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Knight Arts Challenge Winners Get $2.78 M To Make South Florida 'A Place Where We Want To Live'

Miami Arts Week started with good news for the whole region, with the announcements of the winners of the 2016 Knights Arts Challenge. 

The contest, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will give $2.78 million to 44 local  artists and projects aimed at exploring the authentic voices of South Florida and bringing art to neighborhoods from Key West to Palm Beach. All winners have committed to find funds to match Knight's commitment (it's one of the conditions of the grant). 

Victoria Rogers, VP of Arts for the foundation,  shared with WLRN some of her thoughts on the challenge and what this year's winners will bring to South Florida's communities: 

The beauty about the Knight Arts Challenge is that anybody can apply and it's a nice way of trying to ensure that art is general here in South Florida. So it's a community-wide contest.

Tell me a little bit about about the process of picking the winners.

It starts with a 150-word essay. You submit  150 words online explaining : what's your idea about the arts? Your project has to take place in or benefit South Florida and have a matching grant. So whatever you request from Knight, should you be a winner, you have to raise the matching amount dollar for dollar.

What role does art play in the life of a city? Why is it important? Why should we be putting so much investment in it?

The arts provide vibrancy to a city. Through the arts we are connected to one another. And for us, we firmly believe that a vibrant arts community and vibrant arts ecology in a city helps to create the places where we want to live, the places where we want to raise children, the places where we want to work. So it's through the arts that we gain this really valuable connection to one another. And in any city that I've ever been to, it is that vibrant art scene that sort of creates that magic. So if you think about it the Knight Foundation provides the fuel, but it's the artists that are creating the work.

Credit Courtesy of Knight Foundation
Courtesy of Knight Foundation
Winners of the 2016 edition of the South Florida Knight Arts Challenge

This Years Winners:

  • Breakin’ Convention Miami

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

Award: $100,000

To introduce South Florida’s hip-hop culture to an international audience by bringing the Breakin’ Convention, a festival of dance and theater, to Miami

  • “Miss Masters” Audio at the Ali

Ali Cultural Arts

Award: $60,000

To expand the presence of women in the audio engineering industry with a training program for young women and girls in a historic Pompano Beach building that once boarded African-American jazz musicians


Alexey Taran

Award: $17,000

To explore the dark side of desire, disorders and inner struggles through an experimental theater performance incorporating artists from both sides of the Florida Straits

  • Alma Dance Theater presents: Flowers for Spring

Alma Dance Theater

Award: $15,000

To use contemporary dance to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and to engage people afflicted by them

  • Facing the Cloud + reStoring Po{AI}try: A Large-Scale Interactive Public {AR}t Installation

Amir Baradaran

Award: $100,000

To rethink how people produce knowledge and share memories using augmented reality and artificial intelligence in a large-scale participatory art project

  • Ailey Dancer Jamar Roberts returns to Miami to Mentor Next Generation of Dance Artists

Angel Fraser-Logan Dance Company

Award: $50,000

To inspire a love of dance by bringing Miami native and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Jamar Roberts to South Florida to mentor and teach students, and to choreograph and perform new work

  • Art-in-Public-Life

ArtCenter/South Florida

Award: $35,000

To bring art into public planning by embedding artists in city governments as part of a residency program that helps to develop solutions to policy concerns

  • Artists Within Reach: Notes to My Younger Self

Artists Within Reach Collective
Award: $60,000

To foster the next generation of artists by having well-known artists offer professional guidance to young creatives by addressing the question, “If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?”

  • AIRIE Nest

Artists in Residence in Everglades (AIRIE)

Award: $50,000

To tell the story of the cultural and ecological forces that shape South Florida by creating an interdisciplinary gallery at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in the Everglades National Park

  • NOMADIC MIAMI: Letting Artists Lead the Way

Bas Fisher Invitational

Award: $300,000

To experiment with new models for presenting art through Nomadic Miami, a series of roving exhibitions, performances and programs in specific locations determined by cutting-edge artists

  • Havana/Haiti: Two Cultures, One Community

Carl Juste
Award: $30,000

Award: Havana/Haiti: Two Cultures, One Community

To explore the many layers and similarities between Cuban and Haitian cultures through a book of photographs and essays, and an accompanying exhibition

  • Black Lounge Film Series

Children’s Hope Chest of Dreams

Award: $60,000

To bring the excellence of African-diaspora cinema to Overtown through a new monthly film series showcasing the black experience from around the world

  • The Craft of Writing: Fellows on Both Sides

CINTAS Foundation

Award: $25,000

To celebrate Cuban writers through new fellowships in creative writing for Cubans living on the island and in exile

  • Oscar Mike: On The Move

Combat Hippies

Award: $100,000

To encourage public conversations about the trauma of war by touring a new spoken-word performance based on the stories of local veterans and refugees from the Middle East

  • Voices: Poetry for the People

Community Justice Project

Award: $25,000

To engage new audiences in the literary arts by bringing workshops led by poet Aja Monet to grassroots leaders involved in social justice issues

  • PageSlayers Summer Camp

Dana De Greff

Award: $45,000

To provide fourth- and fifth-grade students in Opa-locka with high-quality writing instruction taught by published and award-winning professional writers of color

  • N8tive Reel Cinema Festival

Everett Osceola
Amount: $50,000

To highlight the words and works of indigenous peoples by launching the first southeastern Native American film festival

  • Celebrating Miami’s Cuban Heritage via Miami International GuitART Festival Dedicated to Cuban Music

Florida International University

Award: $55,000

To honor Miami’s Cuban heritage by dedicating the Miami International GuitART Festival to Cuban music and creating cultural exchanges between Havana and Miami guitar orchestras.

  • Fringe Projects + R & R Studios

Fringe Projects

Award: $35,000

To stretch the bounds of public art by partnering with R&R Studios on BEAUTY FOR ALL!!!, R & R's first site-responsive project, an LED-activated mural in Downtown Miami that counteracts the ever-present messages of consumption on signs in the city

  • Music Is My Weapon

Guitars Over Guns

Award: $25,000

To use art to oppose violence by collaborating with police to melt bullet casings and guns and recast them into musical instruments that will lead a peace rally involving local musicians and artists of all ages and backgrounds

  • Brownsville Unity Music Project: A Link to the Past, A Door to the Future

Historic Hampton House Community Trust

Award: $150,000

To build on the legacy of the Historic Hampton House, the segregation-era motel in Brownsville once home to a popular jazz club, with a music education program for local youth

  • Hurricane Andrew 25th Anniversary Exhibition

HistoryMiami Museum

Award: $120,000

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew by capturing the storm’s impact through a large-scale moving exhibition

  • Hotbox Art Residency Program 2016

Hotbox Art

Award: $40,000

To create a catalyst for transforming the West Palm Beach Northwest Historic District by turning the shotgun homes into spaces for artist residencies for community engagement

  • IFE-ILE Afro-Cuban Dance Festival


Award: $20,000

To link Afro-Cuban culture in Miami and Havana by providing dancers and instructors from the island to participate in a cultural exchange project as part of the group’s annual summer dance festival

  • Outdoor Projection Series

Interactive Initiative

Award: $45,000

To engage neighborhoods in art by transforming building facades with large-scale projections of interactive video and animations by local artists

  • Miami Motel Stories

Juggerknot Theatre Company

Award: $30,000

To explore Miami’s many layers by presenting immersive, real-time theater experiences in three motel rooms or buildings that tell the stories of the city’s emerging neighborhoods

  • Forward Motion: Miami International Physically Integrated Dance Festival & Conference

Karen Peterson Dancers

Award: $150,000

To promote Miami as a leader in inclusive arts by launching the first International Physically Integrated Dance Festival featuring dancers with and without disabilities performing together

  • Island in the Works: Young Writers Studio

Key West Literary Seminar

Award: $52,500

To foster engagement with Key West’s literary and cultural history by providing a free, five-day summer program for Key West High School students on the literary and cultural history of the island

  • Miami Beach Cinematheque Interactive Archive Project

Miami Beach Cinematheque

Award: $30,000

To bring a rare collection to the community by digitizing and displaying the cinematheque’s archive of film memorabilia and ephemera

  • Return of the Black Ballerina

Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs

Award: $150,000

To engage the community in the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s first local performance in a decade, with activities surrounding the event at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center

  • International Ballet Festival of Miami

Miami Hispanic Ballet Corp.

Award: $50,000

To bring a world-class dance experience to Miami’s multicultural audiences through the International Ballet Festival of Miami, which presents more than 20 companies and their ballet stars from around the world in addition to a dance films series, art exhibit, dance book presentation, workshops and classes

  • Miami Music Club

Award: $12,750
To create a space for underground musicians and artists to come together by producing a series of concerts at traditional art spaces

  • American Clásico: Envisioning the theatrical canon though a multicultural lens

Miami New Drama

Award: $150,000

To find common ground for diverse audiences by creating bilingual adaptions of classic plays including “Our Town,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Miss Julie” at the Colony Theatre

  • Origami Everglades

Michael Graves Education
Award: $40,000

To heighten public awareness about the importance of the Everglades to Miami’s future with life-size sculptures of endangered animals made through origami

  • Crypt Cracking: Uncovering the Unseen Objects in South Florida Museum Collections

Nathaniel Sandler


To introduce more people to the collections of museums through essays, tours and events focused on the many interesting items the institutions have but aren’t able to display year round

  • ProjectArt: Miami


Award: $150,000

To immerse neighborhoods in the arts by placing emerging artists in five libraries where they will have studio space in exchange for teaching arts classes in low-income communities

  • Reading Queer Literary Festival

Reading Queer

Award: $70,000

To bring more queer voices to South Florida by expanding the annual Reading Queer Literary Festival with a series of main stage performances, writers’ workshops and literary installations

  • Axis of Love

Rhythm Foundation

Award: $45,000

To create a cultural dialogue with communities hit by terrorism and war through “Axis of Love,” a concert series featuring instrumental music from conflict zones

  • The Unvoiced Community: BBQ Men & Women of Goulds

Symone Titania

Award: $12,500

To tell the stories of the barbecue vendors of South Dade’s Goulds neighborhood with a photo documentary project and community celebration

  • 305/One Festival

Tarell Alvin McCraney

Award: $50,000

To create the 305/One Festival, which celebrates the unique storytelling and solo performers coming out of Miami with a series of performances, film screenings and cultural activities

  • "Take it to The Bridge"

The Bridge
Award: $50,000

To provide artistic support for musicians by building out an event space and recording room with free production and streaming services

  • The M Ensemble 45th Anniversary Season: Returning Home to Liberty City

The M Ensemble

Award: $70,000

To promote a new home for theater in Liberty City, Sandrell Rivers Theater, where M Ensemble will be a resident company, with a year-long engagement initiative

  • The Screening Room, Miami

The Screening Room

Award: $20,000

To expand multimedia artistic programming in Miami through new installations at Wynwood’s The Screening Room

  • AdHoc Cinema

Torrance Carter
Award: $15,000

To foster the love and knowledge of film among students by bringing AdHoc Cinema, a traveling film and music series, to local schools

Luis Hernandez is an award-winning journalist and host whose career spans three decades in cities across the U.S. He’s the host of WLRN’s newest daily talk show, Sundial (Mon-Thu), and the news anchor every afternoon during All Things Considered.
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