris Leonard hails from the Athens Photographic Project (APP), a non-profit art program that promotes mental health recovery by providing opportunities for community members living with mental illness to express themselves creatively through photography. Learn more about APP at

Chris describes his work as follows:


ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival


Columbus is one of 13 cities in the U.S. to present the traveling program of the New York ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival. This festival features award-winning films and engaging special presentations that celebrate the lives, stories, and art of people with disabilities.

ReelAbilities brings the community together to explore, discuss and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience. The universality of disability is made visible through the presentation of films, multimedia, and first person narratives. Nine films addressing disability will be screened, coming from Australia, China, Israel, Germany, Mozambique, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Cultural programming will include discussion panels, presentations by artists with disabilities, film-making workshops, receptions, and a free Monday Matinee for student and community groups.

The ReelAbilities NY Disabilities Film Festival is presented in Columbus by VSA Ohio, the state organization on arts and disability. The touring program is sponsored by the Saul Schottenstein Foundation B, JCC Manhattan, UJA Federation of New York, Butler Foundation, and Kessler Foundation.

More information about ReelAbilities in Columbus is available online at


Jacob Kopcienski

Bowling Green

Jacob was VSA Ohio’s 2nd place Young Soloist in 2011 and performed in Columbus during the ‘Celebrating 25 Years of Achievement’ event. He received a $750 award sponsored by the Buckeye Association of School Administrators to pursue his creative endeavors. Read Jacob’s biography then watch a video interview and performance.

Visual Art

Heidi Brooks


Heidi Brooks works as an artist at Blue Shoe Arts which is an accessible art studio that operates out of Art and Clay on Main in historic downtown Lancaster.

Heidi has recently taken a whole new outlook on art making in her piece, Chicken Livers. She is another artist who loves to feel the paint in her hands and uses them to move the paint directly on the surface. Heidi rarely uses a brush and often applies the paint strait out of the tube. Her work is done on vinyl, which allows her to fold the painting to make several different prints throughout. After applying several layers of paint, it starts to take on a life of its own and she picks it up to move paint in different directions. It is about the experience of watching the paint move as her painting evolves. This body of work is brand new for Heidi and definitely instilled a fire that motivates her to want to stay when it's time to go home. "It's fun to mix yellow, pink, blue, green, white, orange…well, yeah, all the colors. I just like it!"- Heidi


Justin Martin


VSA Ohio has presented Justin Martin as a speaker and poet at multiple events. His engaging poetry and powerful stage presence garnered the attention of viewers and supporters throughout Central Ohio.

Teaching Artist Dance

Nicole Garlando


Nicole Garlando is a dance artist, arts advocate and educator working to better the lives of children and provide positive experiences to her colleagues and students of all ages.

Writing and Advocacy

Elizabeth Sammons


Elizabeth Sammons is an avid writer, long-time supporter of VSA Ohio, and advocate in the disability and arts communities in Ohio.




What does the American’s with Disabilities Act mean to you? 27 artists with disabilities from across Ohio answered that question in response to a call for art in June 2010. Eleven of those artists traveled to Columbus July 23 - 25 to create a mural celebrating the 20th anniversary of this milestone legislation. Designed by artist, Kong Ho, the mural incorporated an array of images and words and now stands 6 feet tall and 30 feet wide. In addition to the artists, approximately 40 community members volunteered their time to assist with its construction. Together these Ohioans created a piece of art and advocacy that celebrates ability, inclusion, and looks ahead to work that must be done in the next 20 years.

The mural was unveiled during a Celebration of 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the Ohio Statehouse on July 26, 2010 to hundreds of advocates. Thirty-four disability and arts service organizations hosted tables at this event, presented by the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (ORSC). Dignitaries included First Lady Frances Strickland, Ohio Chief Justice Eric Brown, State Representative Denise Dreihaus (31st district), and several ORSC Commissioners. Their support for the arts and disability rights is commendable!

The Mural toured to inclusive sites across the state of Ohio for one year to raise awareness about arts and disability. Tour sites included NASA Glenn Research Center, Wright State University, Ashtabula Arts Center, Shared Lives Studio, Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence, and the HeARTworks Gallery in Galleria at Erieview. The mural is currently installed at the Ohio University Lancaster.

Visual Art Painting/Drawing

Lucas Feruito


Lucas Miguel Feruito is a long-time contributor to the youth category of the Accessible Expressions Ohio Touring Exhibition. He is in the eight grade and loves to draw, sketch, and write stories. In his art piece, "Petropolis", he showed an imaginary underground pet world in the sewers. According to him, it's kind of a mix between his image of Las Vegas and New York City. He starts by playing with an idea in his head and lets his imagination run with it and see where it takes him. This art piece represents only a small portion of the whole city of Petropolis that he envisioned. His other interests include learning about dinosaurs, paranormal phenomena, and cats. He also has his own band with his cousins; He plays bass, guitar and does lead vocals.

Visual Art Facilitators

Lynda Stoneham and Bill Young


Bill Young and Lynda Stoneham are art educators with a passion to encourage and facilitate aspiring artists in discovering their unique abilities through a non-profit organization called Artists’ Open Studio. Adults with and without disabilities, meet weekly in their ceramic and painting studios in Norwalk, Ohio. Independent art-making in this inclusive, supportive setting results in distinctively personal art.

Visual Art Mixed Media

Rebecca Wells


I have been an artist for most of my life, but I just recently started selling my work. I like to teach my nieces and nephews about art, and I have become their role model. I have a great art teacher who helps me a lot. I enjoy painting with watercolor, but I enjoy doing anything as long as it is doing art.

Partner Artist and Educator

Matt Swift


Matt Swift is a member of the film selection committee for ReelAbilities Columbus and also assisted with the programming and event planning as a film panelist and moderator. He is the Program Coordinator and Academic Advisor for OSU’s Film Studies Program. His background includes a BA in Film Studies and Art History with a minor in Fine Arts from the Ohio State University and a Master’s in Library and Information Science with a focus in digital collections preservation and access from Kent State University. In 2007 Matt was inducted into the International Library & Information Studies Honor Society. In 2009 the Film Studies Program acquired the Journal of Short Film, a quarterly DVD publication that highlights international short films through a submission and editorial process; Matt serves as the Productions Lead and Graphic Designer. Matt is a cofounder of The Columbus Moving Image Art Review, a quarterly screening event highlighting Central Ohio moving image artists.

Program Partner

Ohio Dance


Ohio Dance works closely with VSA Ohio to facilitate dance and movement education residencies and professional development opportunities for dance and interdisciplinary educators across the state.

Hundreds of dance and art lovers support and value dance in Ohio – because DANCE MATTERS! For more than 30 years, Ohio Dance has been an inclusive umbrella for dancers, choreographers, dance companies of all sizes and styles, and dance educators in studios, schools, and colleges and universities throughout the state.

Ohio Dance members receive valuable information, participate in our annual statewide festival, advocate for dance in education and legislation, and learn from each other through networking and professional development activities.


Steven Yee


Steve Yee has been a part of VSA’s International Young Soloist Musician Competition and exhibits his talents at numerous VSA Ohio events.




Teaching Artist Candace Mazur Darman partnered with a 5th grade teacher to lead students on a path of discovery where patterns in math and science culminated in an installation art piece in the school’s front yard. Hanby Arts Magnet School was selected to be one of several sites for the VSA arts integration demonstration project. The artist and educator piloted an arts integrated lesson plan developed by VSA and master artist, Kong Ho, which is now a free online educator resource. Clear links are made to Ohio’s Academic Content Standards for 5th grade between math and visual arts, and concepts of Universal Design for Learning are included. The students worked with Candace to create a large Fibonacci spiral out of painted rocks that was installed on the school’s lawn, prominently displayed for the community.

Visual Art Mixed Media

Stephanie Spencer, Wendi Olszewski, Jill Davis


Beethoven in the Forest is a result of a collaboration of three artists with disabilities who work in a studio out of the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disability. The colorful background was created by Jill, while the multidimensional flowers and animals emerged from the creative hands and minds of Stephanie and Wendi. “I think this is a place that Beethoven would have loved,” says Wendi, who used his as inspiration when creating this piece. The depth of this 14” by 19” scene is layered with acrylic paint, wood shapes, and colorful drawings. Studio West is a day service opportunity for adults with developmental disabilities. It is part of Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The program offers quality materials, instruction and marketing to create a positive experience for those who love art.


Artists’ Open Studio


Artists’ Open Studio hosts an annual exhibit called Visions Revealed at the beautiful Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center gallery in Norwalk. This photo features studio artists partaking in the opening celebration for this exhibition. This month long show begins in June as a collaborative effort with the North Coast Cancer Care Foundation and Fisher-Titus Medical Center’s Autism Spectrum Kids workshop.


Visual Art at ReelAbilities Columbus


Nate Thomson of the Athens Photographic Project and a viewer discuss a piece of art as part of a travelling exhibition which he curated for the 2012 ReelAbilities Columbus Film Festival. In addition to visual art displays at special events, VSA Ohio organizes a touring art exhibition called Accessible Expressions Ohio every year that travels for eight months and reaches all corners of the state. As part of the mission to celebrate life through art, VSA Ohio strives to provide access to art and opportunities for people with and without disabilities.

Stop-Motion Animation Workshop

Jenn Deafenbaugh, Itty Bitty Studios


VSA Ohio offered a Stop-Motion Animation Workshop for the first time in 2012 with a local video artist and educator, Jennifer Deafenbaugh. The workshop took place as a part of the ReelAbilities Columbus Film Festival and will be repeatedly offered due to the positive feedback received from the workshop participants.

Jennifer is an interactive and visual storyteller who owns and runs the Itty-Bitty Studio. The studio, located within the Columbus Idea Foundry, produces videos, interactive experiences and installations that are entertaining, educational and positive. They also teach design, digital interactivity and animation to people of all ages. The Itty-Bitty Studio’s long-term goal is to produce resources that help teachers better understand and utilize media in their classrooms.

Jennifer has worked as a professional designer and interactive developer since graduating from the Columbus College of Art and Design in 2004. She runs the local Adobe Users Group (Columbus Digital) and is a member of the board of the Mid Ohio Filmmaker’s Association. She has been teaching art and mentoring and tutoring for over a decade. Jennifer loves teaching and helping others find their passions as much as she does creating her own works.