Knight Foundation Awards $2.75 Million in Grants for Miami Art Projects

From a Haitian writers translation project to a talk show hosted by mermaids, the 2017 grant winners were strikingly diverse.

The TransAtlantic Festival, produced by the Rhythm Foundation with a 2016 Arts Challenge grant. Courtesy of The Rhythm Foundation.

The contemporary art boom in Miami is never more apparent than when Art Basel Miami Beach descends on the Magic City. But if the fairs get the lion’s share of credit for the explosion of South Florida’s art scene, the Knight Foundation should get credit for keeping it going year-round.

Over the last 10 years, the organization has awarded more than $130 million in funding to 335 art projects throughout the city as part of its annual Arts Challenge grants program. Tonight, at a special event at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Knight Foundation announced the 2017 winners of the program, awarding $2.5 million in matching grants to 43 projects.

The criteria for the grant are simple: Projects must be artistic in nature, take place in or around Miami, and the proposed funding must be matched by another organization. Those guidelines have drawn winning initiatives that are strikingly diverse—from a live Spanish-language storytelling series to a Haitian writers’ translation and residency project to a traveling talk show hosted by mermaids aimed at highlighting climate change.

Alberto Ibarguen at the opening of the Knight Foundation’s Media Learning Seminar, 2017. Photo courtesy of the Knight Foundation.

“It’s a little bit of everything!” Alberto Ibargüen, the president and CEO of the Knight Foundation told artnet News. “It’s reflective of the town in that way. I think you can find art anywhere, but I don’t pretend that this level of diversity exists in any place or every place.”

In addition to the Arts Challenge grants, the foundation awarded another $250,000 to 25 arts and civic leaders as “Knight Arts Champions,” and asked each of them to choose an additional person or organization they felt was deserving of special recognition for contributions to local art and culture. The 25 chosen recipients were each awarded $10,000 grants.

The Knight Foundation (originally the Knight Memorial Education Fund) was created in 1940 by brothers John S. and James L. Knight with a mission of providing support to journalistic pursuits nationally.

The Arts Challenge program, which launched in Miami in 2007, was one of the first major initiatives spearheaded by Ibargüen when he joined the foundation in 2005. It was designed specifically in response to a three-year-long poll the Knight Foundation conducted in 28 communities nationwide, trying to determine what binds people to place. “The results were absolutely fascinating,” said Ibargüen. “The two things that came up most, more than jobs and the economy, were personal attachments and art and culture.”

A 2009-10 production of Carmen at the Florida Grand Opera, funded in part by the Knight Foundation. Courtesy of FGO Photos/Gaston De Cardenas.


Ibargüen says the key to the program’s success is connecting people with great ideas. “If you’re funding need, there’s absolutely never enough money. If you fund opportunity, all you need are people with great ideas,” he said. “Our job is not to invent those ideas; our job is to identify them, accelerate them, and connect people in the process.”

The Arts Challenge has grown considerably since its inception. Today, the program operates in Akron, Detroit, Miami, and St. Paul. This year, it will provide $7.8 million in funding across all four cities. The lists of 2017 grant winners in Akron, Detroit, and St. Paul were announced earlier this fall. You can see the full list of Miami grant winners below.

2017 Knight Foundation Arts Challenge grant recipients:

Wall (In), Arts For Learning
Award: $80,000

Curator Culture at The Bass, The Bass
Award: $100,000

#NOBROZONE, Borscht Corporation
Award: $150,000

Make Music Miami, Buskerfest Miami
Award: $45,000

Commissioner, Dejha Carrington
Award: $90,000

Macro Directors for Microtheater, CCEMiami
Award: $50,000

Ritmo Doral, City of Doral
Award: $20,000

“Home Is the Pointe”: A Residency for Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami
Award: $150,000

Preserving el Órgano Oriental, El Ingenio
Award: $23,000

Stiltsville: a VR Exploration, FilmGate Miami
Award: $75,000

We Got the Beat: Art Talk Radio Inspires Miami’s Creative Community, Fresh Art International
Award: $50,000

From el Barrio to the MainStage: Theater and Dance Artist Commissions, FUNDarte
Award: $75,000

Pahokee, Glades Community Media Partnership
Award: $30,000

Visionary Aponte: Art and Black Freedom, Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance
Award: $50,000

Havana Habibi, Hanan Arts
Award: $100,000

Unity Boulevard Film Series: Promoting Community Discourse Through Film, Historic Hampton House Community Trust
Award: $100,000

A Female Force, IlluminArts
Award: $18,000

The Miami Trilogy, Jai-Alai Books
Awards: $35,000

BlackFlorida: From the South to the Southernmost, Johanne Rahaman
Award: $40,000

Flaming Classics, Juan Barquin and Trae DeLellis
Award: $25,000

Hued Songs of Strength and Freedom, Kunya Rowley
Award: $20,000

The Commuter Biennial, Laura Randall
Award: $65,000

Unearthing the Lost Miami: Andy Sweet’s South Beach, Letter16 Press
Award: $43,000

The On The Hook Project, Mark Hedden
Award: $13,500

Hip Hoppa Locka: Muslim Hip-hop in Opa-locka, MDC Live Arts
Award: $50,000

Creative Time Summit / Miami, Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs
Award: $125,000

“Voice of Miami” Play Development Lab, Miami New Drama
Award: $150,000

EO 9066 Commission and World Premiere by Kaoru Ishibashi (Kishi Bashi), Nu Deco Ensemble
Award: $45,000

OCR Lincoln Memorial, OCR
Award: $30,000

Taberna Fábula, Olympia Theater
Award: $80,000

Miami OURStory, PATH: Preserving, Archiving & Teaching Hip-hop
Award: $80,000

Wake up Miami!, PAXy
Award: $50,000

Audiotheque: The Only Sound Art Gallery in Miami, SFCA [isaw+subtropics]
Award: $40,000

Cuban Architects at Home and in Exile: The Modernist Generation, Silvia Ros Photography
Award: $15,000

Art Vs. Extinction: Miami Mermaid Debates, Siren Arts
Award: $30,000

Foreverglades, Sofia Valiente
Award: $75,000

Biscayne National Park’s Golden Anniversary, South Florida National Parks Trust
Award: $9,000

The Miami Rail Haitian Writers Translation Project, The Miami Rail
Award: $25,000

#AfroOchoDance Festival: Pop-Up Afro-Cuban Dance in the Calle Ocho Heritage District, Little Havana Tours and Sikan Afro-Cuban Dance Project
Award: $25,000

Miami Downtown Jazz Festival, Bascomb Memorial Broadcasting Foundation/ WDNA 88.9 FM Public Radio
Award: $100,000

Inspired by WLRN News, Friends of WLRN
Award: $10,000

Work Untitled: Miami-based Artist Magazine
Recipient: Olivia Ramos
Award: $35,000

A Sistrunk Legacy: Kiki Arts Experience, YMCA of South Florida
Award: $28,000

The 2017 Knight Arts Champions and their chosen $10,000 gift recipients:

Sarah Arison, President, Arison Arts Foundation
Recipient: National YoungArts Foundation

Dave Barry, author
Recipient: Havana, Haiti: Two Cultures, One Community, by Carl Juste

José Bedia, artist
Recipient: Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance and Yeins Gomez

Shelton G. Berg, Dean, Frost School of Music, University of Miami
Recipient: Donna Shalala MusicReach Program, Frost School

Beth Boone, Artistic and Executive Director, Miami Light Project
Recipient: Inez Barlatier

Deborah Briggs and Jonathan Plutzik, The Betsy hotel
Recipient: The Betsy Community Fund at The Miami Foundation

Ana-Marie Codina Barlick, CEO, Codina Partners
Recipient: Miami City Ballet

Scott Cunningham, Founder and Executive Director, O, Miami Poetry Festival
Recipient: Exchange for Change

Edwidge Danticat, author
Recipients: Nancy St. Leger Danse Ensemble, Filmmaker Dudley Alexis and Poet Angie Bell

Marshall Davis, Artistic Director, African Heritage Cultural Arts Center
Recipient: African Heritage Cultural Arts Center Film and Media Program

Teresita Fernandez, artist
Recipient: Latina Art Fund at Pérez Art Museum Miami

Carlos Gimenez, Mayor, Miami-Dade County
Recipient: Forthcoming

Carl Hiaasen, author
Recipients: Design and Architecture Senior High and South Miami Middle Community School

Jaie Laplante, Executive Director and Director of Programming, Miami Film Festival and Tower Theater, Miami
Recipients: Visual artist Jonathan De Camps and musician Sekajipo

Lucas Leyva, filmmaker and founder Borscht Film Festival
Recipient: Third Horizon Film Festival

Lourdes Lopez, Artistic Director, Miami City Ballet
Recipient: Thomas Armour Youth Ballet

Campbell McGrath, poet
Recipient: O, Miami Poetry Festival

Michele Oka Doner, artist
Recipient: The Wolfsonian-FIU

Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova and Frances Trombly, artists and founders, Dimensions Variable
Recipient: Artists Christina Pettersson and Jamilah Sabur

Rachelle Salnave, filmmaker and founder, Black Lounge Cinema
Recipient: O Cinema

Franklin Sirmans, director, Pérez Art Museum Miami
Recipient: Havana, Haiti: Two Cultures, One Community, by Carl Juste

Sebastian Spreng, artist
Recipient: Lowe Art Museum

Andrew Yeomanson, musician, Spam Allstars
Recipient: Guitars over Guns

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