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“Her Own Little Paris in Miami”

Wed, Apr 11, 2012

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Ruth Greenfield, now in her late 80s, sits in front of a painting of herself by her husband. Greenfield, a musical prodigy herself, started Miami’s first interracial arts school in the 50s, angering some whites when she taught black students. She lives in a historic family home in Spring Garden and remains a force in Miami arts circles. (Photo by Marice Cohn Band for The Miami Herald)

Ruth Greenfield was a music teacher and a maverick. In the segregated 1950s and 60s, she ran a Miami arts school that included students and teachers from all racial backgrounds–even if she had to teach in a Masonic lodge or in a funeral home.  She came from a privileged background and was able to study music in Paris, where people of all kinds interacted more freely.

Her school, the Fine Arts Conservatory, expanded to six branches throughout Miami. For 25 years, students from different racial and socio-economic backgrounds came there to learn music, dance, drama and visual arts. The teachers were different races too. Before she was elected to Congress, Carrie Meek volunteered as a dance teacher there on Saturdays.Greenfield and her family hosted dinners and put on recitals.

For a while, Ruth Greenfield had created her own little Paris.

Khrista Rypl and Sammy Mack contributed to this story.

Look for the print version of this story in The Miami Herald on Saturday.

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