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

Dec 03, 2012

34 ideas win Knight Arts Challenge Miami

Posted by Dennis Scholl

After months of poring through more than 1,100 applications, we’re excited to finally share the 34 winners of the Knight Arts Challenge Miami.

This year, we’ve seen some interesting trends. First, the winners will help spread the art deep into South Florida’s communities, whether through Miami Dade College’s new art center in Hialeah, an Opa-locka festival, or a collaborative in Delray Beach. Also, several are bringing art to unexpected places, with theater in shipping containers and music at the airport and more.

By Dennis Scholl, vice president/Arts at Knight Foundation

Bringing Hip-Hop and Cultural Events to Kids

Project: TruSchool Hip-Hop

Recipient: 6th Street Dance Studio/WholeProject

Award: $40,000

The 6th Street Dance Studio’s TruSchool is a free hip-hop program for young people serving Little Havana and Overtown and based on the original elements of hip-hop. With challenge funding, the studio will incorporate house dance, lindy hop, writing and cultural events into its programming, as well as deejaying, emceeing, spoken word and graffiti. The project also will also collaborate with local, national and international performance companies to mentor the program’s participants.

Introducing Broadway to High School Students

Project: In the Heights for Eighth to Twelfth Graders

Recipient: Actors’ Playhouse Productions


To enrich Miami-Dade Schools eighth- through 12th-grade students, Actors’ Playhouse Productions will make 3,000 seats available to the Tony-winning musical In the Heights, and engage them through a rap-writing contest. Students will prepare with study guides on the show’s plot line and will participate in discussions with the director, actors and creative team to better understand the performance and possibilities for arts careers. Students will then write their own personal or family story that mimics the play’s musical score or is in a style appropriate to their cultural background. Finalists will perform their works at the Miracle Theater.

Creating Discussion Around the Visual Arts

Art and Culture Center of Hollywood

Project: Hot Topics Artist Series

Award: $20,000

To foster conversation around the visual arts, the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood will host an ongoing lecture series featuring nationally and internationally recognized artists. Audiences will not only hear the artist’s stories, but learn about the trends influencing the direction of contemporary visual art. The project builds upon the center’s previous Knight Arts Challenge grant that establishes a series of Hot Topics discussions.

Giving a Voice to More Miami Stories

Project: Lip Service: True Stories from all Miami Communities

Recipient: Lip Service

Award: $50,000

To give voice to more Miami stories, Lip Service will create live storytelling performances about personal experiences focused on people who, for a variety of reasons, don’t often have opportunities to tell their stories.  The performances, taking place quarterly at the Miracle Theatre and other community theaters, will be produced in collaboration with local community groups.    

Arts Skill Building for High-School Students

Project: ArtWorks

Recipient: Arts for Learning/Miami

Award: $225,000

Arts for Learning/Miami will provide opportunities for high school students to pursue their interests in the arts while learning essential work skills by offering six-week paid summer art internships and apprenticeships. Professional artists will team with students five days a week to focus on a specific art form such as dance, printmaking, painting, graphic design or photography. The program will focus on students from the Miami neighborhoods of Overtown, Wynwood, Little Haiti and Liberty City to help them develop deep appreciation for the arts. Students will also participate in Art Basel Miami Beach, via tours or volunteering.

Developing Local, Contemporary Dancers

Project: Miami Dance Mecca

Recipient: Augusto Soledade Brazzdance

Award: $45,000

To build Miami’s reputation as an emerging center for contemporary dance, the Augusto Soledade Brazzdance company will create new works and help dancers develop professionally. Company classes, master class series, new work and repertory performances will be available to professional and advanced dancers as will internship opportunities. The project seeks to increase the ranks of local professional dancers who remain in Miami to pursue a dance career and simultaneously attract out-of-town dancers into the community.

Mini Theater in a Shipping Container

Project: Microtheater

Recipient: Centro Cultural Español de Cooperación Iberoamericana Miami

Award: $100,000

To bring Spanish theater into the community, Centro Cultural Español de Cooperación Iberoamericana Miami will offer a series of exciting yet short plays to small audiences in a 150-square-foot shipping container. Lasting 15 minutes each, the plays will be presented three times a year in both English and Spanish.  Actors from around the world will be invited to participate as a way to support local creativity and cultural exchange.

Expanding a Nonprofit Film Arts Center

Project: Coral Gables Art Cinema

Recipient: Coral Gables Cinemateque

Award: $150,000

The Coral Gables Art Cinema, one of South Florida’s leading, first-run alternative movie theaters, will expand to include a number of new components. With challenge funding, the nonprofit arts center will produce a three-day annual event as part of existing family programming, in partnership with the New York International Children’s Film Festival; and launch initiatives to support feature film production and distribution, including visiting director, screenwriter and producer residencies, in conjunction with existing exhibition programs.

A Creative Hub for Culture in Palm Beach

Project: Arts Garage Jazz Project

Recipient: Creative City Collaborative DBA Arts Garage

Award: $30,000

The Creative City Collaborative will facilitate an exchange of art and ideas by presenting contemporary musical performances, feature films, visual art exhibitions and new theater productions at a Palm Beach collaborative.  The project will continue its signature repertoire series and add special new programming, including performance that will highlight regional emerging artists. Arts Garage will also partner with regional cultural arts organizations to produce new plays and expand its educational programs.

Crowdsourcing Funding for Broward County’s Arts


Recipient: Business for the Arts of Broward

Award: $75,000

To connect local cultural projects to more donors, Business for the Arts of Broward will bring to its community. The online crowdsourcing platform is designed to connect donors directly with projects they are passionate about, whether it is, for example, a new theatrical production in need of costumes or a musician needing a new instrument. Since the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, N.C., launched the platform approximately a year ago with Knight support, three other arts agencies across the country have used the platform to raise more than $1 million for arts projects.

Expanding Performance Art and Literary Residency Opportunities

Project: Theater Lab

Recipient: Deering Estate Foundation

Award: $35,000

To foster a cultural dialogue between artists and audiences, the Deering Estate Foundation will support a performing art series and a residency opportunity that includes lectures and master classes at the estate. Building on its already successful visual, literary and performance art program, the expanded residencies will include a playwright development program, retreats and a resident theater company. Interdisciplinary workshops, lectures and master classes will be offered in exchange for residency opportunities.

Bridging Art, Music and Nature

Project: Expanded Cultural Programming

Recipient: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Award: $150,000

To bring together nature and art, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden will strengthen its GardenMusic program under conductor Teddy Abrams. Musical performances and concerts will be available throughout the year. Additional fine art exhibitions and an annual weeklong festival will celebrate various forms of music that integrate the visual, dramatic and performance arts.

Experimental Music Event for South Florida Musicians

Project: International Noise Conference

Recipient: Frank Falestra

Award: $15,000

Now in its 10th year, the International Noise Conference is an exceptional opportunity for South Florida musicians to perform and network with composers from other cities. This year, with challenge funding, the experimental music festival will expand. Local, national and international musicians will be invited to participate, and a recording studio and music archive will supply tools to encourage innovative compositions. New works will be produced and broadcast over the Internet.

New Original Contemporary Arts Performances

Project: Miami on Stage Knight New Works

Recipient: FUNDarte Inc.

Award: $100,000

FUNDarte will use Knight Foundation funding to strengthen the performing arts scene by commissioning three original contemporary performance works by Miami-based artist companies. As an outgrowth of FUNDarte’s three-year-old Miami on Stage series, which presents completed full-length works by local artists, the Knight New Works component will select three projects to fully produce, present and tour to two additional locations in greater Miami. FUNDarte will also offer managerial and logistical support to the artist-driven works.

Using Hackathons to Connect Technology and Art

Project: A Three-Day Art Hackathon

Recipient: The LAB Miami

Award: $30,000

The LAB Miami will bolster innovation in the arts by bringing together creative professionals and techies for a three-day art hackathon. During the event, coders and designers will develop apps and websites that answer one question: how do we enhance the delivery of local art to users? The project seeks to bridge Miami’s tech and creative communities. A product demo will be open to the public on the final day of the event. Other programming for the hackathon includes keynote speeches by tech and creative leaders and a mentor system to coach teams.

Establishing a Cultural Center for Hialeah

Project: The Hialeah Cultural Center

Recipient: Miami Dade College

Award: $80,000

To celebrate and preserve the arts and culture of Hialeah, Florida’s fifth largest city, Miami Dade College will create and launch the Hialeah Cultural Center. Miami Dade College’s Hialeah Campus, serving a city without art museums and with limited opportunities for arts performances, will conduct start-up activities for the new center, including planning, program development and promotion. A launch event will showcase the work of area artists and feature a public discussion on intellectual and artistic freedom. Additional activities include hands-on art projects and a video of oral histories from Hialeah.

Introducing Travelers and Residents to Global and Local Rhythms

Project: Educational and Entertainment Encounters

Recipient: Miami International Airport

Award: $40,000

To engage and connect audiences to global and local rhythms, Miami International Airport will present performances of world music to its travelers. Building on the success of the airport’s Random Acts of Culture performances, the project will coordinate elements of live performances and formulate a list of key ensembles and areas for performance. Additional exhibits will offer a range of visual experiences including a contemporary fine arts show and children’s arts and crafts from around the world. Presentations will highlight global issues.

Artists in Resident Program for Emerging Artists

Project: Here & Now: A Knight Emerging Artists Program

Recipient: Miami Light Project

Award: $120,000

To support emerging artists, the Miami Light Project will create an artist-in-residence program as part of its annual Here & Now Festival, which commissions and presents local works. Artists will be offered year-round, dedicated rehearsal space at The Light Box and professional development support including workshops on financial, legal and marketing topics. Presenters, managers and agents from across the country will be invited to Miami to attend the performances and speak one-on-one with each of the commissioned artists.

Series Celebrates the Artistic Talents of Miami-Raised Artists

Project: Bring It Home Miami

Recipient: Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs

Award: $45,000

To celebrate native talent, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs will present a Bring It Home Miami series at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Center. Featuring artists from South Florida who have developed national and international reputations, it will honor and welcome talented alumni back “home.” The series seeks to kindle community pride among South Floridians around the accomplishments of its homegrown talent.

Infusing Symphony with Innovative and Emerging Composers

Project: Residency Program

Recipient: The Miami Symphony Orchestra

Award: $45,000

The Miami Symphony Orchestra will commission new works through a composer-in-residence program, as a way to further develop South Florida’s musical voice. The orchestra will train, develop and promote three emerging composers to create music reflective of the city of Miami, including Latin-American, Afro-Caribbean and traditional orchestral pieces. The program will give the orchestra an original focus and new purpose as it channels the inspired energy of talented composers.

Celebrating South Florida’s African Diaspora Artists

Project: Art Exhibit and Festival

Recipient: Opa-locka Community Development Corporation

Award: $60,000

To celebrate the art of the African diaspora, the Opa‐locka Community Development Corporation will produce a multidisciplinary juried arts festival and exhibit to coincide with major public art installations in Opa‐locka. The event will bring noted national and regional artists from throughout the African diaspora to Opa‐locka. Highly participatory community programming will engage youth, residents and attendees in the art‐making process. Lectures and workshops will increase exposure for artists and community access to the arts. The event is part of a larger plan to make quality art of all forms accessible in Opa‐locka.

Building Community Among Filmmakers

Project: An Open, Friendly Space for Filmmakers

Recipient: Open Lab

Award: $35,000

To help build the local film community, Open Lab will create monthly gatherings where filmmakers screen their work. Monthly events will include work-in-progress screenings with feedback sessions and case studies from industry experts.  These open get togethers will be held at a different space each month, engaging audiences from various parts of the community and introducing them to cultural organizations and arts venues around Miami. The project will culminate with visits from three leading industry experts, connecting the Open Lab community with the national resources and knowledge on how to market and distribute completed films.

Celebrating a Hip-Hop Symphony

Project: The Hip-Hop Symphony

Recipient: Pablo Malco Foundation

Award: $10,000

To celebrate South Florida’s cultural traditions, the Hip-Hop Symphony combines hip-hop dance and music with classical music and instrumentation. The show features 13 versatile hip-hop and contemporary dancers, a 20-piece orchestra, a five-piece rock band and seven-voice choir. Several tickets will also be donated to youth organizations as a way to engage young people in theater productions and classical music.

Series Celebrates Genre- and Gender-Bending Literature

Project: Reading Queer

Recipients: Paula Kolek and Neil de la Flor

Award: $30,000

To promote Miami as a center for LGBT literature, Paula Kolek and Neil de la Flor will create a Reading Queer series for writers who create hybrid, genre-bending works. The annual, weeklong series will feature headliners at local cultural centers and galleries and writing workshops. An anthology of the series also will be printed. The project will reach out to young people to give them a safe space to talk about and explore sexual themes.

Demystifying Indian Classical Dance

Project: Adoption of Western Fairly Tales

Recipient: Ranjana Warier

Award: $25,000

To promote cross-cultural understanding, Ranjana Warier will showcase traditional Indian dance through the stories of Western fairy tales. Leading professional Indian classical dancers will collaborate on the performance, while a lecture series will seek to demystify the complexity of traditional Indian storylines. The resulting stage shows will maintain the integrity of the ancient art form while breaking it down to make it more enjoyable for all ages.

Free Concerts Make Miami a Musical Destination

Project: Stipend for Touring Acts

Recipient: Sweat Records

Award: $140,000

To help make Miami a musical destination, Sweat Records will provide a stipend for touring acts to provide free or affordable concerts for an all-ages crowd.  The project will increase the number of quality events it brings to the community and will host and pay more touring acts to visit. Sweat Records will also revamp its stage area with new sound equipment, a simple lighting rig and seating for more patrons. Concerts will be documented via audio, video and photography. Highlights will be posted online and performers will get high quality footage for promotional use.

A Hub for Creative Writing in South Florida

Project: The Writer’s Room

Recipient: The Betsy Hotel

Award: $60,000

To brand South Florida as a muse for authors, The Betsy Hotel will expand its new writer-in-residence program on Miami Beach. The program offers a private space for writers offering them the solitude and support necessary to complete their work. The award-winning writers will also participate in public readings and a workshop and art salon series. A biannual publication will contain commentary and works from the writers.

Sharing African-American History Through the Arts

Project: Liberty City Renaissance

Recipient: Miami Children’s Initiative

Award: $75,000

The Miami Children’s Initiative will launch a cultural movement that shares local history using the arts, inspires and showcases local African-American artists, and encourages the creativity of the next generation of performing and visual artists. The project includes a jazz series led by the musician Nicole Henry and the Orchestral Academy for Liberty City’s kids from 4- to 18-years-old in partnership with the Miami Music Project.  The initiative will establish Liberty City Renaissance Arts Council responsible for commissioning work from local artists and maintaining a robust and lively online presence.

A Space For Small Performing Arts Groups

Project: Miami Theater Center: Sandbox Series

Recipient: Miami Theater Center

Award: $100,000

To help nurture individual artists and small performing arts groups, Miami Theater Center (MTC) will provide a small, well-equipped black box theater at discounted rates. The theater will make available its 70-seat space to promising performing artists and provide public relations, marketing and production support. Talented artists will be chosen to produce and perform their work in the theater and be provided a commissioning fee and rehearsal and performance space for six shows.

Innovating Miami’s Theatrical Experience

Project: Strengthening Alternative Theater

Recipient: The Project [theatre]

Award: $25,000

The Project [theatre] will use challenge funding to expand efforts to redefine the local theatrical experience. To attract both new and existing theatergoers, the Project will create large-scale immersive theater events in which the audience literally follows and experiences a story throughout its environment. The organization will also expand its Beer & Cigarettes project that blurs the line between spectator and spectacle. During these immersive, site-specific performances, the audience acts as voyeurs and stories unfold throughout a bar over the course of a night. These nontraditional theatrical experiences intend to help establish Miami as a place for theatrical innovation."

Big Night in Little Haiti Gets Bigger

Project: Big Night in Little Haiti

Recipient: The Rhythm Foundation

Award: $120,000

To continue the growth of Little Haiti as a cultural and entertainment destination, and to introduce new audiences to Haitian music, The Rhythm Foundation will expand its successful Big Night in Little Haiti monthly concert series.  A previous Knight Arts Challenge winner, the project offers free concerts, art exhibits, food and kids activities on the third Friday of each month at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. The growth involves the collaboration of civic, institutional and media partners who can provide additional outreach activities, documentation and broadcast reach, in addition to special events within the series.

A Creative Center for South Florida’s Dance Community

Project: The Synapse Performance

Recipient: Thought Loom

Award: $50,000

To position South Florida as a hub for dance, Thought Loom will pair South Florida-based choreographers with national and international dance artists for seasonal performances. Three South Florida-based choreographers will be selected to create original works using dance artists hired from cities outside of Florida. Each will work with his/her cast for several weeks, culminating with a run of live performances.

Murals Engage Young People with Overtown’s Art, History

Project: Murals for Dorsey Park

Recipient: Urgent Inc.

Award: $35,000

To engage and inspire young artists, Urgent Inc. will help young people create murals in Overtown’s historic Dorsey Park to commemorate it as the home of South Florida’s Negro League baseball team. Artist Kadir Nelson will help mentor young people as they work on the murals and learn about a time and place that connects them to their cultural past. The 30 murals created will be officially dedicated to the players of the Negro and Cuban leagues.

Transforming Little Havana Through Art

Project: Monthly Cultural Festivals

Recipient: Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays

Award: $80,000

To accelerate the transformation of Little Havana’s arts district, Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays will expand the scope and programming of its popular monthly cultural festival. The event will also establish new offerings for younger generations such as introducing the game of dominoes and offering Latin dance classes. By expanding its marketing and promotional campaigns, it will bring diverse communities together with artists from different Hispanic nations and provide new opportunities for emerging artists. Gallery tours will also be offered.

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