Since 1994, the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center has sponsored exhibits of art by and about people with disabilities in order to demonstrate the diverse talents of individuals with disabilities. Each year the Center hosts four exhibits in the Kennedy Center foyer on the Vanderbilt campus. Some exhibits feature one or two artists, while other exhibits include the work of many artists. Often exhibits are organized in partnership with community organizations.
We invite organizations and businesses interested in displaying all or part of an exhibit organized by the Center to contact us. We also invite suggestions for future exhibits.
In 1997, the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center began a permanent collection of art by persons with disabilities, which now includes 18 works.
The ART of AUTISM features artists from around the world. Their mission is to find places and spaces for artists on the spectrum to be seen and heard. This exhibit at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center organized by The Art of Autism features participating artists from Tennessee and neighboring states.
The ART of AUTISM (www.the-art-of-autism.com) is a socialentrepreneurship project that connects artists and performers of all ages on the autism spectrum with opportunities and venues to showcase their varied talents. They help artists through mentorships, building resumés, portfolios, and direct work experience in the arts.
By showcasing the artistic gifts of people on the spectrum, the ART of AUTISM inspires the general public, gives hope to parents of children on the spectrum, and provides selfadvocates with tools for professional development.
(April - July, 2013)
Paul Miktarian discovered his artistic talent when he created his first cats 8 years ago for “Painting the Tale,” an art program organized by Pacesetters, Inc. A Sparta resident, Miktarian applied for a small vocational grant for art supplies and set up a home studio. Today he is a successful artist whose paintings of cats, dogs, owls, other animals, and especially his houses are purchased by collectors. He has had four one-person exhibits. His honors include Best of Show in WAVES’ exhibit “Through the Artist Window” and being selected for the “Artists Voices” exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville.
Pacesetters, Inc., is a nonprofit agency with five centers serving persons with disabilities. Pacesetters’ “Painting the Tale” art program is led by visual artists Merritt Ireland, Ramie Nunnley, and storyteller Marcia Donovan as artists-in-residence.
(January - April, 2013)
Jointly sponsored by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and the Nashville Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities, this annual exhibit features work in a variety of media by artists with a wide range of abilities/disabilities and ages. Since its inception in 1976, the Mayor’s Advisory Committee has promoted public education and awareness, and advocated for persons with disabilities and their family members. Selected works will be exhibited and artists will be recognized at the 31st Annual Awards Celebration of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Thursday, October 25, at 5:30 p.m. at the downtown Farmer’s Market, 900 Rosa Parks Blvd.The public is welcome.
(September 1–December 31, 2012)
In 2011, with VSA national funding, VSA Tennessee began a “dream” project: a fashion design course for young people with autism focused on creating Superhero costumes. In March and April, 23 youth attended sessions in the Human Sciences Department of Middle Tennessee State University. The youth created hand sketches and renderings, worked on Adobe Illustrator and InDesign, operated Brother Innovis 500D sewing machines, and presented a public style show of their costumes.
VSA Tennessee (www.vsatn.org) provides opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in and express themselves through the arts and arts education. It is an affiliate of VSA (www.vsarts.org), a part of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, and was founded in 1974 by Jean Kennedy Smith.
Jerry Adams and Matthew Drumright are artists whose creative expression in various media provokes fresh insights. Each artist has a developmental disability. Thus their art also provokes us to see ability beyond disability. They are entrepreneurs who have focused their careers on art. View their art in this exhibit and on the artists’ websites:
(Februrary - May 2012)
Jointly sponsored by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and the Nashville Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities, this annual exhibit features work in a variety of media by artists with a wide range of abilities/disabilities and ages. (September 1–December 31, 2011)
This exhibit features works of art published in Birds of Tennessee + One, an alphabet book produced by artists and writers of Pacesetters, Inc. The book illustrates 40 bird species native to Tennessee and features poems, text, and images for each letter of the alphabet.
This exhibit features works in collage created by students from the first class of Next Steps at Vanderbilt, a 2-year postsecondary certificate program for students with intellectual disabilities. The students created these images during a workshop held with visiting artist-in-residence Elizabeth Garlington at Sarratt Art Studios during the spring of 2010. There will be a panel discussion at 5:30 p.m. and an opening reception at 6:15 p.m. on January 24 at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. The public is welcome. Please check the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center website at kc.vanderbilt.edu for details.
Jointly sponsored by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and the Nashville Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities, this annual exhibit features work in a variety of media by artists with a wide range of abilities/disabilities and ages. Since its inception in 1976, theMayor’s Advisory Committee has promoted public education and awareness, and advocated for persons with disabilities and their family members. The artists will be recognized at the 29th Annual Awards Celebration of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Tuesday, October 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the downtown Farmer’sMarket, 900 Rosa Parks Blvd. The public is welcome.
This exhibit of photographs and decorated wood guitars is the result of the 2009 Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Music Camp.
The new book and exhibit, From Heartache to Hope: middle tennessee families living with autism, features 18 families who are racially and socioeconomically diverse residents of rural and urban settings. This exhibit showcases Nashville photographer Rebekah Pope’s stunning black-and-white photography, which accompanies the book’s moving stories by author Leisa A. Hammett.
Jointly sponsored by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and the Nashville Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities, this annual exhibit features work in a variety of media by artists with a wide range of abilities/disabilities and ages.
Day-long art workshops were held at the Rochelle Center and were led by a licensed art therapist who helped the participants foster positive self-exploration, take positive risks, and gain a deeper understanding of emotions and how they relate to behavior. This exhibit is one of the results of this initiative.
Exhibit showcases visual artists with autism living in Middle Tennessee. The presentation is co-sponsored by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, the Autism Society of Middle Tennessee, and VSA Arts Tennessee.
Each summer, the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center provides camps for children and adolescents with disabilities and their peers. In 2008, students in the Camp Shriver Transitions and Sports Camp participated in art workshops to learn how to express themselves using color. Outreach art educators from the Frist Center for the Visual Arts helped the campers learn to mix colors and to understand color theory. The final week of the lessons included a trip to the Frist Center, after which each camper created a large, abstract color expression on canvas. These are the paintings on view in this exhibit.
Arts and Disabilities exhibit is on display at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center from October 10, 2008 to January 16, 2009.
Looking Forward (February – May 2008)
Artism: Project Onward (February - May 2007)
Why the Possom's Tail is Bare (August - October 2006)
Common Ground (August 2006)
Gateway to Creativity (January - March 2006)
Creative Expressions XI (November - December 2005)
Esteemed Collegues (April - June 2005)
Pacesetters: The Fat Cat (January - March 2005)
Creative Expressions X (October - December 2004)
Focusing on the Future of Students with Visual Impairments: Teachers in Action (November - January 2004)
The Legacy of Dr. Susan Gray: Inventing the Future (February - April 2004)
(September - October 2003)
An exhibit by artists of Pacesetters, Inc. June-August 2003.
An Exhibit by artists of Explorers Unlimited Summer Academic Camp.
Creative Expressions III (October 2007 – January 2008)
Common Ground II (June - September 2007)
Creative Expressions XII (October - January 2007)
Explorers Unlimited (July - September 2004)
Robb and Mary Jane Swaney were able to apply their life passions to the support of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center mission. Robb, an architect and committed philanthropist, brought to life a specially designed, accessible playground where young children with and without disabilities can now play together. Mary Jane, an artist, supports programs that nurture budding artists with developmental disabilities.