Miami-Dade County Schools students diagnosed with physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities learned a new dance last year and performed it for their peers.
Florida Grand Opera sopranos and tenors performed in new locations.
And artists who worked with clay at The Ceramic League of Miami received new kilns and other studio tools.
These were some of the 31 winners of the 2011 Knight Arts Challenge, which distributed about $2.9 million in grants to artistic organizations in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties.
Five years ago, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation initiated the Knights Arts Challenge to help fund programs and makes the arts more accessible.
“The Knight Foundation’s mission is informed and engaged communities,” said Dennis Scholl, the Knight Foundation’s vice president for arts. “We also want to make art in Miami so everyone sees and hears cultural activities.”
In the last five years, about 6,600 organizations and individuals entered the challenge, Scholl said. About 140 of those entries were rewarded with a grant. Since 2008, the Knight Arts Challenge has distributed about $20 million to arts organizations in South Florida.
The foundation set up the program initially for five years. It has since extended it for another three years. About $3 million will be awarded each year for the next three years, Scholl said.
Karen Peterson and Dancers, a South Florida nonprofit for dancers with and without disabilities, received a $10,000 grant in 2011. Thanks to the grant, the organization was able to place a dance teacher in 23 schools, reaching 375 students, instead of the usual 200, said Karen Peterson, the organization’s founder and artistic director.
The nonprofit embarked on the in-school residencies in 2005. As a result of the grant, the group extended the teachers’ time in the schools from 15 to 20 weeks.
“A lot of the inner-city schools have had such programs canceled because of budget cuts,” said Peterson. “This might be the children’s only artistic, creative one hour per week. We as dance artists are encouraging them to be physically expressive, physically free. Those elements are not what Miami-Dade teachers do because they have to worry about the FCAT.”