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

Sep 07, 2013

Announcing Detroit's Knight Arts Challenge winners

Posted by Dennis Scholl

I’m in Detroit this week, and am excited to announce the 56 winners of the city’s Knight Arts Challenge. They’ll receive $2.1 million for their ideas.


The winners are mostly small groups and individual artists—homegrown talent working across a range of disciplines. If they have one thing in common it’s that they keep the community at the heart of their projects. That speaks to why Knight does the challenge: The arts don’t just inspire, they help build community—the kinds of common experiences that get people excited about their neighbors and neighborhoods. With our mission to promote informed and engaged communities, Knight Foundation sees the arts as a way to attract and keep the talent that fuels cities and local economies.

We’re excited to help build on the creative momentum in Detroit, and everything that artists and social entrepreneurs are doing to push the city forward.

Take a look at their winning projects below. We'll announce the winner of the People's Choice Award early next week.

And get your ideas ready; we’ll be back with year two of the Detroit Knight Arts Challenge in 2014.

- Dennis Scholl

Sci-Fi Workshops Help Detroiters Imagine City’s Future

Recipient: adrienne maree brown


Award: $20,000

To uplift Detroiters' ideas and narratives about the city’s future, adrienne maree brown will host a series of sci-fi writing workshops for a cross-section of residents, creating works to be published in a series of ’zines. Brown will also interview other Detroiters for her original stories. On a philosophical level, Brown hopes her work will be part of a healing process for Detroiters in the midst of the city’s financial troubles, enabling them to see themselves as co-creators, survivors and shapers of the future Detroit.

adrienne maree brown is a sci fi scholar, writer, facilitator, artist and doula living in Detroit.

Musical “House Guests” Collaborate on Album

Recipient: ADULT.


Award: $40,000

To build on the city’s musical legacy, the band ADULT. will invite a half-dozen international and U.S.-based musicians as “house guests” to live with the band in Detroit for two weeks and collaborate. The project will work much like an artist residency program with musicians from a variety of musical and personal backgrounds and will culminate in an album that reflects the city’s people and landscape.

ADULT.  is Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus;  They have been making their own brand of unique electronic music in Detroit since 1997.

Teachers' Retreat Promotes Digital Arts in the Classroom

Recipient: Allied Media Projects


Award: $50,000

To help fuel new ideas for classroom instruction, Allied Media Projects will offer a three-day retreat for digital media art teachers. At the retreat, teachers will not only delve deep into their craft, but also learn from guest artist mentors and build a support network that will extend throughout the rest of the year. The idea stems from and seeks to strengthen the Detroit Future Schools project, which places digital media teaching artists in local classrooms to help students use video, audio, stop motion animation and digital photography to explore academic concepts and their own community.

Allied Media Projects uses the power of collaborative media and technology to foster a more just and creative world.  

Festival Marks Exhibition at Arab American National Museum

Recipient: Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Project


Award: $20,000

To mark the exhibition of a collection of artist books and letterpress broadsides commemorating the 2007 bombing of the famed street of Baghdad booksellers, this project will create a book arts festival in Detroit. The event will include bookmaking, calligraphy, letterpress and poetry workshops at venues across the city, timed with the exhibition at the Arab American National Museum. The gathering honors the artists across the world who submitted written, printed and artistic works in solidarity with Iraqi booksellers, artists and booklovers.

Alise Alousi is a first generation Iraqi-American poet and teacher and member of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Coalition.

Ice Cream Truck Sows Love for Historic March

Recipient: Alonso del Arte


Award: $20,000

To introduce classical music to new audiences, an ice cream truck will drive throughout the city on Fridays during the warmer months, playing Anton Bruckner’s March in E-flat major, among select other works. The truck will continue to sell ice cream on its regular stops, accompanied by the music. Organizer Alonso del Arte hopes that the whimsical idea will eventually result in more appreciation for and band performances of Bruckner’s work.

A Marine veteran, del Arte cuts grass at Detroit parks by day and writes symphonies by night.

Documentary Celebrates Armenian-American Music in Detroit

Recipient: Ara Topouzian


Award: $12,000

To preserve the heritage of Armenian-American Detroiters, Ara Topouzian will produce a documentary that highlights their history through traditional folk music. Detroit is home to an estimated 35,000 Armenians, many of whom fled persecution in the early half of the 20th century and were drawn to Detroit by jobs in the auto industry. They brought along their traditions and music, which often describes simple village life and has been passed down through generations. The project seeks to preserve the music and make it more accessible.

Ara Topouzian, an award-winning Armenian musician, has performed around the country, recorded several albums and is known for his musicianship on the Middle Eastern harp called the kanun.

Arts Hub to Inspire and Connect Community

Recipient: Arts League of Michigan


Award: $100,000

To inspire and support the local creative community, the Arts League of Michigan will enhance the Carr Center as an Artists Hub, offering multidisciplinary workspaces and connecting artists and community.  The hub will be a place for artists to think, create, collaborate and perform for and meet with their audiences. Visitors will be encouraged to drop in and talk with artists across disciplines, to help demystify the artistic process.

The Carr Center — home of the Arts League of Michigan — is a multidisciplinary arts and cultural center that through exhibitions, performances and classes brings art, artists and community together.

Project Replaces Brightmoor Blight With Public Art

Recipient: Brightmoor Alliance


Award: $50,000

To revitalize open spaces in the Brightmoor community, the alliance’s project will commission local artists to replace blight with public art.  For the first phase of the project, the alliance has worked with the Detroit Blight Authority to remove brush and debris from a 14-block space in the area. Next organizers will choose 10 locations to revitalize and re-activate with art. With challenge funding, the alliance will select artists to work with the community in creating art that transforms the sites into safe places to visit.

The Brightmoor Alliance works with its partners and members to revitalize the Brightmoor community to improve the quality of life for its residents and improve the conditions for children.

Multicultural Mariachis to Perform Songs From Across the Americas

Recipient: Center of Music & Performing Arts Southwest (COMPÁS)


Award: $35,000

To preserve and expand the reach of traditional Mexican music, COMPÁS will create a mariachi youth ensemble that will train the next generation of musicians. The ensemble will actively seek non-Latino youth to participate and incorporate the music of a variety of Latin American countries, reflecting the diversity of the Latino community and encouraging community building through the arts. The troop will provide subsidized performances at schools and cultural events to further educate Detroiters about Latino culture.

COMPÁS is a youth-focused performing arts and cultural center that preserves the Latino/a heritage of southwest Detroit and celebrates the diversity of the community through quality arts programming.

Video Project Illuminates City Streets With Images of Its Elders

Recipient: Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History


Award: $120,000

To illuminate some of Detroit’s dark neighborhood streets physically and spiritually, the museum will commission a series of video art installations showcasing the faces and wisdom of the city’s elders.  In conjunction with a team of Detroit media artists, distinguished filmmaker Julie Dash will create the works. Each will seek to bring light to the legacy, vitality and fabric of Detroit, while providing safe passage for residents in a city in which a recent survey said some 40 percent of streetlights were in disrepair.

Founded in 1965 and located in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience.

Multimedia Installation Connects Art and Social Justice

Recipient: Complex Movements


Award: $100,000

To explore the relationship between art, science and social justice movements, this collective has created a multimedia performance installation inspired and informed by community-led efforts in Detroit. Through sci-fi parable, interactive hip-hop performance, video projection and creative technologies, the installation titled “Beware of the Dandelions” is an opportunity to investigate a new theory of change for the world. With challenge funding, Complex Movements will take the installation on a national tour, collecting and cross pollinating communities’ stories through performance, workshops and the feedback mechanisms built into the installation.

Complex Movements is a Detroit-based artist collective composed of graphic designer/fine artist Wesley Taylor, music producer/filmmaker Waajeed, hip-hop lyricist/activist Invincible and creative technologist/multi media artist Carlos (L05) Garcia.

Festival Highlights Diversity of Rock Music

Recipient: Cosmic Slop Festival


Award: $12,000

To highlight rock music’s multicultural roots, the Cosmic Slop Festival will further develop its rock festival in Detroit that features minority musicians and the diverse styles of rock music.  The event will give local and out-of-state artists an opportunity to reach a wider audience of new and engaged listeners, while giving Detroiters deeper insights into the city’s musical legacy.

Series Brings the Classics to a Wider Community

Recipient: CutTime Productions


Award: $30,000

To share a love of the classics, CutTime Productions will expand its ongoing Classical Revolution Detroit series, which takes musicians from the concert halls and into neighborhood bars, cafes and eateries. The performances provide a deeply felt reminder of the way the classics enrich everyone's lives. Using the open jam format, the performers also invite players from the audience to participate. Even non-musicians can join on percussion and in other exercises. With challenge funding, CutTime will increase the number of inclusive events in an expanded list of venues.

CutTime Productions resets the context of classical music for a wider community with three ensembles playing adaptations of famous masterpieces and new works blending classical with urban pop by director/bassist Rick Robinson, a former member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Music Series Reimagines Historic Buildings 

Recipient: Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings


Award: $15,000

To expand the audience for chamber music, this new program selects architecturally or historically significant locations in the city and reinvents them as musical performance spaces. Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings musicians will then create programs that complement and illuminate the venue. For example, a performance at the old Ford Piquette Plant might feature music written during the Model T era. At the same time, academics are invited to talk about the building’s place in Detroit history, deepening the impact on the music performed. With challenge funds, Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings will expand the breadth of the series.

With three separate concert series, each offering a different musical experience, Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings is the leading purveyor of locally-produced chamber music in the metro Detroit area.  

Converted Truck Provides Stage for Increased Microfunding of Creative Projects

Recipient: Detroit SOUP


Award: $12,000

To engage more Detroiters in giving to creative projects, Detroit SOUP will convert a bread truck into a portable space where people can meet to microfund ideas. With the Detroit SOUP model, participants pay $5 for dinner and vote on which project should receive the pooled funds. The SOUP truck would have a foldout, portable stage for presentations and performances. The group hopes the truck ensures that residents throughout the city have a hub to share ideas that can transform neighborhoods.

Detroit SOUP is a microgranting dinner funding creative projects in Detroit. 

New Repair Shop Seeks Bikes as Works of  Art

Recipient: East Side Riders


Award: $10,000

To foster a community of urban bike design, challenge funding will help East Side Riders —which  sees bikes as a means of artistic expression — open a shop and expand. The group’s unmistakable bikes are decorated with a mix of found materials and new technologies, from strips of abandoned leather couches to Playstations and TVs. The group is seeking to open a bike shop on Detroit’s east side to help people find a love of biking through design.

Youth Art Program Comes to Grandmont Rosedale

Recipient: Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation


Award: $15,000

To promote creative expression in local youth, the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation will host a weekly art workshop for teens. Under the guidance of adult mentors, the students will learn the art of sketching, jewelry making, painting, sculpture and more. At the end of the program, the students’ art will be sold at a gathering to help make the program sustainable.

The Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation is a non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life for all who live, work and play in the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhoods of northwest Detroit.

Documentary Celebrates Detroit’s Jit Craze

Recipient: Hardcore Detroit


Award: $12,000

To preserve the legacy of the 1970s dance phenomenon the Detroit Jit, Hardcore Detroit will release a documentary featuring the founders of the movement entitled The Jitterbugs: Pioneers of the Jit, directed and produced by Haleem Rasul.  This film will also include an instructional video on the dance’s foundational steps.  Funding will help produce an official launch event where DVDs of the film will be available for purchase.  The screening will be followed by a community Q&A and performances by local and national guest presenters. Organizers anticipate that these essential steps will inspire new collaborations and interest in a revival of the Jit, which was recently recognized for the first time on the television series “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Hardcore Detroit is a Detroit-based dance/design company founded by Haleem Rasul.

Art Library to Create a Community of Collectors

Recipient: Hatch: A Hamtramck Art Collective


Award: $20,000

To foster a community of local art collectors, Hatch will create an art library where Detroiters can borrow a local artist’s work for their home for up to two months.  Any individual can check out a range of works from a traditional painting to a contemporary sculptural installation. All art in the library will be for sale. The library seeks to enable residents to realize the value of art on a personal level and inspire them to buy more.

Hatch: A Hamtramck Art Collective acts as a bridge between the art world and the greater community while providing artists with opportunities to make art and make a living.

Dance Series Explores Cultural Understanding Through Art

Recipient: Heritage Works


Award: $50,000

To explore cultural understanding through the arts, Heritage Works will bring nationally-known choreographers to Detroit to explore cultural expression and understanding. These choreographers, who are each grounded in a specific cultural tradition but are also pushing creative and cultural boundaries, will engage communities in dialogues and art-based workshops. Then, using local performers and guest artists, they will create dances that cross borders — physical and psychological — and address the traditions, misconceptions and cultural realities of Greater Detroit. The works will tour through cultural centers and non-traditional spaces such as public parks and markets.

A Detroit-based organization, Heritage Works celebrates the beauty and humanity of African people and world culture through movement, music and folklore. 

Student Writers Gain Career Skills Via Online Literary Journal

Project: Literary Arts Project


Recipient: $50,000

To help teens develop artistic and entrepreneurial skills, the InsideOut Literary Arts Project will teach them to produce and market an online literary journal. Currently, the project engages 5,000 K-12 students annually in the power of poetry and literary expression through in-school residencies and afterschool writing workshops. With challenge funding, the Citywide Poets program will add new school sites and give students an opportunity to publish and market the e-journal to be titled I’m Just Sayin.

For almost two decades, InsideOut has enhanced literary arts education at almost 100 Detroit schools and provided some 50,000 students the “author-ity” of being published, inspired authors.

Competition to Showcase Best of Detroit Jazz Scene

Recipient: Jazz Network Foundation


Award: $20,000

To strengthen Detroit’s jazz scene, the Jazz Network Foundation will create “Jazz-off Detroit,” a competition where winning instrumentalists and vocalists will join to create a performance band. The best piano, drum, horn, bass players and vocalists will form one of two winning bands — one for younger musicians and one for more mature performers  — so that the two groups can learn from each other. The bands will receive a stipend, so that they can record their works and will perform in traditional and nontraditional venues to generate excitement for jazz and showcase the best Detroit has to offer.

The Jazz Network Foundation provides showcase opportunities for musicians, training for youth and international cultural exchange through presentations for the general public toward the advancement and preservation of multicultural arts. 

Concerts Go Intimate in Home-Based Series

Recipient: Jeff Karoub


Award: $8,000

To create an intimate yet profoundly engaging musical experience, this project will launch a series of small concerts rotating through Detroit homes. Organizers believe that a concert in a home strips away the impersonal and allows musicians, attendees and homeowners an opportunity to enjoy a genuine interaction. The series, titled “Coming Home to Music,” will begin with a kickoff celebration that incorporates multiple house concerts on a single night, featuring diverse styles of music genres in equally diverse neighborhoods in the city, and will continue with concerts throughout the year.

For Coming Home to Music creator Jeff Karoub, storytelling is his primary profession and passion, practiced through his work as a Detroit-based journalist as well as singer, songwriter and musician.

Community Radio Stations Celebrate the Sounds of Detroit

Recipient: Jon Brumit


Award: $30,000

To create a series of drive-through audio collages within the city’s 143 total square miles, organizers will install hyper-local radio stations continuously broadcasting on the same frequency. Combining the mediums of radio and sound, short-range FM radio transmitters will be arranged in clusters all around town, each broadcasting original music and soundscapes from neighbors, historians, artists and musicians. The sounds will be created for and with the public, resulting in a free public art experience in celebration of the city’s people, places and spaces.

Jon Brumit is an artist working with sound, radio, structured improvisation and public engagement.

'Zine Series Explores Detroit’s People and Places

Recipient: Leander Johnson


Award: $6,000

To engage Detroiters in the city’s past, this project will create 12 ’zines that examine objects, places, ideas and cultural sites that have been contested, valued, undervalued, ignored, destroyed or disfigured but continue to inform the present. Collaborating with young creative citizens in Detroit, as well as elders who hold these histories, the editors will assemble archives on these subjects and connect them to the broader historical context and speculative futures. Each month for one year, the findings will be compiled into an independently published ’zine.

Leander Johnson, 16, currently lives and works in Detroit.

Community Conversations Planned Around Documentary on Detroit Activist

Recipient: LeeLeeFilms


Award: $5,000

To engage the community in a conversation about the creative process, LeeLeeFilms will host a series of community screenings of its documentary on the Chinese-American philosopher and activist Grace Lee Boggs. Boggs is a 98-year-old community organizer and longtime Detroit resident whose life story embodies the major social movements of the last century. Using her experiences as a springboard, the filmmakers will guide audiences in the process of cultivating new ideas. The conversations, to take place in libraries ahead of the film’s PBS debut, will draw connections between the art of documentary filmmaking and nonfiction books.

LeeLee Films, established in 2005 by filmmaker Grace Lee,  is an independent, Los Angeles-based company that produces feature films, documentaries and digital media for commercial and educational release.

Photos of Detroit Musicians to Be Made Public

Recipient: Leni Sinclair


Award: $10,000

To preserve the history of Detroit’s music scene, photographer Leni Sinclair will create a public archive of her personal photo collection dating back to the early 1960s. Sinclair will add data — name of the artist, for example, and the place the photo was taken — to  some 57,000 negatives taken of such greats as  John Coltrane and of Detroit clubs, including the historic Baker's Keyboard Lounge. The archive will help preserve Detroit’s music legacy for future generations.

Leni Sinclair is a German-born photographer who has photographed Detroit musicians since the early 1960s, including jazz, blues, rock and reggae musicians.

Community Performance Series Comes to Mexicantown Mercado

Recipient: Living Arts


Award: $12,000

To weave the arts into neighborhoods, Living Arts will facilitate a performance series with artists young and old out of a studio theater at the new Ford Resource and Engagement Center at the Mexicantown Mercado. The series — Teatro Chico Detroit — will focus on cultural and emerging artists, presenting powerful performances for neighborhood holidays such as the Day of the Dead, Christmas-time Posadas and others. The series will link neighboring arts organizations, restaurants and businesses to each performance and will enhance community participation in the new center.

Living Arts strengthens the youth and neighborhoods of Detroit through dance education, arts-infused academics and community arts programs, sparking the imagination and fostering learning through the arts. 


Monthly Series Preserves Traditional Folk Blues and Gospel Music

Recipient: LO & BEHOLD! Records & Books


Award: $30,000

To present and document traditional music in Detroit, LO & BEHOLD! Records & Books will preserve and make available the traditionally produced recordings of the store’s Folk Blues Night performances. The intimate, acoustic event is hosted by two local folk blues musicians and features local and national performers. Each is recorded using vintage ribbon microphones, as an early blues session might have been recorded in the 1930s and ’40s. With challenge funding, the store will release recordings as a series of LPs, with booklets providing the history of the songs and information on the musicians.

LO & BEHOLD! Records & Books is a small publishing house and storefront in Hamtramck founded by Detroit-based writer, musician and craftsman Richard Wohlfeil.

Project Imagines Detroit Through African-American Cultural Legacy

Recipient: Maison LaFleur


Award: $12,000

Using the contemporary arts movement Afrofuturism as a vehicle for social change, AFROTOPIA seeks to activate Detroit through education and the arts. A curatorial project developed by Maison LaFleur, AFROTOPIA aims to inspire and create a space for radical, creative practices that bring about positive transformation. The project includes workshops for youth, an online exhibition and site-specific installations in an attempt to imagine the future of Detroit using its African-American cultural legacy as inspiration.

Maison LaFleur, founded by independent curator Ingrid LaFleur, develops and manages art projects, provides classes on contemporary art, and gives tours on the arts community in Detroit.

Project Turns Wood From Abandoned Homes Into Guitars

Recipient: Mark Wallace


Award: $8,000

To turn abandoned homes into a source of creativity, musician Mark Wallace will use reclaimed wood to create prototype electric guitars. Built with wood sourced from Reclaim Detroit, each guitar will be branded with the address of the home that provided the wood. Through the prototyping process, Wallace will evaluate the playability and tone of various guitar designs and wood types, establish a supply chain that is scalable and identify retail outlets for the finished product. Through the process, he seeks to build on Detroit’s heritage in music and manufacturing to create a high-quality product that reflects Detroit’s design aesthetic.

Mark Wallace lives in Detroit, where he pursues his lifelong love of music as a fiddler, guitarist, songwriter and guitar maker.

After School Program Centers on Classical Arab Music

Recipient: Michigan Arab Orchestra


Award: $100,000

To help foster cultural understanding, the Michigan Arab Orchestra will launch a free afterschool program centered on classical Arab music, language and culture. Operating at the middle and high school level, Building Bridges Through Music will offer choir rehearsals and lessons in traditional Arab instruments, including the oud, frame drum and qanun. The program will culminate in students participating in a joint performance with the orchestra at its annual gala at the historic Music Hall in downtown Detroit.

Michigan Arab Orchestra's mission is to promote music through education and performance with an emphasis on preserving the musical traditions of the Arab world.

Orchestras Collaborate on Middle Eastern Fusion Event

Recipient: Michigan Philharmonic


Award: $50,000

To bring together Detroit’s diverse cultures and communities, the Michigan Philharmonic and the Michigan Arab Orchestra will create a fusion event featuring Western and Middle Eastern traditions. The two groups will perform together, sharing musicians and commissioning a piece of music that blends Western classical music with Middle Eastern music and instruments. The culmination will be a Fusion Festival, including educational workshops on Middle Eastern cultural traditions.

The mission of the Michigan Philharmonic is to enrich the communities of Southeastern Michigan by fostering excellence and innovation in the performance of orchestral music, to educate current and future audiences and to bring distinction to our community through the regional presence and standing of our professional performing ensembles.

Event Seeks to Become City’s Signature Film Festival

Recipient: Michigan Theater


Award: $50,000

To inspire Detroit through film, the Cinetopia Film Festival intends to use challenge funding to become Detroit's signature film festival. Cinetopia is collaboration between the Detroit area's two premiere contemporary film exhibitors: the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts and Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater. Currently a four-day festival on five screens, organizers plan to grow Cinetopia into an 11-day, multi-venue event that attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually and showcases feature-length dramas, comedies and documentary films from the world's best film festivals.

The Michigan Theater opened in 1928 and hosts more than 250,000 visitors each year to a broad variety of films, concerts, lectures and other community events.

Expanding a Festival of Art and Light

Recipient: Midtown Detroit


Award: $50,000

To bring Detroiters together through the arts, Midtown Detroit will expand DLECTRICITY, a two-night outdoor festival of art and light. Building on the success of its 2012 launch, the festival will return in 2014 to include the commissioning of a permanent light installation on Woodward Avenue. Funds will also go toward placing more installations in a more condensed geographic area in the city’s cultural center and expanding the festival’s lighted bike parade.

Midtown Detroit, Inc. is a nonprofit planning and development organization that supports the physical maintenance and revitalization of the Midtown Detroit area, while working to enhance public awareness, appreciation and use of the district.

Project brings community in on design challenge

Recipient: MODCaR


Award: $25,000

To use the power of design to produce vibrant civic spaces, MODCaR will bring together architects, creative and community advocates to turn an underused space into a (temporary) cultural venue. The organizers hope to turn the urban planning experience inside out, inviting the community in to first learn about design and then to help recreate a neighborhood space. If everything goes according to plan, the planning and community engagement stage will be just as critical as the physical result.

MODCaR is a research and design collaborative dedicated to promoting civic, non-restrictive environments and an understanding of images that accompany them.

Artists Take Residence — in a School

Recipient: Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit


Award: $200,000

To inspire the city’s youngest minds, Mosaic Youth Theatre will pilot a new program that integrates the arts into every element of an elementary school’s curriculum. In partnership with University Prep Science & Math School District and Marygrove College, Mosaic will become Michigan’s first “arts organization in residence,” moving into the new UPSM Elementary School. In return, the group’s professional artists will bring the arts to academic subjects, particularly science and math. In addition, the partnership will serve hundreds of students in grades six through 12 from more than 50 Detroit-area schools, who will participate in Mosaic’s theater and vocal music programs at the building. Best practices from the pilot will be shared with other Detroit educators through workshops.

Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit is a national model for youth development through the arts, empowering young Detroiters to achieve excellence on stage and in life through dynamic theatrical and musical performances which have toured to Africa, Asia, Europe and 25 states throughout the U.S. 

Summer Series Brings Brass Band to Detroiters

Recipient: Motor City Brass Band


Award: $5,000

To help build community through the arts, Motor City Brass Band will work in partnership with the social service agency Southwest Solutions to create free summer entertainment events around the city. The band will perform music related to a film that centers around a theme or culture that makes Detroit a vibrant place to live. For example, a performance at the Southwest Solutions center for homeless veterans, Piquette Square, will provide music and a film that reflect patriotic themes. Organizers hope the events will bring Detroit residents together in a community celebration.

Motor City Brass Band is Michigan’s first competitive British-style brass band, annually participating in the North American Brass Band Association or  U.S. Open  Championships in addition to performing a full schedule of subscription and community performances.

Hip-Hop Mardi Gras Parade Builds Skills, Creativity

Recipient: Mt Elliott Makerspace


Award: $50,000

To encourage creativity, organizers will create a Hyper Interactive Hip-Hop Mardi Gras Parade that combines the unique traditions of the city’s Caribbean Mardi Gras Festival, local hip-hop artists and the DIY innovators at Mt Elliott Makerspace.  Led by maker Jeff Sturges of the Mt Elliott Makerspace, designer/artist Ralph Taylor of Caribbean Mardi Gras Productions and artist/facilitator Piper Carter of 5E Gallery, the parade seeks to engage the community in creating an experience of beauty in costume and float design, sound, motion technology and music. Organizers hope to encourage “maker” skills in art, technology and design and foster awareness of Mardi Gras’ cultural significance.

The collaborative is a partnership between three Detroit organizations that include talented creators of the annual Caribbean Mardi Gras festival, powerful musical, visual and performing hip-hop artists and genius engineers, hackers and innovators of DIY making. 

Teens to Learn Leadership Skills and Produce Events at MOCAD

Recipient: Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)


Award: $120,000

MOCAD has a particular point of view on education: Kids have great ideas and aren’t ever taken seriously enough, and adults need more chances to goof around. The MOCAD Teen Council develops both ideas. This program brings together teens with contemporary artists and designers, providing opportunities to work collaboratively, discuss art critically, think creatively, make art and produce programs inspired by this exchange. Consisting of students from across Metro Detroit, the council will produce programs, events and museum-focused materials throughout the school year for teens and adults. The program also will include leadership, self-advocacy, public speaking and art and design training to create a core of junior docents for MOCAD, making the museum a safe and creative second home for teens.

The mission of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is to present art at the forefront of contemporary culture. As a non-collecting institution, MOCAD is responsive to the cultural content of our time, fueling crucial dialogue, collaboration and public engagement. 

Certificate Program Offers Workshops in Gallery Skills

Recipient: N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art


Award: $80,000

To strengthen the city’s galleries, the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art will create a training program where workers learn skills in installing, shipping and archiving art. Unlike museums, galleries don’t usually have access to trained art registrars. The lack of training in handling art causes inefficiencies in the process and can damage the works. This new effort will be a rigorous, reduced-fee certificate training program in gallery skills that includes basic art appreciation classes so that participants can gain an understanding of raw materials.

Dr. George R. N'Namdi, the president and founder of The G. R. N'Namdi Gallery and The N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, has been a force in Detroit’s art scene for more than 40 years and is recognized as one of the nation’s leading art collectors and gallery owners.

Residency Elevates Detroit’s Reputation in Canada

Recipient: North American Souvenirs


Award: $30,000

To showcase Detroit to the city’s neighbors, this group will create a residency for Canadian visual artists in the city. During a one-month stay, Canadian artists will receive studio space, a stipend and living accommodations in Detroit’s Eastern Market. With this program, organizers hope to foster regional investment in Detroit, increase tourism and provide new audiences for Canadian art and culture.

North American Souvenirs is the alias used by Peter Rozek for projects he develops to highlight communities by partnering with artists and organizations.

Students Learn Music Production in New Studio

Recipient: Notes for Notes


Award: $40,000

To promote creative expression by the next generation, Notes for Notes will build and operate an after-school recording studio for youth, giving them a place to explore, create and record music. In partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, the studio will be packed with guitars, keyboards, drums, DJ gear, a vocal booth and digital music workstations. Similar to its other locations in Nashville, Tenn., and Santa Barbara, Calif., Notes for Notes’ professional staff will work with youth to create and produce music and manage the studio, encouraging open conversation about students’ music, identity and life.

Notes for Notes provides youth with free access to music instruments, instruction and recording studio environments so that music may become a profoundly positive influence in their lives.

African Drumming Workshops Teach Instrument’s Significance in Today’s World

Recipient: Omowale Entertainment


Award: $15,000

To bring Detroit residents together, Omowale Entertainment will launch a series of West African drumming and dancing workshops that foster creative expression while teaching the form’s cultural significance. At first, the focus will be the djembe drum. From there, the workshops will incorporate dance, including its history and relevance in today’s world.

Omowale Entertainment Founder Sowande Keita honors the memory of his Late Djembe Fola ( Master Drummer ) King Sundiata Keita and continues the path of the Drummer that was walked before him.

Year-round Theater Program Helps Students Discover Talents

Recipient: Plowshares Theatre Company


Award: $75,000

To help high school students discover their artistic talents, Plowshares Theatre Company will partner with Michigan State University to provide a year-round comprehensive theater performance workshop. Participants will be trained by experts in acting, singing, dancing and playwriting, attend field trips and perform publicly, with the hope of inspiring them to pursue their passion in college. To engage parents in the process, the workshop involves a volunteer group that advocates for the arts in southeastern Michigan and encourages student achievement.

Plowshares Theatre Company is recognized as Michigan’s only professional African-American theater company, an urban theater with a distinctly Detroit style.

Whimsical Swings Lift Moods, Inspire Community

Recipient: Public Art Workz


Award: $15,000

To bring more art into communities, organizers will create Mood Swings, or handcrafted, whimsical porch swings. Located at bus stops and parks throughout Detroit, Mood Swings will be painted and embellished by Detroit artists with repurposed objects — think,  for example, of a swing with electric blue and fuschia butterfly wings that glow at night. Each will also be equipped with solar-powered LED lights and an outlet to charge cellphones. The swings seek to be a mood enhancer that will provide artistic inspiration and promote community pride.

Public Art Workz provides art education, community and beautification.

Literary Readings Paired With Art, Food and DJs

Recipient: Public Pool


Award: $15,000

To cultivate interest in the written word, Public Pool, a neighborhood art space in Hamtramck, will further develop its literary series, the Good Tyme Writer’s Buffet. The event brings together writers for short readings in a relaxed gallery setting where they are surrounded by art, a table full of food and a DJ who spins during the breaks. The informality allows for experimentation. With funding, the Public Pool will provide an honorarium for more writers from beyond the city. Each event will be timed to a specific exhibition at the Public Pool, pairing a writer who shares a similar tone or style with the artist on exhibition to expand the impact of both.

Public Pool is a neighborhood art space in Hamtramck dedicated to fostering unique exhibition opportunities for artists interested in and excited by the process of inventing, especially in connection to ideas that transform our storefront venue, via installations and environments. 

Performances Explore Detroit Through Puppetry

Recipient: PuppetART Theater


Award: $12,000

To challenge modern perceptions of puppetry, PuppetART will bring together four arts groups to explore an issue facing Detroit through puppetry. The theater will provide coaching, as the groups go through the production and into its performance at a mini-festival. Organizers hope that by using the symbolic and allegorical language of puppetry, the artists will help reenergize discussions on city issues while pushing the boundaries of what people consider puppetry and theater.

PuppetART is a non-profit puppet theater, museum and studio, with a repertory of 10  culturally diverse shows.

Festival Engages Public Around Hamtramck/Detroit Border

Recipient: The Hinterlands


Award: $35,000

To help bring together Hamtramck and Detroit, organizers will create the Porous Borders Festival, a two-day public art festival along the entire border of these two municipalities in October 2014. Curated by The Hinterlands, a performing arts company, the festival will use performances, installations and spectacles to engage the public in exploring the unique boundary cutting across Michigan’s most internationally diverse zip code. Participants will viscerally experience this invisible marker between Detroit and Hamtramck through a celebration of the unique spatial and cultural interactions between these two communities.

The Hinterlands is a Detroit-based company that creates original, multidisciplinary performance works and explores the art of performance through explosive and ecstatic training and play.

Curated Storytelling Event Brings Personal Narratives to the Public

Recipient: The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers


Award: $30,000

To bring Detroiters together through storytelling, The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers will expand its monthly event where Detroiters tell a true, personal story to a live audience. The show is curated in an effort to present a diverse lineup of everyday people who tell a 10 to 12 minute extraordinary true story. The society also partners with local businesses to expose their products to the audience and with local nonprofits to produce fundraising events. With challenge funding, the society will put together a production team that will manage everything from marketing to audio/visual setup.

The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers has a mission to connect humanity, heal and transform community by providing a unique, uplifting, thought-provoking, soul-cleansing entertainment experience through the art and craft of storytelling.

Poetry Series Demystifies the Art Form

Recipient: The Woodward Line Poetry Series


Award: $30,000

As a way to expand the local audience for poetry, the Woodward Line Poetry Series will broaden its monthly gathering to include readings and conversations with more prominent writers from Michigan and across the country. The conversations will include audience-fueled Q&A sessions to help demystify poetry and poets.  The readings and conversations will be posted online and promoted via social media to make them accessible to a wider audience. In addition, the series will spotlight local emerging writers with their work as the subject of a dialogue with the featured writers.

The Woodward Line Poetry Series holds forth every third Wednesday of the month, September through June at the historic Scarab Club in Detroit's Cultural Center and features a wide variety of poets, writers, musicians and other creative thinkers from Michigan and around the country.  

Immersive Art Show Is Part Masquerade Ball, Part Surreal Circus

Recipient: Theatre Bizarre


Award: $100,000

To inspire performers and audiences Theatre Bizarre will expand its annual immersive art installation that brings together artists ranging from musicians and dancers to acrobats and circus sideshow performers. With the feel of an underground masquerade party, the performance looks to bring the audience into an otherworldly environment. Costumed patrons become part of a world populated by hundreds of performers who transform the corners and gothic stages of Detroit’s seven-story Masonic Temple. Each attendee has a different experience for the night, depending on the choices they make and path they take through the venue.

New Museum Highlights City’s Music Legacy

Recipient: Trinosophes


Award: $15,000

To shine a spotlight on Detroit’s contributions to the world's musical culture, Trinosophes and Peoples Records are building a free museum of Detroit musical history based on the collection of record storeowner Brad Hales. The goal is to make public a collection that goes beyond the common narrative to provide a deeper examination of the Detroit sound. With Hales' store, already a major destination for Detroit music tourism, the addition of the museum at his new Eastern Market location seeks to generate more international visitors, as well as increase interest in the almost forgotten artists who have made crucial contributions to the city's legacy. The museum also plans to make this music more available to the general public through a community Internet and/or AM radio station.

The Michigan Audio Heritage Society Museum is a joint venture, operated by internationally celebrated Peoples Records and facilitated by Trinosophes, Detroit's premiere new venue for the living arts.

Literary Walk Connects Detroiters With Authors

Recipient: M. L. Liebler for The Midtown Detroit Literary Walk


Award: $15,000

To engage Detroiters in literature, the Wayne Writers’ Forum will expand its literary walk in Midtown. On one day in June, national and local writers, in addition to poets from local schools, will gather to read at a series of stops a short walking distance apart.  Detroiters then will stroll between the stops and experience a variety of works and genres. The walk creates a rare opportunity for metro Detroit residents to hear major American authors, while drawing visitors from across the city and the suburbs into Midtown.

M. L. Liebler is the founding director of The Midtown Detroit Literary Walk & Wayne Writers’ Forum.

Young Detroiters Design Bike and Skate Art

Recipient: Young Nation


Award: $12,000

To spread art more deeply into Detroit neighborhoods, Young Nation will commission Detroit youth artists to create a series of skateboard and bicycle designs to be sold at the youth-run bicycle and skate shop Southwest Rides, powered by local partnering organization Urban Neighborhood Initiatives. After five designs are created through a workshop, the teen employees and staff will work with a local print shop to have them created on skateboards and bike placards. The artworks will then be sold to help sustain Young Nation and Southwest Rides.

Giving African Artists a Bigger Voice in Detroit

Recipient: Zimbabwe Cultural Centre in Detroit


Award: $15,000

To connect artists in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Detroit, local organizers will transform two living spaces in both cities into cultural consulates. There, artists will collaborate — physically, virtually or through exhibits — creating a sense of community. In addition, the Detroit  location will have an artist residency for Zimbabweans, where they can work and research.  Already the center is planning an exchange at the Public Pool gallery, with exhibits by artists that will include a live collaboration via Skype between DJs in each city. The project celebrates the work of  artists in Zimbabwe and Detroit and works to build stronger connections between the art communities.

Zimbabwe Cultural Centre in Detroit offers participating artists an opportunity to share their work with new audiences as well as personal narratives about the place they call home.


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