Knight Arts Challenge winners promote wide range of creativity; bring art to neighborhoods and unexpected places

PHILADELPHIA – (April 23, 2012) – Thirty-five ideas for the arts in Philadelphia will receive $2.76 million as winners of the 2012 Knight Arts Challenge.

Now in its second year, the community-wide challenge funds the best ideas for engaging and enriching Philadelphia through the arts.

Emerging from more than 1,260 submissions, the 2012 winners represent a wide range of Philadelphia’s creative thinkers, including artists Erica Hawthorne and Sean Stoops, small organizations like the Bearded Ladies Cabaret and the Little Berlin collective, and established institutions with innovative ideas.

“The cities that succeed, that offer the greatest quality of life, view every single person as a creative being,” said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation’s vice president for arts. “We hope the Knight Arts Challenge and its winners provide an added spark that inspires the community to build a better future together.”

This year’s winners will:

  • Bring art into Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, through pop-up Latin jazz performances, “Site and Sound” gardens in Nicetown-Tioga and a campaign that will bring locally produced art to public advertising spaces near the place where the piece was produced.
  • Transform communities through public art installations, such as a new steam- and water-inspired work in Dilworth Plaza, a permanent light installation at a Quaker meeting house and rotating, site-specific public art for the community and daily commuters at The Porch at 30th Street Station.
  • Use the assets of larger organizations to benefit emerging artists, including a new black-box theater residency program at the Kimmel Center, an incubator for creative businesses at the University of the Arts and a teaching corps of tech-saavy art teachers at The Hacktory.

A full list of winners is below.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter declared April 23 Knight Arts Challenge Day in recognition of the initiative’s impact and its support for a broad spectrum of the creative community.

To date, 71 ideas have been awarded $5.4 million. A third round of the Knight Arts Challenge will open in the fall.

“We asked the community for their best ideas – and received an overwhelming response, showing the strength of this city’s creative community,” said Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Philadelphia program director for Knight Foundation.

The Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia is open to anyone with a great idea for the arts. The challenge has just three rules: 1) The idea must be about the arts, 2) the project must take place in or benefit Philadelphia and 3) the grant recipients must find funds to match Knight’s commitment.

The Knight Arts Challenge began in 2008 in Miami, where the initiative is now in its fifth year. Philadelphia is the second city to which Knight has offered this program.

For more on Knight Foundation’s arts initiative and to view a full list of Knight Arts Challenge winners, visit www.KnightArts.org. Connect on the Knight Arts Challenge Facebook page here and via @KnightArts on Twitter.


Performing Arts Will Diversify Old City’s First Fridays

Summary: First Friday in Old City is a destination for culture lovers. Yet the event with 50-plus galleries includes just one theater company. Arden Festival Fridays will help diversify artistic offerings by celebrating Philadelphia’s many performing arts groups. Every First Friday, a different group will have the opportunity to make the Arden its own. This curated, multidisciplinary performance series will embrace unlikely collaborations, showcase new, innovative work and provide the first established performing arts forum on First Fridays.

“Pop-Up” Performances Bring Latin Jazz to Philly Neighborhoods

Summary: To cultivate new audiences for Latin jazz, Artists and Musicians of Latin America (AMLA) will present “pop-up” performances of local artists and student ensembles via a portable stage. The Flash Jazz Mobile will present free concerts in different neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia from April through November 2013. Using social media, residents will be able to track the progress of the mobile stage and share photos of the events as a way to build community involvement.

Stories of Urban Youth Come to Life in “Hip H’Opera”

  • Project: Hip H’Opera
  • Recipient: Art Sanctuary
  • Award: $100,000

Summary: This project will celebrate two art forms that use the human voice to tell profound stories by creating a Hip H’Opera, using the stories of urban life. The five-year project, in partnership with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, included two years of collecting teens’ stories. Artists involved are Haitian composer Daniel Bernard Romain and lyricist and hip-hop choreographer Marc Bamuthi Joseph. The event will include education programs in arts careers, staging and set design to benefit hundreds of students.

Communities Experience Art in Unexpected Places

Summary: This series seeks to provide everyday artistic experiences for residents and visitors alike in Chinatown and South Philadelphia. The Asian Arts Initiative will invite five teams of artists to create site-specific works of art in nontraditional places – a restaurant, storefront window, parking lot, public park or plaza, for example. Each installation will engage residents through community workshops, other public programming and multimedia content. The project invites audiences to experience neighborhoods as destinations of diverse histories and spirited complexity.

Late-Night Cabarets Explore Social Issues with Sparkle on the Avenue of the Arts

Summary: To attract new audiences to theater, The Bearded Ladies will create a series of original and immersive late-night cabarets at The Wilma Theater. These shows will use the spectacle, intimacy and informality inherent to the cabaret form to tackle questions of politics, gender, sexuality and identity. Because topical, artistically ambitious cabaret is rarely produced in Philadelphia, this series aims to attract new audiences to Broad Street’s Avenue of the Arts.

New Form of Symphonic Pops Concert Celebrates World Music

Summary: To showcase diverse cultures, Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra will transform a symphonic pops concert into a festival of world music. Featuring guest performers from the Afro Pop, Arab Pop and Pop Latino traditions, this festival will use the orchestra’s unique multicultural spin on classical music to connect with new audiences and showcase a shared musical heritage. While diversity is a challenge for the classical music field, this project will help the orchestra engage Philadelphia’s diverse communities and reinvent the 21st century orchestra.

College Students Gain New Access to the City’s Arts Scene

  • Project: Campus Philly’s Passport to the Arts
  • Recipient: Campus Philly
  • Award: $100,000

Summary: To foster a lifelong appreciation of the arts, Campus Philly will offer free or discounted admission to venues and performances for college students. The Passport to the Arts will include diverse offerings, allowing students to explore emerging and alternative experiences in addition to mainstream events. With established college relationships and a database of 30,000 students, Campus Philly will use the passport to connect an extremely large and diffuse student population with Philadelphia’s cultural scene, generating an appreciation for and attachment to the city.

Workshop Gives Voice to Unheard Stories of the Lao-American Community

  • Project: Laos in the House: Voices from Four Decades of the Lao Diaspora
  • Recipient: Catzie Vilayphonh
  • Award: $25,000

Summary: This project aims to create a writing, performance and filmmaking workshop to promote storytelling among Lao-Americans as a healing medium for war refugees whose upbringings did not prioritize art education. Working with artists in various genres from across the country, this community-based work will be presented during the Lao New Year celebration in April and reflect 40 years of the Lao-American diaspora. This project aims to give voice to previously unheard stories in hopes of healing the scars of war and beginning the process of regular intercultural and intergenerational exchanges.

Public Art Transforms Dilworth Plaza and Thriving Center City

Summary: To help transform historic Dilworth Plaza into a focal point for the city’s thriving downtown, the Center City District commissioned internationally recognized sculptor Janet Echelman to create an artwork inspired by the site’s historic association with water and steam. The piece will be embedded in the plaza’s new 11,600-square foot fountain and will trace above ground in real time the paths of the three subway lines below. The artwork aims to physically and psychologically transform the way people view the city’s central square and enter its public transit system.

Art Installation Open to All Inspires Dialogue on Art and Spirituality

Summary: To spark dialogue about contemporary art, the Chestnut Hill Friends Meetinghouse will incorporate the work of internationally acclaimed light artist James Turrell into a new facility. With a tradition of welcoming people of all faiths, the Quaker site will open at dawn and dusk to residents and tourists of all ages and backgrounds. Known for combining art and science to create simple, luminous chambers that prompt greater self-awareness through silent contemplation, Turrell’s works are commissioned by museums worldwide. This permanent installation in a nontraditional setting aims to become a major landmark, fostering dialogue about the intersection of art, spirituality and the human experience.

Residents Transform Vacant Lots Into Visual and Sound Gardens

Summary: COSACOSA will work with artists and community residents to transform vacant lots in Nicetown-Tioga into a series of visual and sound “gardens.” These art parks will include both permanent and temporary sculpture and sound art exhibitions, and will explore issues of concern to the neighborhood. Monthly family-friendly art-making workshops will help build community ownership and provide neighbors of all ages and abilities with new creative opportunities. The gardens will bring neighbors of different ages and cultures together while creating a model for site and sound place-making in other city neighborhoods.

Local Artists Get Support From Mini Grant Program

  • Project: Small-But-Mighty Arts Grant
  • Recipient: Erica Hawthorne
  • Award: $60,000

Summary: To give a boost to local artists, this project will create a mini grant program to help finance their art making with awards ranging from $50 to $1,000. Most current grants are highly competitive and geared toward larger organizations, providing little to no small grant funding options for individual artists. For example, $100 could mean the ability to purchase supplies for a visual artist’s next great piece of work, while $500 could cover studio cost for a recording artist. The program will help keep local artists producing works that enrich the city.

Mobile Studio Brings Community Art to New Neighborhoods

  • Project: ColorWheels: Delivering Creativity to Your Community
  • Recipient: Fleisher Art Memorial
  • Award: $50,000

Summary: To engage the community in hands-on art making, this project will expand the reach of its mobile studio where participants create projects inspired by their neighborhoods. ColorWheels is equipped with the supplies needed for teaching artists to lead culturally relevant art projects influenced by neighborhood settings and informed by community members. While currently focused on the South Philadelphia neighborhoods surrounding Fleisher, this grant will bring ColorWheels to community sites, neighborhood festivals and public schools throughout Philadelphia.

West Philadelphia Lots Become Artistic Skate Parks

Summary: To help create a sense of place, the Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund will turn several West Philadelphia blacktop lots into art-laden skate parks. Guided by a recently completed Master Plan for Philadelphia Skateboarding, and in partnership with the city, the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, Mural Arts Program and Recycling Artists in Residency, the fund will work with local artists to design functional and artistic obstacles, as well as way-finding markers that blaze a trail through the cityscape. Leveraging the artistic and design skills intrinsic to the skateboarding community, the fund will seek to create a skateable connection between neighborhoods.

Free Theater Festival Showcases Diversity On Stage

Summary: GoKash Productions will promote original plays through a free theater festival dedicated to multicultural themes. Over the past two years, the festival has drawn between 2,000 and 3,500 patrons to an event largely focused on the contemporary African-American experience and partially funded by ticket sales. With this new support, the event will be free and will launch with the theme “Diversity OnStage,” to include diverse topics and artists from a range of ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Late-Night Museum Happenings Encourage New Audiences

Summary: To engage younger audiences in the visual arts, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, in partnership with the city of Philadelphia and partner museums, will launch a series of late-night summer happenings for audiences ages 40 and under.  Anchored by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, these events will include music, food and rare midnight tours of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Barnes Foundation and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. The series is part of With Art Philadelphia, a two-year collaborative marketing program to showcase the visual arts in the city and to position Philadelphia as a great arts destination.  With Art Philadelphia is led by a partnership of 10 city organizations and cultural partners.

Cutting-Edge Performing Arts Gain New Visibility Through Residency Program

Summary: To engage new audiences, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts will create a residency program in its black-box theater for innovative and emerging arts groups. In contrast to the center’s more traditional offerings, the new Innovation Studio will be a place to produce new, edgier programs and to provide the support and visibility local groups need to gain exposure and expand their audience base.

Visual and Performing Arts Fill an East Kensington Lot

  • Project: Little Berlin Fairgrounds
  • Recipient: Little Berlin
  • Award: $10,000

Summary: To help transform the East Kensington neighborhood, the Little Berlin Fairgrounds will turn an empty lot into an event space for musicians, art fairs and children’s workshops. The space will also feature a sculpture garden where local artists will build outdoor installations. By making the space easily accessible to the public, the project will engage the neighborhood in the arts.

Outdoor Summer Film Series Showcases Local Artists and Filmmakers

Summary: To introduce the work of local visual artists and filmmakers to a wider audience, The Galleries at Moore College of Art & Design will establish an outdoor independent film series on the Ben Franklin Parkway. From May through September, films by area artists and filmmakers will be shown on a large, outdoor screen. Filmmakers will introduce their work and participate in Q&A sessions with moviegoers. In place of the traditional concession stand, a rotating roster of Philadelphia food trucks will serve a variety of street snacks for picnicking in Aviator Park. In the spirit of classic drive-in theaters, video works and
short films by area artists will precede feature presentations.

Weekly Drumming Lessons Inspire Local Youth

  • Project: Drum Line
  • Recipient: Musicopia
  • Award: $90,000

Summary: To empower and inspire Philadelphia’s youth, Musicopia will operate an expanded indoor percussion ensemble with participation in tri-state competitions. The program targets at-risk students across the city in hopes of inspiring participants to develop self-discipline, self-confidence and a desire to graduate from high school. With this grant, the program, one of the few of its kind in the region, seeks to double the number of students able to participate in the program.

Gospel Choirs, Composers and Jazz Ensembles Celebrate Dr. King

  • Project: New Music Celebrations of the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Recipient: Orchestra 2001
  • Award: $40,000

Summary: Orchestra 2001 will present a new music project celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., featuring collaborations with the St. Thomas Gospel Choir, composer Jay Fluellen, and young musicians and composers from West Philadelphia’s “Play On, Philly!” program. The concert will include the world premiere of a new clarinet concerto based on King’s life by Curtis Institute faculty composer Richard Danielpour, featuring clarinetist Anthony McGill, a Curtis graduate. Open rehearsals and educational activities will take place in four African-American communities with a final concert at the Kimmel Center during the week of Martin Luther King Day, 2014.

Design Center Provides New Resources to Theater and Visual Artists

Summary: To expand the capacity of Philadelphia’s theater community, Partners for Sacred Places will provide a new space for theater designers and visual artists at a spacious local church. By providing office, storage, construction and implementation space, as well as the opportunity to share equipment, the space will naturally promote more collaboration, labor efficiency and a greener approach to theatrical productions. The project will also offer storage space for standard size flats and platforms, costumes and props while helping to preserve and repurpose a much beloved and endangered church, giving it a future value to the community.

Free Digital Cameras Give Access to Communities for Photography Exhibition

Summary: To encourage broader audience participation in the city’s visual arts, the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center will expand Philly Photo Day, where every member of the community is invited to take a picture on the same day for an exhibition. On Philly Photo Day – Oct. 26, 2012 – the center will distribute disposable digital cameras to community centers in underserved neighborhoods and send artists to teach residents how to use the cameras. In addition to the exhibition at the center, the captured images will be exhibited in public spaces throughout the city, including trains, buses and on billboards.

Architecture Seen in a New Light with 3D Video Art Events

  • Project: Animated Architecture: 3D Video Mapping Projections on Historic Sites
  • Recipient: Sean Stoops
  • Award: $20,000

Summary: To support an innovative form of 3D digital animation, the project will create outdoor and indoor video art events screened on local buildings. The site-specific events, at venues throughout the city, will use 3D projection mapping – a recent technology that animates stationary objects with immersion video, sound and music. Viewers will not need special glasses for the viewings; animations will be processed by software that projects over architectural surfaces, generating the animated 3D effects.

Plays in Nontraditional Spaces Bring Adventure to Audiences

Summary: To weave the arts into the community, Swim Pony Performing Arts will present original, contemporary plays in nontraditional spaces, including Eastern State Penitentiary and the Academy of Natural Sciences. The yearlong series will produce two new versions of popular works from the company’s repertoire – The Ballad of Joe Hill and The Giant Squid – and also feature the premiere of a gothic love story. Swim Pony Performing Arts will create new partnerships beyond those traditionally involved in the city’s theater community as a way of attracting younger, more adventurous art-seeking audiences.

Multidisciplinary Festival
Features Black Male Artists

  • Project: Henry “Box” Brown – The Escape Artist
  • Recipient: The Brothers Network
  • Award: $25,000

Summary: The Brothers Network will create a multidisciplinary festival inspired by the life of Henry “Box” Brown, an enslaved African who shipped himself to Philadelphia in a wooden box to gain his freedom in 1849. The wooden box will serve as an artistic metaphor to explore the pedagogy of oppression and to examine the notions of liberation through symposia, dialogue and artistic interpretation.

Locally Produced Art Populates Neighborhood Public Spaces

Summary: To bring visual art to a wider audience, the Center for Emerging Visual Artists will place locally produced art in public advertising spaces in the same neighborhood where the piece was produced. The hyper-local visual art initiative will populate neighborhood public spaces like bus shelters, vacant storefronts and rail and subway platforms with images and public art exhibitions that are “created 100 feet from here.” For over a decade, the center’s Philadelphia Open Studio Tours have brought people to artists’ studios. This project will bring studio artwork directly to the people in their own communities.

Ceramic Mug “Assault” Explores Relevance of Handmade Things

Summary: The Clay Studio seeks to explore the relevance of handmade ceramic objects in the 21st century. To generate excitement for two exhibitions exploring the sociological and anthropological issues associated with dining and the personal significance taken on by ceramic objects for their makers and users, the studio will target individuals leaving Philadelphia coffee shops with disposable to-go cups. Some 500 people will receive a free handmade mug of their choice with an attached tag including the maker’s bio and the project’s premise. They will also be encouraged to post their experiences using their mug and the
relationship they develop with it on the studio’s blog and social media sites.

Choral Works for Nontraditional Spaces to Be Commissioned

  • Project: Performances at the Icebox
  • Recipient: The Crossing
  • Award: $50,000

Summary: To introduce a wider audience to contemporary choral music, The Crossing will establish a series of new works designed specifically for a nontraditional venue – the recently restored Crane Arts’ Icebox. The project seeks to engage active art-goers who frequent performing arts spaces, but who may not attend a church, the traditional home of choirs. Because The Icebox has such unique cathedral and acoustic properties, The Crossing will develop four significant choir commissions for it over two years, each of which will be designed aurally and physically for the space.

Sculptural Installation Explores Visual Art and Theater

Summary: The Fabric Workshop and Museum (FWM) will commission artist Daniel Arsham to create a sculptural intervention within the museum’s architecture that will explore the boundaries between museums and theaters. Arsham’s exhibition will become a stage for interactive, performative sculptures as well as a live performance choreographed by Jonah Bokaer. Arsham’s prior works for stage design, including those for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, are typically limited in scale and material to move easily between theaters. During his Philadelphia residency, Arsham will develop a more complex, interactive space and explore new materials and media.

Teaching Program Fosters New Knowledge for Use of Technology in the Arts

  • Project: Corps of Interactive Artist Teachers
  • Recipient: The Hacktory
  • Award: $40,000

Summary: To promote the use of technology in the arts, The Hacktory will develop an intensive tech/art curriculum where local artist-educators working in digital and technical mediums will teach a new corps of fledgling artists. The new artists will gain experience by teaching not only at The Hacktory, but also at local schools, after school programs and other educational organizations. Regular reunions for the artists and original instructors will be planned throughout their term to provide the new corps with support and to trade ideas. A final exhibition will feature their new skills.

Creative Incubator Supports Emerging Creative Businesses

Summary: To promote economic stability for the city’s cultural community, the University of the Arts will offer support to emerging creative businesses with pre-seed funding, mentorship programs and workshops. The effort will expand its current programming to accommodate burgeoning creative businesses, providing access to workshops on business and entrepreneurship not normally available to the artistic community. Classes will help new companies develop business plans, offer free advice on strategies, marketing, legal questions and business critiques.

Citywide Scavenger Hunts Introduce Teens to Art and Adventure

Summary: To develop young people’s awareness of the city’s vibrant cultural scene, The Village of the Arts and Humanities will organize interactive scavenger hunts led by local artists. Through the scavenger hunts, students will be challenged to create impromptu art across various neighborhoods, hunt for treasure in artists’ studios, design and build temporary installations with found objects and more. Participants will record their expeditions with homemade pinhole cameras and through online and homemade journals. The action-packed, adventure-based program will introduce hundreds of Philadelphia teens to local artists, writers, performers and cultural destinations.

Master Class Series Provides Advanced Training for Local Actors

  • Project: Creating a Common Artistic Voice
  • Recipient: The Wilma Theater
  • Award: $60,000

Summary: To enhance training for local theater artists and increase the diversity and skill level of the local theater community, The Wilma Theater will create a series of master classes. Curated by artistic director Blanka Zizka, the classes will take place over the course of two seasons. These classes will enhance not only the Wilma’s productions, but also the available talent pool for all of Philadelphia’s theater and film producers.

Public Art Enlivens The Porch at 30th Street Station

Summary: To establish a new outlet for public art, University City District will showcase rotating installations at one of Philadelphia’s newest public spaces, The Porch at 30th Street Station. By creating new, site-specific works of art for The Porch, which is within one of the city’s major centers of transportation and employment, art will elevate and enliven the mundane experience of commuting. The district will partner with Greenhouse Media, a Philadelphia-based group that has facilitated public art all over the country, including the High Line in New York City and the MOMA in San Francisco.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

Media Contacts:

Canary Promotion, Philadelphia Knight Foundation Representative

Knight Foundation:

One Response to “Best ideas for the Philadelphia arts receive $2.76 million in funding”

  1. Kash Goins says:

    Great evening!!! I love everyone’s attitude and spirit of support for each other and for the arts. Congrats to all of my fellow winners. Let’s change the world!!!

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