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Got a Creative Cultural Idea to Make Miami Better? The Knight Foundation Wants to Give You Money

via knightarts.org

Knight Foundation and its Knight Arts Challenge grants have lubricated the city's arts community for the past five years, funding projects great and small that benefit the greater cultural good.

Those free projections on the side of the New World Symphony building and events in the Soundscape park? Knight money. The sculpture garden at the Bass Museum? Knight money. Those off-beat Weird Miami bus tours? Yep, also Knight money.

The foundation's largesse over the past five years totals some $20 million in grants, and there is more money coming.  From Monday through  March 4, the public is invited to submit an idea at KnightArts.org. The only criteria:

  1. The project must be about art.
  2. It must takes place in or benefit South Florida.
  3. You find additional funding to match the Knight Foundation grant.

You don't think you need to be part of a nonprofit institution to qualify. To wit, here's a look at five of some of the most unexpected winners over the past five years.

2012: $15,000 for Rat Bastard's International Noise Conference

Frank Falestra, better known around Miami's music fringes as Rat Bastard, scored a coup this year for the 10th edition of his International Noise Conference. The event, centered in Miami around Churchill's Pub, has long brought together local, national, and international names in noise, free jazz, and other experimental genres and non-genres for several days of free performances.

With the grant money, the conference, which starts Wednesday, will supply a recording studio to participants, produce new collaborative works, and broadcast them online. Falestra has also expanded the idea into a Florida tour, a Japanese edition in March, an Australian edition in May, and a 30-city U.S. tour over the summer.

2011: $100,000 for Weird Miami Bus Tours

The artist-run space then known as the Bas Fisher Invitational, now known as BFI, scored a cool hundred grand to launch a series of bus tours celebrating Miami creativity in its overlooked pockets. Aimed at both locals and tourists, the tours, which have continued regularly since late 2012, have traced the history of the arts in places like Little Haiti, and will tackle Hialeah this month.

2010: $150,000 to the Borscht Film Festival

Before the Knight grant money, the Borscht Film Festival was a loveable, but slightly scrappy project, showcasing the works of local young filmmakers on a shoestring. The extra cash infusion vaulted Borscht to the next level, allowing the organization to produce and commission new works and mount ever more professional events. The 2012 edition was chronicled by the national arts press and contributed an original short film, #POSTMODEM, to Sundance.

2009: $150,000 to Sweat Records

Since it opened in its first location in 2005, Sweat Records has always been more than a record store -- it's a community gathering spot. The Knight Foundation recognized this in 2009 with a grant. It's allowed Sweat to present more public, all-ages activities, improve its annual Sweatstock concert, launch an online store for works by local artists, re-launch its in-house record label, and more.

2008: $400,000 to O Cinema

Think back to 2008, a truly bleak time for South Florida lovers of independent film. The city of Miami had exactly zero art houses, and this grant, among the largest that year, helped start O Cinema in Wynwood. From the beginning, the venue combined interesting film programming with live events, art installations, and even experimental theater in a comfortable, no-fuss environment. In the ensuing years, the place has proved so successful it's expanded to a second location, in Miami Shores.