The Appleton Arts Integration Award honors an individual who best incorporates the arts in their work to better our community.

The Award is made possible by a legacy gift from Mrs. Louise Appleton, a local philanthropist who had a passion for arts and its connection to education.

Stevey Jones

Stevey Jones is a Sarasota-based teaching artist who is passionate about helping students learn and thrive through mindfulness and relaxation techniques. He has been working with the Foundation in the area of arts and mental well-being for over three years.

With a background as a former foster, as well as award-winning journalist and teacher, Stevey brings a unique perspective to his work as an educator. He is certified in Mindfulness and has made daily meditation a part of his routine.

Stevey has made significant strides in bringing artistic experiences to students in the classroom and in the community, with a focus on historically excluded communities and students. In addition to this work, Stevey is the host of “Mr. Stevey Meditates,” an educational YouTube channel exploring mindfulness techniques.

At the core of his work is the goal to create a safe space and supportive environment for children, where they can feel better and therefore learn better.

It is his commitment to breaking down barriers to arts and wellness that has earned him the title of 2023 Appleton Award Winner.


The Appleton Merit Scholarship recognizes the achievements and potential of educators using arts integration in their classrooms or community. The scholarships are granted to an experienced educator to advance their work and to an emerging leader to grow their knowledge.

Experienced Educator

Mayra Ocasio Cuadrado
Art Teacher, Tuttle Elementary

Mayra holds a BA in Fine Arts (University of Puerto Rico) and is a Certified Art Therapist (University of Bologna). Since 2013, Mayra has worked in the Manatee and Sarasota school districts as an art teacher. Her focus in teaching has been based on awakening the awareness that creativity expands to all the fields of life, from math to communication, to science, to the world that surrounds us. With this scholarship, she will be able to attain Arts Integration Certification. Mayra looks forward to creating models for integrating arts and STEAM and designing inspirational and innovative learning opportunities for all students.

Emerging Educator

Kate Walsh
Resident Teaching Artist, Florida Studio Theatre

Kate serves as a Resident Teaching Artist at Florida Studio Theatre. She plans to apply the scholarship towards courses on teaching strategies for students with disabilities, through the organization People Like Us. She intends to take the skills learned in these courses to create a more equitable teaching environment, inclusive lesson plans, and build trust and connection with her students. She is immensely grateful to the Van Wezel Foundation for their support in her artistic goal to hold more spaces for people to discover their worth and gifts through the arts.

Past Recipients

Portrait of Maria Schaedler-Luera.

2022 Appleton Arts Integration Award

Maria Schaedler-Luera
Van Wezel Teaching Artist

Maria Schaedler-Luera is a Brazilian-born educator and artist with extensive experience in theater, music, arts and literacy, and cross-cultural engagement.

Here in Sarasota, Maria designs and pilots teaching models and workshops for county schools and nonprofits, focusing on culturally relevant teaching, bilingual programs, and mental health. Maria launched Van Wezel’s new arts and mindfulness program, ARTself. She has worked collaboratively with the Resilient Retreat to lead first responders and helping professionals in the creative process to address trauma.


Jillianne Abbott
Art Instructor, The Haven

Jillianne currently serves as a special needs educator at The Haven, a non-profit organization whose facility is designed for adults and children with disabilities. As the organization’s Art Instructor, she uses her background in fine arts to positively impact the lives of her clients.

Jillianne is currently earning her Master’s degree at University of Florida in Arts in Medicine. She intends to take the skills learned in her continued education to adapt teaching styles, materials, and lessons to create rich and innovative curriculums through the arts.

Portrait of Talia Casey.

Merit Scholar

Talia Casey
Case Manager, Girls Inc.

Talia is a Sarasota native who volunteered in high school for a program that integrated dramatic arts to foster community and identity among adults with disabilities. Now, Talia serves as a case manager and facilitator at Girls Inc.

Talia plans to attend an expressive arts conference to expand her practices with her students and create a comprehensive and accessible curriculum for social emotional growth.


The Sarasota Performing Arts Center Foundation (formerly Van Wezel Foundation) and Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall are committed to supporting meaningful, high-quality arts integration across our region. Appleton Merit Scholarships recognize the achievements and potential of educators using arts integration in their classrooms or community. Winners receive a scholarship to attend an approved National Conference in Arts Integration (Experienced Category) or a local or virtual conference (Emerging).

Experienced ($2,500 award): Educators have significant knowledge in arts integration and have been utilizing successful strategies in their classrooms or in the community. This scholarship will allow them to attend and/or present at a national conference to learn advanced skills in arts integration and disseminate their successful strategies. This scholarship will cover registration, airfare, accommodations, and a daily stipend to attend the conference.

Emerging ($1,000 award): This scholarship is for teachers who have expressed interest and demonstrate potential for excellence in arts integration or education implementation in the classroom or in the community. Designed to foster a stronger foundation and support growth, this scholarship supports attendance at either a virtual or local conference and covers registration only.

  1. Must be a full time or part time educator in arts integration or arts education.
  2. You must work within Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto and/or Charlotte Counties in Florida.
  3. You must be willing to share your experience and what you have learned through the professional development scholarship with the Sarasota Performing Arts Center Foundation (also known as Van Wezel Foundation).
  4. You must be available to attend the Foundation’s Inspiration Gala early in the year, if selected for a scholarship.

Applications are now closed for 2023 scholarships, but more information will be posted here in late 2023/early 2024 about the 2024 scholarships.

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Questions? Email Kelli Maldonado, Executive Director, Education & Lifelong Learning.