By: Seth Johnson

A close-up, black-and-white photo shows A.J. Croce singing and playing piano on stage at the 2023 No Limits Celebration.On Saturday, July 22, the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF) hosted another successful No Limits Celebration at Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI), with a headlining performance from acclaimed musician A.J. Croce.

A tradition that dates back to 2019, the No Limits Celebration serves as an annual kick-off to the No Limits Arts Series — a multi-faceted arts initiative centered on strengthening accessibility that’s made possible with support from Lilly Endowment, Inc. Held every year on the anniversary weekend of the Americans with Disabilities Act being signed into law, the No Limits Celebration showcases an artist that mirrors the strengths and abilities of the children ISBVI and IBCF serve. Having hosted artists such as acclaimed jazz pianist Matthew Whitaker and Grammy award-winning bluegrass fiddler Michael Cleveland in recent years, IBCF welcomed A.J. Croce to the ISBVI stage in 2023, who was accompanied by Grammy award-winning bassist David Barard.

Upon arriving at ISBVI for the 2023 No Limits Celebration, guests were invited to take part in a pre-concert reception, complete with a meal catered by the Jazz Kitchen and live music from local jazz artist and ISBVI alumni Steven Jones. While walking to and from the pre-concert reception, attendees were encouraged to check out an accessible photo exhibit highlighting the first-ever Toula Oberlies Creative Arts Fund (TOCAF) grant, which made it possible for ISBVI theater teachers Janelle Pivec and Josh Baxter to take a group of 15 high school students on a multi-faceted theater adventure in Chicago.

“I now understand that artwork can have braille and audio attachments that aid visually impaired people accessing them,” said one 2023 No Limits Celebration attendee on the photo exhibit as part of their post-event survey.

A wide shot shows several tables of sharply dressed guests in Churchman Dining Hall for the No Limits Celebration pre-concert reception. In the distance, on the right side of the photo, we can see the multi-colored No Limits sign that several guests posed for photos next to during the reception.With the help of event staff and volunteers, No Limits Celebration attendees had no trouble navigating the ISBVI campus as they made their way from the pre-concert reception in Churchman Dining Hall to A.J. Croce’s performance in the ISBVI auditorium. “I was struck by how friendly all the people were — not only the staff, but the people attending the event as well,” said an attendee via their post-event survey. “All members of our party thought it was an absolutely beautiful event — from the hospitality to the performance to the emcee (Ms. Nimmer) and the staff/volunteers,” another attendee added.

Prior to A.J. Croce’s performance, attendees viewed a short film from 12 Stars Media documenting a partnership between the No Limits Leadership Club and Conner Prairie. Through this partnership, ISBVI students advised the living history museum on ways it could be more accessible to all. Now as a result, Conner Prairie staff will receive audio description training this fall so that they can eventually give audio-described tours of Conner Prairie to visitors who are blind or visually impaired.

“I loved seeing the impact the students made by advocating for changes,” said one attendee via their post-event survey. “If young people can make a difference, it brings more awareness to adults for us to step up and advocate for change.”

Following the film, longtime IBCF board members David Thomas and Toula Oberlies (represented by her daughter Sara Oberlies Brown) were presented with awards in honor of their many years of exceptional service on the IBCF board. An IBCF board member herself, emcee Kathy Nimmer eloquently spoke on the contributions David and Toula have made to IBCF over the years, including David’s influence on IBCF’s ongoing work with arts partners in the community and the endowed fund named in honor of Toula which provides ISBVI students with once-in-a-lifetime arts opportunities.

A photo taken from the left side of the ISBVI auditorium’s balcony shows A.J. Croce performing at the piano on stage on the far right, with bassist David Barard featured on the left of the stage. The above angle shows several rows of the auditorium’s lower level, each of which is all but full of concert attendees. To the left of the stage, we also see an ASL interpreter. Above the stage, a screen with open captioning reads “Rolling on”.After an outstanding performance from A.J. Croce and David Barard followed by a brief intermission, emcee Kathy Nimmer sat down with A.J. Croce for an engaging Q&A, which also included some questions from the audience on hand. “I loved the candor and deep honesty from both of them,” said one attendee of the Q&A in their post-concert survey. “Kathy asked terrific questions. I wasn't aware of Mr. Croce's impairment until he described it, so that was helpful to understand the connection,” another attendee added.

In reflecting on the No Limits Celebration as a whole, several attendees also shed light on the event’s overall accessibility, whether it was the ASL interpreters on hand or the audio description devices that were available.

“I really had no idea of all the accommodations available for everyone to enjoy any presentation/musical event,” commented one individual.

“It gave me a new perspective on what accessibility is and the need for it,” said another attendee.

While these accommodations may have been new to some attendees, they made others at the event feel very included, ultimately pointing back to what the No Limits Arts Series is all about.

“A great effort has been made to include everyone,” said one attendee of the 2023 No Limits Celebration. “I especially appreciate this since I am totally blind and deaf in one ear.”

For the full collection of photos from the 2023 No Limits Celebration, click here to view a slideshow from Grant Michael Photography. We would again like to thank all of the No Limits Celebration attendees, volunteers and sponsors for making this year’s event a success!

A graphic features logos of all the 2023 No Limits Celebration sponsors, including Lilly Endowment, Inc., Regions Bank, Opendate, Sweetwater, Jazz Kitchen, Piano Solutions, and Sertoma Club of Broad Ripple. At the top of the graphic, bold font reads “THANK YOU to our No Limits sponsors!” Beneath all of the sponsors’ logos, the logos for Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation are also featured.



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