Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

A new arts initiative for Akron

Sept. 21, 2014, 12:01 a.m., Posted by Dennis Scholl

Last year, Knight and the GAR Foundation released a survey on the arts in Akron that was telling.

We found a real hunger for arts and culture in the city. People craved it. But we also found some gaps: African-Americans and young people in particular were having trouble finding programming that spoke to them.

I was impressed by how the arts community turned the information into an opportunity. They met, began to talk about what culture meant to them and the broader community, to look at strengths, opportunities and a way forward.

To us at Knight, it was a great sign that Akron as a community was sitting down to reshape its cultural identity.

Knight Foundation wants to play its part in helping Akron shape its new vibrant cultural community.  So today we’re excited to announce $6 million in new investments in the arts in Akron, funding we hope will build on this momentum.

Lesa Mitchell, Network for Scale: A new opportunity for libraries

Sept. 19, 2014, 2:06 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Knight News Challenge: Libraries offers applicants a chance to share in $2.5 million by focusing on the question “How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?”

AboveLesa Mitchell, the founder of Network for Scale and an expert on the impact of the maker movement, discusses the role libraries can play as shared spaces where diverse members of the community teach, learn, perform, create and share ideas.

To submit an entry or provide feedback on other submissions, visit You can join us for virtual office hours from 1 to 2 p.m. ET Sept. 23. Participants can access the meeting online ( using ID 731675489), or participate via phone at 1-888-240-2560. Knight News Challenge: Libraries closes at 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 30. Winners will be announced in January.

A creative change of conversation in Detroit

Sept. 19, 2014, 6 a.m., Posted by Hunter Franks

Photo: First Love Project installation at Eastern Market. Credit: Hunter Franks.

Hunter Franks, an artist and founder of the Neighborhood Postcard Project and League of Creative Interventionists, is in Detroit for three weeks using creativity to build community with Knight Foundation support.  

I could see the stark blue of the sky piercing through the repetitive square windows on all sides of the massive abandoned brick building. The windows were gone, letting light seep in slowly. It was an odd sight, one which I had never seen before — and it was the first thing I saw in Detroit. It is what most people probably know of Detroit. The media has extensively covered the city as a blighted wasteland, and that was indeed what struck me at first. But there are upsides to blight and disinvestment — an opportunity for Detroiters to creatively reimagine their city with shared spaces and opportunities.      

When local Phil Cooley wanted more space for a woodshop, he purchased an available building in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. He then opened up the space to Detroiters with a similar desire to grow their small businesses and called it Ponyride. Veronika Scott rented one desk in the corner of a large room at Ponyride when she was launching the Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit that employs homeless women to sew coats that turn into sleeping bags, and then distributes the coats to homeless individuals living on the street. Two years later, she has nearly 20 employees and rents out all of that same large room at Ponyride.