We really weren’t sure what to expect when we commissioned several pieces of “corporate” art for CFPD. While everyone wants to beautify their office space, choices can be hard – tastes differ, of course, and the resulting picks end up rather bland, matching the walls and furniture instead of anyone’s personal taste.
So, when our corporate art showed up and stunned everyone in our office, we were more than a little surprised. And very, very happy.
Our pieces were designed and produced by artists at VSA Gallery, a nonprofit enterprise that, unexpectedly, is in business to teach transitioning kids who are affected by disability the skills they’ll need to be job-ready. They do it through art.
“Over 70% of people with disabilities are unemployed,” says VSA Executive Director Damon McLeese, and most of the young people who come to the program won’t get “traditional” teen jobs. “And while they get great support in High School, they’re often not prepared” for the world of work. One huge element gets lost in school for most kids with disabilities: collaboration. They’re typically working one-on-one with aides, says McLeese, which can keep them from developing the group skills necessary for paid work.
VSA brings youth together in the art studio with the express purpose of collaboration. Led by a professional artist-in-residence, teams of young people work to translate business materials – everything from brochures to mission statements to interviews with staff – into unique, compelling art.
“We work from your corporate identity,” says McLeese. “Your colors, your styles, your message.” The results are one-of-a-kind, and they bring a soulfulness that no marketing collateral can. “Most of the pieces turn out to be a form of word art,” he says, whether it’s painted, a photo mosaic, collage or another style altogether.
And they do it pretty quickly – showing up on time and keeping to deadlines are important work skills. “We’re pretty agile,” McLeese says, with VSA often turning around commissioned work within weeks. This includes staffing up when new orders come in. “The more organizations we can serve, the more people we can hire.”
Their art hangs in offices around Colorado, but they still have plenty to show: VSA Gallery has running exhibits, including their present showing, “IN/Finite EARTH,” running through June 6 in Denver’s Santa Fe Art District. See more of their work – and their work process – on their Facebook page. And once you’re impressed, visit their website to get them started on your own project.