Twin Cities groups benefit from accessibility grants

Eight Twin Cities arts organizations have been awarded ADA Access Improvement Grants by VSA Minnesota. The nonprofits will use grants totaling $98,895 to […]

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Grants awardedEight Twin Cities arts organizations have been awarded ADA Access Improvement Grants by VSA Minnesota. The nonprofits will use grants totaling $98,895 to make their arts programs more accessible to people with disabilities. The grants help arts groups into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and make performances more accessible.

Alive & Kickin’, which is based in Minneapolis, will use $15,000 to provide a unique senior citizen musical theatre experience for people with disabilities by providing tickets and ADA accessible transportation. Additionally, it will create a similar musical program specifically for persons of disabilities while partnering with HPWC partners with a goal of bringing 300 individuals with disabilities to the performance in June 2016 as well as having more than 100 people participating in a monthly musical program designed to educate and inspire.

The St. Paul-based History Theatre will use $15,000 to enhance access services for patrons including bariatric seating, moveable accessible seating, headsets and microphones for the hearing enhancement system. Funds will also support trainers to work with teaching artists and staff members to teach advanced practices for working with students dealing with mental illness. New knowledge and skills will enhance the theatre’s successful residency program partnership with Vail Place, a Minnesota mental health resource in the clubhouse model.

Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis will use a $15,000 grant to build a designated accessible single-unit restroom that is complete and usable to accommodate audience members with disabilities. The project is to get underway this spring.

The Southern Theater seeks to fast-track accessibility for people with disabilities in its plus-100-year-old building, crafting its long-term plan and making short-term improvements in the meantime. The theater will use a $15,000 grant to do work including improvements to the front door, assistive listening device equipment and resources for the artists in its exhibition season, and crafting the schematic for its capital campaign, which includes improvements to the building for full ADA accessibility.

Circus Juventas of St. Paul will use $13,500 to build special equipment for the Out of the Chair program, and to underwrite an eight-week class for six individuals to test that equipment.

The Minneapolis-based 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities will use an $11,000 grant to improve accessibility for its ASL-using audience and create an ongoing, more integrated approach to interpreting theatre by engaging four interpreters (two deaf and two hearing interpreters) for every production, and involving those interpreters throughout the creative process.

EDIT the World will collaborate with The Arc Greater Twin Cities to support young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their siblings to share their unique stories with photography, visual arts and an art gallery. The Minneapolis group received a $7,500 grant.

Kairos Alive! of Minneapolis received $6,895 to upgrade its communication technology – higher quality wireless microphone systems for better amplification, still cameras and photo printers to reinforce artistic experiences. The group will also expand its accessible musical instruments with new hand drums to make its national award-winning arts engagement programs more accessible to people of all ages with physical and cognitive disabilities.

VSA Minnesota administers the ADA Access Improvement Grant program for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. Since 2010, 107 projects by 62 different organizations have been funded, totaling $1,243,039. Funds come from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, as appropriated by the Minnesota Legislature.

The purpose is to enable nonprofit arts organizations in the seven-county Twin Cities area to improve programs, projects, equipment, or facilities in ways that have the potential for significant or long-term impact in involving more people with disabilities as participants or patrons in arts programs.

Panel members who are active in the metro arts and disability communities read, discussed and scored the applications; their recommendations were approved by VSA Minnesota’s board of directors. Panelists were Asher Edes, Loft Literary Center house manager, Hennepin County; Mark Hughes, Disability Viewpoints host, Ramsey County: Jo Lum, ASL,  Blend development director, Ramsey County; Karon Sherarts, arts management consultant, Hennepin County; Cindy Tarshish, ADA Minnesota director, Hennepin County; Ross Willits, arts management consultant, Ramsey County and Adrienne Mason, disability advocate, past Goodwill, MCIL, Ramsey County. Mason currently serves on the VSA Board and Sherarts is a former board member.

The next application deadline is May 6. Grants up to $15,000 are available. For more information, visit 



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