How one organization can help so many in NY

Event Recap

by Leslie Burby

On Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 I had the pleasure of going to Columbia University in New York to see the VSA NYC Murals & Calendar Project.  David Marquis, Executive Director of Marquis Studios & VSA-NYC, was kind enough to guide me through how this project was executed and explain the organizations involved.

Event Recap

In New York City, the schools are broken into districts. District 75 consists of over 310 sites across five boroughs and is specifically for students with a wide range of disabilities.  Marquis Studios was started 37 years ago and “is a nonprofit organization providing arts­‐in­‐education services to New York City public schools. Working with a diverse population, 75% of programs serve students living at or below the poverty line with 44% of all programming serving children with disabilities.” Marquis offers a full spectrum of residencies that encourage student exploration of visual arts, theater, music, dance, architecture, circus arts and puppetry. Their goal is to develop a passion for creative learning in each and every child allowing students to reach their full potential.

This year, Marquis Studios became the NYC affiliate for VSA (Very Special Arts) which is associated with The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. “VSA, the international organization on arts and disability, was founded more than 35 years ago by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith (President Kennedy’s sister) to provide arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities and increase access to the arts for all.”

Event Recap

Together, Marquis Studios and VSA, presented the VSA New York City Murals and Calendar program. The art teachers and students created murals that “celebrated the life of and love for the Big Apple” (New York City).  Kate Hesler of Marquis Studios explained that “seven to ten kids would participate in creating a mural lead by a Teaching Artist from Marquis Studios or other arts organization with support from classroom teachers.” Over 30 murals where submitted by District 75 students, knowing that only thirteen would be chosen and featured in the VSA New York City Murals Calendar. On October 8th, the artwork was displayed in the lobby of Columbia University’s Kolb Annex with refreshments and an arts activity table for the children. The murals were beautiful and creative. Various mediums and techniques were used to create each individual piece of art. The teachers, the students and their parents all came out to see the artwork displayed and receive an award for being one of the thirteen chosen for the calendar. It was such a heartfelt event to see what people with developmental disabilities are able to achieve given the means and the chance.


Information given by: David Marquis, Kate Hesler and Rania Richardson


Leslie Burby

Leslie Burby is the former Editor-in-Chief of Autism Parenting Magazine and a public speaker on autism related issues. She is the author of three autism related books: Emotional Mastery for Adult's with Autism (2013); Early Signs of Autism in Toddlers, Infants and Babies (2014); and the children's book Grace Figures Out School (2014).