ABOUT US

WE'RE GLAD YOU'RE HERE! 

Welcome! We invite you to learn more about Open Door Arts: who we are, what we do, and most importantly, why we do it.  We hope you'll join us in working to increase access, participation, and representation in the arts by people with disabilities.  

our work

We believe our shared cultural community is strengthened when it represents, includes, and engages all people.   

We work annually with more than 3,000 students, teaching artists, educators and leaders of cultural organizations through innovative and inclusive programming, training, events, and exhibits designed to improve access, expand participation, challenge the status quo, and share practices to ensure equitable representation by people with disabilities in the arts

Child's artwork showing four children over a colorful background with the words "Education for All"

Access to and participation in the arts are fundamental human rights that should be available to everyone. Engaging in the arts allows us to express our most profound thoughts and emotions,
share our stories, and explore the common humanity that unites us all."

- Nicole Agois Hurel, Managing Director


Print made by a child, showing the outline of a person with a heart around them, over a rainbow-colored background
Student artwork, Henderson Inclusion School

our promise

Open Door Arts believes our diverse perspectives, experiences, backgrounds, and identities strengthen us and our organization. We are committed to ensuring that all of our staff, students, artists, and constituents feel welcomed, actively included, valued, and encouraged to be their authentic selves.


our history

Open Door Arts has been learning, growing, and building alongside the disability community through some of its most significant and transformative decades. As we celebrate our accomplishments over the past 40 years, we invite you to join us in imagining and designing our collective future.

1970s

OUR FOUNDATION

In 1974 President Kennedy’s sister, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, founded the National Committee Arts for the Handicapped as part of the Kennedy Center to honor her brother’s commitment to the arts and to people with disabilities.  This organization would continue to grow into an international network of affiliates working to promote access in the arts for people with disabilities.   

1980s

OUR BEGINNING

Our organization was incorporated in 1980, when Maida S. Abrams founded the Massachusetts Committee Arts for the Handicapped, the local affiliate of the National Committee Arts for the Handicapped located in Washington, D.C. The National Committee and its affiliates (including us) later changed our names to Very Special Arts, and eventually VSA.

1990s

CHANGING THE FIELD

With the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, a new area of advocacy and access emerged. VSA MA brought visibility to the arts and disability by hosting an International Festival of Wheelchair Dance in collaboration with Dance Umbrella.  We also shared knowledge and best practices by training teams in 26 states to survey arts organizations about accessibility to compile a national database, and by publishing the Multi-Arts Resource Guide, an arts-integrated curriculum guide for educators. In recognition of our programs, we were awarded the Mass Cultural Council Commonwealth Award in 1997.

2000s

LEADING THE WAY

With funding from Mass Cultural Council, we ran the Cultural Access Mini-Grant program, which awarded seed funds to arts and culture organizations, leading the way to some of the most innovative access programs in the state. In 2004 we hosted the International Deaf Theater Festival in Boston, and in 2009, we increased visibility to our work and artists with disabilities by moving into the NonProfit Center and opening the Open Door Gallery, Boston. We also continued to contribute to research and publications on Universal Design for Learning and the arts.

2010s

NEW VENTURES

We launched a more robust and integrated model for our school programs, and called it COOL Schools (Creative Outlook on Learning). In 2014, VSA MA became an affiliate of Seven Hills Foundation.  Our affiliation created opportunities for individuals served by Seven Hills to participate in the arts and provided us with new ways to expand our work, which included opening the Open Door Gallery @ WAM (Worcester Art Museum) and hosting the Arts and the Brain Symposium. 

2020s

OUR FUTURE

We are entering a new decade with a new name: Open Door Arts, and are gearing up to celebrate 40 years of advancing inclusion in the arts!


our team

Our staff and advisors bring a depth of perspectives, lived experiences, and expertise in the areas of arts, education, and disability - which are united through a common passion and commitment to this important work.

Staff

Woman with shoulder-length straight dark hair and brown eyes, smiling


Nicole Agois, Ed.M.

Managing Director

Woman with long straight blond hair smiling.


Portia Brown, Ed.M., M.A.

Director of Operations

Woman with dark hair pulled back, and dark eyes wearing a button up shirt, and smiling.


Mia Branco, Ed.M.

Director of Education

Man with short gray hair, wearing sunglasses and a zippered black sweater.


Jon Ezrin, MBA

Business Manager & Webmaster

Board of Advisors

  • Jeremy Alliger                Alliger Arts Executive Producer           
  • Charles Baldwin            Mass Cultural Council 
  • Elaine Fallon                  Educational Consultant 
  • Robin Foley                   Seven Hills Foundation 
  • Thomas Keane              Concord Carlisle School District 
  • Martha McKenna           Lesley University 
  • Ruth Mercado-Zizzo      EdVestors 
  • Carl Richardson             Massachusetts State House 
  • Heather Watkins            Writer and Advocate 

location

Open Door Arts
89 South Street, Suite 101
Boston, MA 02111

Open Door Arts is located on the first floor of the NonProfit Center in Boston. The building has automatic doors, elevators, as well as accessible and gender-neutral restrooms. For more access information, see below under "access".

Accessible by public transportation:

  • Red Line to South Station
  • Green line to Park Street/Boylston
  • Orange Line to Downtown Crossing/Chinatown

ACCESS

Open Door Arts is located on the first floor of the NonProfit Center in Boston. There are switch-operated doors to enter the building, as well as revolving doors on either side. From there, you may take the stairs or the elevator on the right side to the 1st floor. Our office is immediately to the right of the steps and elevator. There are accessible restrooms (with switch-operated doors) on the same floor and a gender-neutral single-stall restroom on the 4th floor.

We care about your experience! Please contact if you have access-related questions or requests.

Access information for the Open Door Gallery in Boston.

Access information for the Open Door Gallery in Worcester.


funders

Our funders help make our vision a reality. We are deeply grateful to the foundations and organizations that support and sustain our work.

Boston Cultural Council logo
iCreate logo
Greater Worcester Community Foundation logo
Samantha's Harvest logo
MA Department of Elementary & Secondary Education logo
J. Irving & Jane L. England Charitable Trust