The Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) has received a significant gift from Joseph, Judith and Susan Conda to fund the Conda Family manager of access initiatives, a position that advances TMA’s goal to be the model for belonging among art museums. The gift will support the operating expenses of the role through 2028 and simultaneously fund an endowment that will sustain the position thereafter. The role to date has been partially funded by the Conda family as well as by The Ability Center of Greater Toledo — an organization committed to fostering the most disability-friendly community in the country.
"Philanthropy at its best is a partnership between donors and organizations to maximize impact, and in the Conda family the Toledo Museum of Art has found an unmatched partner in advancing our agenda to become the most accessible historic art museum in the United States,” said Adam Levine, the Toledo Museum of Art’s Edward Drummond and Florence Scott Libbey director. “What began as a seed investment in a manager of access initiatives position has helped the Museum center access in our culture and programming in ways beyond what we could have imagined. With their generous gift, the Condas not only endow a position, but they transform TMA, allowing access to remain at the core of our planning and activities in perpetuity.”
The Condas have been generous supporters of TMA for over a decade including through the creation of the Joseph and Judith Conda Family Fund to support accessibility projects during the 2017 Polishing the Gem campaign. Elsewhere in Toledo, the Condas have underwritten the 2019-2022 performance season of the Toledo Symphony Youth Orchestras — making admission free to all — supported the Toledo Zoo’s Conda Family ZOOTeens program and Zoo for All initiative and funded the Joseph and Judith Conda Family School Readiness Room at the Toledo Library.
“Our family's intent in funding the manager of access initiative position is to ensure that every Museum visitor is able to fully experience the treasures displayed, as well as the programs offered," said Joseph and Judith Conda.
Joseph and Judith’s daughter Susan Conda added “I would like TMA to be a place where anyone feels welcome, valued and wanted.”
The Toledo Museum of Art named Katie Shelley as the inaugural manager of access in July 2021, and with this gift she will become the first person in the role now bearing the Conda family name. Her interest in access is something that has shaped her life. As a person with a physical disability, Shelley often found buildings, especially historic buildings, to be inaccessible to her. This interest in access led her to pursue a master’s degree in liberal studies with a focus on disability studies from the University of Toledo. Her thesis project focused on common myths surrounding accessibility and historic buildings and how they can comply with ADA guidelines without losing their historic significance. Shelley also has a bachelor’s of arts in English from Western Michigan University and a master’s of library science from Wayne State University.
Shelley is a member of The Ohio Olmstead Task Force, a member of the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council and served as an adjunct instructor for the Disability Studies Program at the University of Toledo in Fall 2022.
“As the manager of access initiatives I help the museum become a more inclusive, accessible place for visitors and staff,” said Shelley. “Our access work, which includes a first-of-its-kind sensory area at TMA’s annual block party, new interpretive elements in the galleries to make art more accessible to those who are blind and low-vision and training for staff and volunteers on how to interact with people with disabilities, has made great strides and demonstrated a commitment to cultivating a culture of belonging. I look forward to furthering this work for years to come.”