Knight Blog

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

Knight Arts Challenge Detroit: Building on the city’s momentum

March 25, 2013, 1:56 p.m., Posted by Dennis Scholl

Today we begin accepting applications for the Knight Arts Challenge in Detroit, an idea that first bubbled up when I visited the city in 2010 as the new vice president for arts at Knight Foundation.

I went to see what all the cultural buzz was about. I was floored.

In my free time, I’m an art collector and a visual arts guy, so the Agnolo Bronzino in the Detroit Institute of Arts was both emblematic of the city’s world-class collections and a personal favorite. But there was so much more:  a city intent on developing minority artists, open to collaboration – one theater boasted 55 partnerships, and fiercely resilience amidst an unrelenting recession.

Perhaps most importantly, I got to see the growing group of young creatives – not just artists, but business owners and social entrepreneurs - pushing to make things happen for the city, block by block.

We’re launching the Knight Arts Challenge in Detroit this week to build on that groundswell of momentum.

As I write this, the City of Detroit faces a dire financial situation. Yet we believe now more than ever that the arts, and artists, are playing a critical role in shaping this city’s future.

At Knight Foundation, where our mission is to promoted more informed and engaged communities, we invest in the arts because we believe in their ability to create a sense of place that make people passionate about where they live. The arts inspire, but they also build communities: a Knight-funded Gallup study called the Soul of the Community, found a direct relationship between people’s love for a community – fueled in part by arts and culture - and its economic growth.

To increase our impact, we take a holistic approach to arts funding.  We support the large institutions, helping them engage more people and communities in their programming. To that end last fall, we invested $10.25 million in seven local organizations with deep roots in the city. Now, the Knight Arts Challenge looks to seed more grassroots efforts, leveling the field so that everyone can play in the cultural sector.

For the challenge, we’re looking for big ideas, inspiring ideas, authentically Detroit ideas. We’re not prescriptive. We believe that you, the people of Detroit have, the best ideas for the local arts.

It’s your turn now. Give us your best idea by April 25 for a shot at a share of up to $3 million.

We can’t wait to see what you send us.

By Dennis Scholl, vice president/Arts at Knight Foundation