On Its 10th Anniversary, Knight Arts Challenge Miami Funds 43 Projects With $2.5 Million

Ten years ago, the Knight Arts Challenge was established to enable Miamians to bring their artistic ideas to life. This year, 43 winners from across South Florida will share $2.5 million for projects that show they have taken that creative mission to heart. Winners come from an array of backgrounds and disciplines, with projects that will help make art general in Miami so that it is seen, felt and heard throughout the city's many neighborhoods.

A project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Knight Arts Challenge funds the best ideas for bringing South Florida together through the arts. The winning ideas were announced at a special event at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, followed by a communitywide celebration including performances in the adjacent Knight Plaza.

Each year the awards celebrate Miami's cultural diversity, and 2017 continues the tradition. One project explores the life of Cuban artist José Aponte, who was executed in 1812 when a book of his drawings was alleged to contain plans for a slave uprising. Another project jumps to the future for a virtual reality experience on the history of Stiltsville, the homes elevated above Biscayne Bay. Yet another will restore and publish the photos of Andy Sweet, whose work documents the history of 1970s South Beach and its Jewish retirees.

Because Miami is so much more than South Beach, this year's winners are activating projects from Doral to Pahokee to the Keys, often in unexpected locations. One will produce a Commuter Biennial, so that suburban neighborhoods can experience the kind of artistic interventions often reserved for the city's downtown and annual art fairs. Another will fund miniconcerts at Metrorail stations during the morning commute. And don't be alarmed if, on your way home from work, you encounter mermaids discussing the effects of climate change in a park. That's simply the Miami Mermaid Debates.

"The 10th Anniversary Knight Arts Challenge winners celebrate life and arts in Miami," said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president. "They embody what the arts do: they inspire and create common experiences that connect us to each other and to home, Miami."

The full list of winning ideas is below, and online at knightarts.org.

"True to the challenge's spirit, winners this year challenged themselves to bring unique passions to Miamians," said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. "Miami is a young city. Our challenge winners and our artists are not only telling our stories, they are shaping our city's identity every day."

Knight Foundation has invested more than $122 million in South Florida arts since 2005, including support for both large institutions, to more deeply engage the public, and grassroots efforts through the Knight Arts Challenge. Over the past decade, the challenge has helped raise the artistic quality in the city, providing organizations and individual artists the time, resources and infrastructure they need for quality work. In addition, the challenge has helped spur innovation and risk-taking, with 80 percent of projects encouraging or creating innovative arts programming.

There are only three rules for applying to the challenge: 1) The idea must be about the arts; 2) The project must take place in or benefit South Florida; and 3) The grant recipients must find funds to match Knight's commitment. The best receive Knight Foundation support. More than 10,000 ideas have been submitted over eight years.

Previous funding for large institutions launched a new media program that includes the signature "Wallcasts" at the acclaimed New World Symphony campus, helped present top films at the Miami International Film Festival, brings Miami-Dade students on free field trips to the Pérez Art Museum Miami, and is building a new high-tech recital hall at the University of Miami Frost School of Music among other projects.

Monday night, Knight Foundation also named 25 arts and civic leaders as Knight Arts Champions, honoring them for their vision, courage and tenacity in building Miami's cultural community. They include painter José Bedia, author Edwidge Danticat and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Each received $10,000 contribution to an artist or arts organization of their choice. The list of Knight Arts Champions is below.

For more on Knight Foundation's arts program, and to view a full list of Knight Arts Challenge winners, visit knightarts.org. Connect on the Knight Foundation Facebook page here and via @knightfdn and #knightarts on Twitter and Instagram.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

2017 Winning Ideas

Wall (In)

Recipient: Arts For Learning

Award: $80,000

To explore a chapter of Miami's history through a project where young artists from Liberty City study The Remains of a segregation wall on Northwest 12th Avenue and create public art projects for the site

Curator Culture at The Bass

Recipient: The Bass

Award: $100,000

To spark dialogue with Curator Culture, a public conversation series led by Tom Healy that brings together the brightest minds in arts and pop culture to ask: What is really worth our time to look at, listen to, touch or talk about?


Recipient: Borscht Corporation

Award: $150,000

To ensure stories by female-identifying filmmakers in Miami are told by expanding support for their work through the NoBroZone grant program, where only women are involved in the greenlighting process

Make Music Miami

Recipient: Buskerfest Miami

Award: $45,000

To make music accessible by celebrating international Make Music Day with performances and activities in public spaces throughout the city augmented by interactive technology


Recipient: Dejha Carrington

Award: $90,000

To inspire a new generation of art collectors by connecting local artists to new patrons with Commissioner, a series of commissioned works, stories and events around Miami narratives

Macro Directors for Microtheater

Recipient: CCEMiami

Award: $50,000

To experiment with theatrical formats by inviting renowned theater directors to produce plays in the center's microtheatres, located in shipping containers, where each 15-minute piece is part of a larger story that audience members can see in any order

Ritmo Doral

Recipient: City of Doral

Award: $20,000

To bring more culture to Doral's downtown by expanding Ritmo Doral, an international cultural event that will connect local artists and community members with artists in Doral's sister cities

"Home Is the Pointe": A Residency for Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami

Recipient: Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami

Award: $150,000

To help keep local dance talent in Miami by offering professional opportunities at Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami and establishing a home for the company at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center

Preserving el Órgano Oriental

Recipient: El Ingenio

Award: $23,000

To revive the art of the "Oriental Organ" by creating a musical score for one of the instruments, made in Miami from Cuban models, which will be used in a theatrical street performance of Ibsen's "The Lady of the Sea"

Stiltsville: a VR Exploration

Recipient: FilmGate Miami

Award: $75,000

To help Miamians explore iconic Stiltsville, the seven homes on stilts in Biscayne Bay, with a virtual reality interactive experience that looks at the structures, their caretakers and the underwater life formed under their protective shelter

We Got the Beat: Art Talk Radio Inspires Miami's Creative Community

Recipient: Fresh Art International

Award: $50,000

To provide a platform for critical discourse on the Miami art scene by expanding the Fresh Art International internet radio show with new virtual programming

From el Barrio to the MainStage: Theater and Dance Artist Commissions

Recipient: FUNDarte

Award: $75,000

To nurture the careers of Miami's hidden talents, many of whom recently immigrated to the United States, by expanding FUNDarte's successful "From El Barrio to the Mainstage" program to mentor underrepresented theater and dance artists


Recipient: Glades Community Media Partnership

Award: $30,000

To highlight the story of Pahokee, a rural Palm Beach County town populated primarily by people of color and new immigrants, with a feature documentary that follows four high school students coming of age worlds away from the economic advantages of coastal South Florida

Visionary Aponte: Art and Black Freedom

Recipient: Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance

Award: $50,000

To delve into the story of Cuban artist José Aponte, executed in 1812 in part for creating a now lost book of 80 paintings for slaves in sugar mills, with an exhibit that explores both his work and contemporary artists' reactions to it

Havana Habibi

Recipient: Hanan Arts

Award: $100,000

To foster dialogue between Miami and Havana through film screenings, dance workshops and live performances on the themes of diaspora, dance and identity that were explored in the documentary film "Havana Habibi"

Unity Boulevard Film Series: Promoting Community Discourse Through Film

Recipient: Historic Hampton House Community Trust

Award: $100,000

To use film to inspire community conversations by partnering with Florida International University and Miami Jazz and Film Society on a film and discussion series

IlluminArts presents: A Female Force

Recipient: IlluminArts

Award: $18,000

To explore issues women face through an Art Song performance that combines the work of Cuban artist Ana Mendieta with a musical program presenting high-caliber female composers and musicians

The Miami Trilogy

Recipient: Jai-Alai Books

Awards: $35,000

To examine three pressing issues facing Miami - transit, sea level rise and poverty - and inspire action on them through a trilogy of books

BlackFlorida: From the South to the Southernmost

Recipient: Johanne Rahaman

Award: $40,000

To document black community life by digitizing family photo albums, combining them with photographic portraits created by photographer Johanne Rahaman and presenting them in public exhibitions and innovative media platforms

Flaming Classics

Recipient: Juan Barquin and Trae DeLellis

Award: $25,000

To build community, entertain and educate with Flaming Classics, a curated film series that pairs classic films from the queer canon with live performances from local drag artists

Hued Songs of Strength and Freedom

Recipient: Kunya Rowley

Award: $20,000

To illuminate the musical and theatrical contributions of people of color with a series of performances of works by African-American composers or inspired by African-American history

The Commuter Biennial

Recipient: Laura Randall

Award: $65,000

To engage the broader Miami-Dade community in the visual arts by bringing insightful and accessible artistic projects to places residents see daily on their drives to and from work

Unearthing the Lost Miami: Andy Sweet's South Beach

Recipient: Letter16 Press

Award: $43,000

To preserve the history of 1970s South Beach and the Jewish retirees who lived there by restoring the photos of lauded photographer Andy Sweet and publishing them in a series of books

The On The Hook Project

Recipient: Mark Hedden

Award: $13,500

To tell the stories of Key West's liveaboard community, boat dwellers who anchor in the shallows off Key West, in a photo narrative that explores this community living on the island's and society's edge

Hip Hoppa Locka: Muslim Hip-hop in Opa-locka

Recipient: MDC Live Arts

Award: $50,000

To explore Muslim identity through an artist-in-residence program with Muslim hip-hop artists who will create work with local students around racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia

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