By: Seth Johnson

Following the inaugural Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund (TOCAF) grant which supported the Bright Lights, Big City, Chicago Extravaganza, ISBVI teachers Sean Bradley (band and piano) and Leslie Walsh (art) were announced as the recipients of the 2023 TOCAF grant on Thursday, May 18.

From left to right, ISBVI teachers Sean Bradley and Leslie Walsh pose for a photo in the ISBVI auditorium with IBCF executive director Laura Alvarado. Bradley and Walsh are both holding white gift boxes that have the IBCF logo on the front of them.Combining their passions for music and visual arts, Bradley and Walsh have dreamt up a four-day trip to Washington D.C., where they will lead six ISBVI high school students on an enriching, arts-filled adventure in the nation’s capital. Inspired by the patriotic motto of “Justice for All,” Bradley and Walsh’s “Arts for All” excursion will include several accessible arts and music experiences, including Smithsonian Museum tours, a military band concert at the Lincoln Memorial, a tactile tour of the National Gallery of Art, and a guided tour of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with a focus on accessibility.

By exploring Washington D.C.’s incredible array of accessible arts and music experiences, the hope is that the teachers and students on this trip will be able to bring home stories and knowledge of their experiences and apply them to the classroom and their personal art and musical works. Additionally, the “Arts for All” adventure will incorporate several Extended Core Curriculum (ECC) components, including orientation and mobility, social interaction skills, recreation and leisure, and self-advocacy.

While guiding their students through the “Arts for All” adventure, Bradley and Walsh also hope to broaden their own arts horizons as well. When he’s not in the classroom at ISBVI, Bradley can be seen performing with the award-winning Soma Quartet as the group’s tenor saxophonist. Considering his own musical pursuits, Bradley is personally excited to experience a performance from one of the nation’s top military bands.

“The nation’s top military bands are the equivalent of professional orchestras in the band world,” Bradley says. “To hear an ensemble of that caliber, live and in-person, is inspiring for me as an educator, but also as a performer. It shows me what I can still accomplish with my performance aspirations, and it gives me a model to work toward as I teach my students.”

Additionally, Bradley is excited to learn from the accessible arts experiences in Washington D.C. and bring elements of them back to his classroom at ISBVI.

“I’m perhaps most excited about accessibility on this trip,” Bradley says. “The most that I have geeked out about anything while planning this trip is reading all of the accessibility options on the websites of the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center. Attending a tour that highlights accessibility will inspire me to make sure all of our concerts at ISBVI are as accessible as possible.”

With a love for contemporary art, Walsh is especially excited to visit the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C. Like Bradley, she looks forward to learning from the accessible arts experiences in Washington D.C. and bringing elements of them back to her classroom at ISBVI.

“This trip will inspire me to make more art accessible to my students but also renew the spark as an art educator and artist as I view and learn more about all the art in these famous galleries,” Walsh says.

Thank you to all the Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund applicants and supporters! Special thanks to the Crosser Family Foundation - a fund of the Hamilton County Community Foundation, Richard W. Averill Foundation, Janet C. Hohnholt, the John and Shirley Woerhle Fund - a fund of the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, Jeffrey and Cassandra Short, Pete and Anne Schroth, and Don and Tricia Stogsdill.

We are also thankful to the 2023 TOCAF grants review committee and IBCF finance committee for all their efforts to bring the TOCAF fund and award to life: Toula Oberlies, Nick Oberlies, Sara Oberlies Brown, Jim Durst - ISBVI superintendent, and IBCF board members and staff - Becca Hopson, Kristina Davis, Kathy Nimmer, Michael Parent, Amanda Black, Laura Alvarado, and Chris Munoz.



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