A program that teaches West Miami-Dade children to appreciate theater, an effort to engage Tri-Rail riders in art with a series of artistic billboards, an innovative way to explore Key West history though a treasure hunt, and a film series on how the brain interprets music were among the 53 diverse ideas sharing $2.36 million in the 2015 Knight Arts Challenge.
The announcement of the winners, spanning from Hollywood to Key West and all points east and west, came Monday night at the Arts Challenge’s annual celebration at New World Center in Miami Beach. And while these recipients were aware of the good news, the surprise of the night was the People’s Choice Award, a contest that asks the community to vote for one of four art groups. The winner receives $20,000 in cash from the Knight Arts Challenge. This year’s People’s Choice: Miami Girl’s Rock Camp, a group that tries to empower young girls through the arts with an annual volunteer-run camp that teaches them to perform music.
This is the eighth year for the Knight Arts Challenge, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The challenge is meant to encourage individual artists, collectives and small arts organizations to submit ideas that make art accessible to all of South Florida as well as explore the community’s most challenging issues.
The Foundation received about 1,300 entries from all over the tri-county area. Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at the Knight Foundation, said the Knight Arts Challenge looks for good arts ideas that help the community on a grassroots level. In addition, the individual or organization must have the ability to raise matching funds.
“We are trying to create a strong art eco-system,” Rogers said. “We can do this by supporting both large institutions and smaller grass roots groups.”
The winners, like the entries, she added, display “a great diversity. They reflect the melting pot that is this community.”
She noted several trends among the 2015 winners: a strengthening of Miami’s indie film scene, a desire to foster the next generation of artists by reaching out to students, the exploration of climate change through the use of art, and highlighting Miami as a crossroads for both Latin America and the Caribbean.
“This shows that we express who we are through our art,” Rogers said.
For winners, such as the Greater Miami Youth Symphony, an arts challenge grant is both acknowledgment and inspiration of an artistic dream. The Youth Symphony will be awarded $55,000 to create a cultural exchange between Miami and Havana music students through joint rehearsals and concerts. Members of the top level symphony orchestra, ranging in age from 14 to 18, will be the participants.
Referring to music as the universal language, Cerise Sutton, the youth symphony executive director, said the Knight Arts grant gives her young musicians an experience they would otherwise be unable to have.
“It allows us the opportunity to really explore, to think outside the box,” Sutton said. “I hope that through music comes a better understanding of people who are not that far away from us.”
Once the youth symphony has raised the matching funds, different groups of students will be rehearsing and performing with young Cuban musicians between January and April 2017 in Havana and Miami.
Another Knight Arts Challenge recipient, Fringe Projects, will be using downtown Miami’s less conventional spaces to exhibit temporary public art. Fringe Projects has already brought unusual art to the area, including a partially buried limousine (Limo, 2015) at 227 NE Second St., as well as an installation of billboards that post the daily going-ons of the barrier and patch reefs close to downtown Miami. (A day in the Life of the Coral is on display at Museum Park, 1075 Biscayne Blvd.)
“It’s a way of using the whole city as an artistic platform,” said Fringe Projects curator Amanda Sanfilippo. “And the Knight grant will help us extend both the scope and the duration of our projects.”
On Monday, the Knight Foundation also named three cultural leaders as Knight Arts Champions. Kareem Tabsch, co-founder of O Cinema; Alex Gartenfeld, chief curator for the Institute of Contemporary Art; and Rosa de La Cruz, an art patron whose support has sent students on cultural field trips to New York and Europe, were honored for their contribution to the arts. They will receive funds to distribute to the arts organization or creative project of their choice.
The Knight Foundation has handed out more than $122 million to South Florida arts groups since 2005. Since its launch in 2008, the Arts Challenge has received more than 10,000 entries from South Florida artists and arts groups.
2015 Knight Arts Challenge Winners
▪ Farmers Markets Host Pop-up Concerts, A Greener Miami. $20,000. Expanding audiences for music by hosting mini-concerts in South Florida farmers markets with events preceded by a short explanation of the composer’s inspiration.
▪ Arts Educators Teach Virtually, Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. $40,000. Expanding arts education in the region by buying new telepresence equipment so the center’s staff can interact directly with students in its distance learning arts programs.
▪ Artist Residency Sets Sail Aboard Boat, ArtCenter/South Florida, $40,000. Exploring climate change through the arts by creating ARTsail, a one-month residency program aboard a sailboat where participants will create work inspired by Miami’s relationship to water.
▪ Children Take “Tales of Miami” to Stage, Artefactus Cultural Project, $15,000. Instilling an appreciation for theater in West Dade’s children through workshops that lead them through the process of staging a play.
▪ Sidewalk Poems Take Literary Arts to the Streets, Augustina Woodgate, $20,000. Creating playful encounters with poetry through “Walk on Poems,” where local poets write pieces about neighborhoods that are then placed on sidewalks with Scrabble-like tiles.
▪ Hackathon Fuses Art and Technology, Bakehouse Art Complex, $30,000. Bringing Art Hack Day to Miami — an international event, where groups of hackers and artists create an instant exhibition that blends art and technology.
▪ Jazz Festival Expands to New Mediums, City of Miami Gardens, $80,000. Expanding the city’s successful Jazz in the Gardens music festival to include a music, film and art conference that fosters a deeper exploration of the additional artistic mediums.
▪ Contest Helps Develop New Student Playwrights, City Theatre, $20,000. Developing and giving voice to the next generation of playwrights through a contest where high school students from Broward to Miami-Dade create, rehearse and present short plays and public readings.
▪ DanceAfrica Comes to Miami, Delou Africa, $15,000. Celebrating the arts of the African diaspora in Miami by expanding Delou Africa’s annual festival in collaboration with the founders of the national Dance Africa showcase.
▪ Community Gets Access to Letterpress, Extra Virgin Press, $10,000. Preserving the art of letterpress by creating a space where the community can learn and practice this handmade form of communication.
▪ New Performance Piece Explores Rising Tide, Florida International University, $30,000. Exploring the complexities of sea level rise in South Florida through an interdisciplinary performance featuring electronic sounds, orchestral musicians, video and dance in partnership with five prominent local artists.
▪ Library Becomes Museum’s Temporary Home, Friends of the Bass Museum, $75,000. Infusing a library with art through a series of solo artists projects and education programs at the Miami Beach Regional Library while the Bass’ building is under renovation.
▪ Downtown Art Installations Explore Unconventional Spaces, Fringe Projects, $35,000. Activating downtown Miami’s less conventional spaces by expanding this site-specific, temporary public art commissioning program.
▪ Hidden Musical Talents Showcased Onstage, FUNDarte, $120,000. Bringing attention to Miami’s hidden musical talents, many of whom have immigrated to the city and have not yet made it to main stage venues, through a collaborative series with established companies and artists.
▪ Gay Arts Groups Team Up, Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, $40,000. Increasing the visibility of South Florida’s LGBT arts scene through joint programming between the chorus, Island City Stage and Stonewall National Museum and Archives.
▪ Havana and Miami Youth Collaborate, Greater Miami Youth Symphony, $55,000. Creating cultural exchanges between Miami and Havana students through joint rehearsals and concerts with Cuba’s Amadeo Roldan Conservatory Orchestra.
▪ Exhibition Series Connects Miami and Caribbean Artists, Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, $40,000. Exploring the realities of living and creating in cross-cultural communities through the “Borderless Caribbean,” a series of exchanges and exhibitions between Miami and Caribbean contemporary artists.
▪ Collaboration Makes Classical Musical More Accessible, IlluminArts, $20,000. Engaging Miami audiences with an innovative, fully staged performance of a Pulitzer Prize-winning composition inspired by the visual art at the Pérez Art Museum Miami.
▪ Indie Film Scene Receives Increased Coverage, Independent Ethos, $15,000. Giving South Floridians an insider’s peek into Miami’s growing indie film and music scene through a website that covers the local industry.
▪ Film Series Explores Brain on Music, Recipient; Jonathan Kane, $80,000. Exploring how the human brain interprets music through a film series and exhibit that will illustrate a person’s neurological reaction to listening to a composition.
▪ Roundtable Strengthens Indie Filmmaking, Kenny Riches, $8,000. Strengthening the indie filmmaking community through a screenwriter roundtable where participants can get feedback on new material.
▪ Art Series Engages Tri-Rail Commuters, Kip Eagen, $5,000. Engaging transit riders in art by creating a series of artistic billboards along the Tri-Rail tracks that would appear to be an animated flipbook as riders fly by.
▪ Miami Youth Learn Junkanoo Traditions, Leadership Prep Foundation, $25,000. Celebrating Bahamian culture by teaching Miami youth to make traditional Junkanoo costumes and instruments, which are used during Coconut Grove’s annual Goombay/Junkanoo Festival and in other events.
▪ Sculptures Reflect Fear in Media, Locust Projects, $60,000. Exploring how fear is used in the media by creating sculptures of headless chickens, called Withervanes, that change colors to reflect the prevalence of fear-related keywords in news stories.
▪ Theater Explores Censorship Onstage, Mad Cat Theatre Company, $25,000. Promoting discussion about the impact of censorship by presenting a banned play and then producing a new work inspired by incidents of censorship in South Florida.
▪ Waterfront Residency Comes to Key Biscayne, Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, $25,000. Helping inspire South Florida artists through a residency program at the waterfront center in Crandon Park.
▪ Ballet Presents Shakespeare Miami-Style, Miami City Ballet, $150,000. Reimagining a classic by presenting a uniquely Miami rendition of George Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” during the company’s 30th anniversary season.
▪ Residency to Engage Little Havana Residents, Latino Artists Engage Little Havana, Miami Dade College’s Koubek Center, $100,000. Cultivating emerging Latino artists through an artist-in-residence program that provides them the space to produce work that reflects and engages the surrounding Little Havana neighborhood.
▪ Dance Performance Highlights Importance of Water, Miami Dance Futures, $20,000. Bringing attention to the water supply through National Water Dance Miami, a countywide celebration of site-specific dances — involving both professionals and local students — along the region’s shore.
▪ Camp Empowers Girls to Perform Music, Miami Girls Rock Camp, $20,000. Promoting creative expression and empowering young girls through an annual camp where participants are grouped into bands and learn to write and perform an original song.
▪ Miami Makerspace Expands, Miami Industrial Arts, $15,000. Expanding a hub for Miami’s makers by constructing an onsite classroom and offering subsidized classes in ceramics, wood, metalworking and 3-D technologies.
▪ Light Box Provides Space for Incubating New Performance Works, Miami Light Project, $120,000. Providing a space for developing new work and new techniques by piloting a contemporary performance residency program at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Wynwood for international and local artists.
▪ School Days Off Turn Into Music Boot Camps, Miami Music Project, $105,000. Helping 100 Miami-Dade students push their own artistic limits through a series of orchestral boot camps taking place on teacher planning days throughout the school year.
▪ Concerts and Films Coming to Sweetwater, NC-office, $30,000. Activating a public space through culture by presenting concerts and films in a new plaza in the city of Sweetwater next to Florida International University’s West Dade campus.
▪ Legacy Media Materials Get New Archive, Obsolete Media Miami, $30,000. Preserving legacy media, such as 35mm slides and archival motion pictures, through an archive that serves as a resource for artists, designers, filmmakers and researchers.
▪ Academy Preps Teens for Music Careers, Overtown Youth Center, $40,000. Preparing teens for careers in the music industry through The Beats Academy, which will teach a range of topics from music theory to remixing.
▪ Artists of Color Shine at December Art Fair, Prizm, $80,000. Promoting the works of artists of color who reflect global trends in contemporary art through an annual fair that takes place during Art Basel Miami Beach.
▪ Residency Program Expands Little Haiti Gallery, Rise Up Gallery, $25,000. Strengthening an artist-run collective that provides studio space to local artists, gallery space for innovative curatorial projects and artistic programming for the community.
▪ Movie Lovers Pay Homage to 35mm Films, Secret Celluloid Society, $15,000. Preserving classic films by converting a 1986 bookmobile into a portable project booth that brings 16mm/35mm and high-resolution digital projection to Miami neighborhoods.
▪ Six Composers Celebrate 15 Years of Seraphic Fire, Seraphic Fire, $100,000. Celebrating the group’s 15th anniversary by commissioning and presenting six new American choral works, championing both top composers and emerging talent.
▪ Illustrations Memorialize Miami Bands, Show Drawn; The Upper Hand Art, $8,000. Drawing attention to Miami’s vibrant music scene, with the goal of encouraging more bands to play here, by creating a series of illustrations of local performances to be published in print and online.
▪ Overtown Festival Expands, Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency, $50,000. Celebrating Overtown’s culture through the sixth annual Overtown Music and Arts Festival featuring national and local recording artists.
▪ Audio Equipment Rentals Come to Sweat Records, Sweat Records, $50,000. Supporting the local indie music scene by providing low-cost rentals of audio equipment for independent promoters and nonprofit event producers.
▪ ASK Hispanic Theater Gets New Focus, Teatro Promoteo at Miami Dade College, $35,000. Fostering Hispanic theater in Miami, and raising its prominence nationally, through a partnership with the national Latina|o Theatre Commons, where the college will host a prominent Latino playwright in residency.
▪ Residency Helps Students Create Songs, The alt Default, $9,000. Helping teens find their musical voice through a residency for this ensemble at the Fienberg-Fisher K-8 Center in Miami Beach, where students will create an original song.
▪ Festival Showcases Ibero-American Literature, The Betsy-South Beach, $50,000. Celebrating Ibero-American poetry, literature, scholarship and experience through Escribe Aqui/Write Here, a multiday bilingual festival fueled by ongoing cultural programming to champion Miami’s diversity.
▪ High-Profile Concert Showcases Student Performers, the Miami Symphony Orchestra, $60,000. Offering visibility to pianists younger than 12 through a competition, where the finalists perform with the orchestra at a high-profile concert.
▪ TransAtlantic Festival Gets Refresh, The Rhythm Foundation, $50,000. Providing a home for world music by rebooting the annual TransAtlantic Festival at the North Beach Bandshell — bringing in more ambitious programming and expanding the event into the adjacent public spaces.
▪ Artistic Treasure Hunt Reveals Key West History, The Studios of Key West, $50,000. Providing a new way to explore Key West’s history and culture through an event called Lost at the Beach, where participants use maps and apps to discover performances and installations hidden throughout Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
▪ Series Focuses on Power of the Elements, Tigertail, $75,000. Creating new artistic experiences through a monthlong performance series that explores water (April 2016) and fire (April 2017) as elements that give and take through tragedy and regeneration.
▪ Zine Centers on Miami Beach’s 100th, Tom Austin, $15,000. Celebrating Miami Beach’s centennial by publishing a cultural history of South Beach, an exploration of how the arts — music, dance, fashion, visual arts, film, literature, culinary culture and nightlife — have fueled this iconic resort city.
▪ Environmental Art Works Come to the Gardens, Village of Pinecrest/Pinecrest Gardens, $25,000. Bringing the arts more deeply into communities by inviting acclaimed American environmental artist Patrick Dougherty, who creates sculptures from community-sourced saplings, to create new site-specific works in the gardens
▪ Jazz Fest Comes to Downtown, 88.9 FM WDNA Public Radio, $75,000. Bringing jazz to more Miamians by launching the Miami Downtown Jazz Festival, which will take over several blocks in downtown and continue in various venues.