Spotlight on April Sullivan - Coordinator for the City of Austin, TX

April Sullivan is currently the Artworks Director for VSA Texas, an organization that focuses on bringing forward the artwork of people with disabilities. April immediately saw the connection between our two organizations and was the first branch of VSA to join the National Arts Program® nine years ago. Since then, the NAP has been striving to find additional opportunities to partner with other VSA organizations across the country.

Caption photo right: NAP Coordinator April Sullivan (RT) with Laura Esparza, the Director of History, Arts & Nature Division, presenting Gabriella D’Angelo with her Youth 12 & Under Scholarship Award at the opening reception.

This year, April made a point to personally visit different city departments and speak to the employees about the opportunity to participate in the NAP, something she mentioned she had gotten away from the last few years. Not only does this provide a local face to the program, but it raises awareness among employees. The end result, a 50% increase in participation from their 2010 exhibition! The spectacular exhibition, which is displayed in the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC), featured 218 pieces from 123 different artists.

Not only has April been coordinating our NAP Exhibition in the City of Austin since its inception in 2003, she is also a fine artist herself, who has been featured on our website for her creative artwork called "yarn paintings". You can view her gallery of unique artwork on our website by clicking here.
Here is what April had to say when asked to discuss her experience with the NAP …
Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different than any other art exhibit put on by VSA Texas?
A. VSA Texas works typically with artists with disabilities. This is our only exhibit that we coordinate that is not for that specific population of artists, although we find that we still serve artists with disabilities through the National Arts Program®. It is a great way for us to meet new local artists and to introduce them to VSA Texas.
Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important?
A. I feel that displaying employee artwork is important to show the city that these employees do so much more than just their jobs. They are well rounded people with artistic talent and they deserve so much credit for the job they do as well as the beauty they create.
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork in the professional setting of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC)?
A. All of the participating artists are so grateful for being able to display their artwork at the MACC. For many this is their first time visiting the MACC. Others have seen outstanding art exhibited in the space and are awed by the fact that they get to be one of these artists. It is definitely an impressive resume builder.
Q. Why do you think displaying artwork in at the MACC is so important?
A. I am proud of the fact that we have a professional gallery like the MACC partnering with us on this exhibit. I think it is important because the artists, especially the amateurs and the kids, can feel empowered by their art being on display in such a setting. We are able to make their artwork look important and remind them that art is an important part of life. It may inspire them to pursue a career in the arts.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the National Arts Program®?
A. My favorite aspect of the National Arts Program® is the cash awards. It is rare that exhibitions offer such generous awards. And it is nice to see the winners feel so proud of their work and the recognition they receive from it.
Q. Do visitors to the MACC respond to the employee exhibit?
A. Visitors to the MACC like to see the ribbons up and find out who won. Especially the school groups that come through.
Q. How has utilizing online registration made the process easier for you?
A. The online registration has made the preparation for the exhibit go very smoothly. I also like that it saves paper.
Q. Can you tell us how art has had a positive impact on your personal life?
A. Art is an important part of my life. As an artist, as an arts administrator, and as a viewer of art, I find that I like to be around art all the time.
Q. How did you get started in the art field or have you always been involved in the arts? Are you an artist yourself?
A. I have been an artist all my life. I studied art history in college and started working at galleries and museum and arts organizations after college. I also create my own art in my free time.