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International VSA Festival Kicks Off In D.C.

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By Cathy Carter

Six hundred artists and performers from over 50 countries are in Washington to showcase their work. But the road to get here was a challenge.

The International VSA Festival celebrates the work of artists with disabilities. Events are taking place in 13 venues throughout the city, from the Smithsonian to the Shakespeare Theatre.

"There's still enormous stigma with disability, and what we're trying to do is change that perception through the arts," says Soula Antoniou, the president of VSA.

The D.C.-based organization was founded by Jean Kennedy Smith in 1974 when there was no arts programming for people with disabilities.

Antoniou says VSA (formerly Very Special Arts) levels the playing field, and the result is a generation of artists who challenge people's perceptions.

"VSA has taken the liberty of the festival to demonstrate disability by focusing on the ability," she says.

The festival kicks off tonight at the Kennedy Center.

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