The "stars" shone brightly during the 2021 MartinArts Awards ceremony, held November 2, 2021, at the Lyric Theatre in downtown Stuart. Since 2003, the MartinArts Awards program, presented by the MartinArts Foundation, has been the premier celebration of the arts on the Treasure Coast. The program recognizes performance, visual and literary artistic excellence and those who help the arts flourish in our local community. Each year, select local artists, philanthropists, volunteers, and leaders in the arts are honored with prestigious mARTies Awards. All nominees are invited to participate in an opening performance, choreographed and produced specifically for the event, and in collaborative performances. Congratulations to this year's award winners:
Conney Dahn, Exceptional Student Education (ESE) teacher, Jensen Beach High School - Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award
Ms. Dahn began Friends, a choir made up of singers with disabilities, in 1989. "It was my heart’s desire to have a choir where singers with disabilities could perform to their very best, whether they were able to sing aloud or not," she said. "Friends opened the door to the community for employment and inclusion [of individuals with disabilities] because of the enthusiasm and demeanor they displayed wherever they were invited. Friends has performed all over the state - in Tallahassee for the 'Arts for A Complete Education' program, student government conferences, Council for Exceptional Children state meetings, Martin County LEADERship, and many, many others. It has been my honor and privilege to serve these awesome people!"
Ashley Monks, Art teacher, Indiantown Middle School - Excellence in Arts Education Award
Ms. Monks is passionate about keeping the arts alive in the school setting, letting no barrier hold her back when it comes to new ideas. Now in her fourteenth year as an art educator, Ms. Monks is constantly writing grants. She has been awarded well over $40,000 in grant funds over the course of her career. She was recently awarded a grant that has helped introduce students at Indiantown Middle School to 3D printers and virtual reality headsets that take them on adventures into museums all around the world. Mrs. Monks' art students are no strangers to our community - they participate in many community programs and activities, including creating props and donating artwork for events hosted by the Education Foundation of Martin County and Students4H2O. Ms. Monks currently serves as the Middle School Division Director for the Florida Art Education Association, providing visual art educators with knowledge, skills and support that help to ensure all Florida students receive quality and meaningful instruction.
Christopher Carnes, South Fork High School - Student Visual Artist Award
"I love to use my art skills and creativity to educate and inspire people on how to make a change in the world," Christopher says. One of his pieces, Affected, demonstrates this idea. It shows a beautiful ocean scene and a young sea turtle swimming. When a UV light is projected over the piece, the viewer can see toxic algae in the water and the skeletons of the turtle and fish, showing the plastic and man-made pollution in their systems. For five years Christopher has worked with students of all ages at Visionary School of the Arts and within the Boys and Girls Clubs of Martin County. He has participated in art projects to help Catch the Wave of Hope, WaterFest, and a firefighter's charity. While he doesn’t plan to be an art major in college, he hopes to continue painting and using his creativity and artistic mindset throughout his life.
Katie Vitale, Jensen Beach High School - Student Performing Theatre Artist Award
"When I am on stage, I completely lose myself in the song," Katie shares. "I am transported to a different universe where I am not merely singing someone else's song, but where I become the song, the character and the story." In addition to being an actress, Katie is a talented vocalist and trumpet player in Jensen Beach High School's renowned Falcon Pride Band. Her family volunteers to sing during mass each Sunday at St. Andrew Catholic Church and St. Joseph Catholic Church - she deeply values how these performances allow parishioners to have a deep and reflective experience that allows them to grow in their faith. In college, she plans to major in psychology and minor in performing arts.
To learn more about the MartinArts Foundation and the mARTies Awards, please click here.