In celebration of Arts in Education Week, the Van Wezel Foundation announced that in fiscal year 2020, $575,000 was granted to support arts education and integration programming. In response to Covid-19, the Foundation provided the seed funding to establish and continue to provide on-going support for Artworks Anywhere, a program from the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Education Department that delivers remote learning opportunities to students, families, educators, early learning centers and school districts. The grants were made possible through individual, corporate and foundation donors.
Foundation grants this past year helped to fund multiple initiatives, including Van Wezel Schooltime Performances. This program presents high quality, nationally and internationally renowned artists and performances for area students. Funding also included two-generational learning programs like Family Literacy and Science Nights, where nearly 800 students and their families participated. Contributions to the Van Wezel Foundation also provided support for professional development training for more than 240 teachers emphasizing the use of the arts in the classroom to support language skills, early reading and STEAM. Additional support was provided to Van Wezel teaching artists to enable arts experiences to 575 students with disabilities, including a unique partnership between Oak Park School and Lakeview Elementary.
In the fiscal year 2020, the foundation also generated more than $1 million in contributions through support of the Inspiration Gala. Through a legacy endowment fund established from Louise Appleton, the foundation and the hall bestowed the Appleton Teacher of the Year award at the gala to three outstanding educators in our community, including Melissa Forsten, a first-grade teacher from Atwater Elementary, Joanna Fox, a creative writing teacher from Booker Middle School and Tatiana Ignotis, an ESOL instructor from Venice Middle School.
In addition to providing direct grants to the Hall, 600 performance tickets were gifted to numerous education and health and social service organizations through the Foundation's Arts for All program. Arts for All partners this past year included: Girls, Inc., Big Brothers Big Sisters, Senior Friendship Centers, Suncoast Charities for Children, the American Red Cross, The Haven, The Florida Center and the Special Olympics.