The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Today, we are excited to announce the 42 winners of this year’s St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge. Our first year of the contest in St. Paul saw the highest per capita response for any arts challenge in history, with 868 submissions! Ideas poured in from all corners of the community and across all disciplines. We are grateful to all who participated and trusted us with their ideas and passion for the arts in St. Paul.
Each arts challenge tells a story about a city’s cultural community. St. Paul continues to be a strong theatrical town with a growing visual arts scene. Additionally, we received significant numbers of applications from recent and long-standing immigrant communities. Several of those ideas rose through the process to the list of recommended grants. We’re excited the list reflects “the new St. Paul”, a diverse, inclusive community full of vibrancy.
Take a look below at the short descriptions of these projects. And don’t forget, the St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge is a three-year initiative. We will begin accepting applications for year two in spring 2015. If you haven’t already, please sign up for our mailing list for updates and most importantly, START DREAMING. Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul Winners 2014 Power Plant Will Project Positive Energy (pictured above)
Recipient: Aaron Dysart, Andrea Steudel, Emily Stover and Asia Ward
To celebrate the landmark power plant in downtown St. Paul as a largely sustainable fuel source, a group of artists will use the steam plume as a screen to project light displays. The light installations on this billowing feature at the District Energy plant, located in the center of the city on a main thoroughfare, will shed light on the community’s collective energy use and bring attention to the significance of sustainable energy.
Recipient: Alec Soth / Little Brown Mushroom
To enable artists ages 16 to18 to think ambitiously about art-making and storytelling, Alec Soth and the artists at Little Brown Mushroom will create a mobile classroom in a Winnebago. Every month young artists will board the Winnebago and set out to gather the stories of local communities through photography, video, illustration and writing. At the end of the workshops, students will publicly screen their projects on the side of their mobile classroom.
Recipient: American Composers Forum
To bring the arts into people’s everyday lives, American Composers Forum will infuse composer-generated music experiences into unlikely places in downtown St. Paul during the noontime hour. With their project called Landmark to Lowertown, the forum will capture a new audience of downtown workers through outside-the-performance-hall performances by M.anifest, a rapper/musician from Accra, Ghana; Malamanya, a six-member Latin American and Caribbean band; and Beatrix* JAR, a sound art duo that draws inspiration from AM radios paired with flash cameras, modified children’s toys and electronic beats.
Recipient: Ananya Dance Theatre
To tell the story of women’s roles in the global food system, choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, visual artist Seitu Jones and behavioral artist Marcus Young will partner with Frogtown Farm, Afro Eco, and the Indigenous Peoples Task Force to produce an evening performance reflecting and honoring the age-old work of women who cultivate, nurture and protect land and agriculture. The work will employ contemporary Indian dance to weave together artistic process and social justice in telling the stories of those whose often-unacknowledged labor sustains communities.
Recipient: Asian Economic Development Association
To increase awareness of Asian art and artists and to explore the importance of water through art, the Asian Economic Development Association will host a St. Paul Water Festival, a Minnesota adaptation of festivities that are held annually in Southeast Asia to celebrate the lunar New Year. St. Paul’s adaptation will feature traditional and contemporary art, music and dance showcases and demonstrations, and interactive take-home activities. The organization hopes to activate underused public spaces, boost creative enterprise and inspire new ways to use these places and gather.
Recipient: Barry Madore
To showcase Latino East Siders, Nuestro Pueblo San Pablo Productions will create a radio and live theater project that will provide an artistic avenue for this growing and active community to express and showcase itself. Three live theater productions at underused neighborhood venues will introduce an accompanying series of 20 fictional radio novela episodes, to be broadcast on WEQY. The project is also designed to mentor and train community members and artists in the art and technical aspects of radio and theater. Nuestro Pueblo San Pablo is a collaboration of Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, WEQY FM community radio, Fire on the Bluff Productions (Barry Madore) and Teatro del Pueblo.
Recipient: Button Poetry
To increase appreciation for poetry, Button Poetry will bring nationally recognized poets to downtown St. Paul for its monthly Soap Boxing Poetry Slams. Button Poetry will also offer cash prizes for poetry slam winners to encourage participation by local and regional poets. Video of the slams will be uploaded to YouTube. Simultaneously, workshops will support the literary growth of the St. Paul community. This multifaceted approach is designed to encourage poets of all backgrounds and experience to participate, bringing a diversity of voices and audience and an electric competitiveness to the event.
Recipient: Center for Hmong Arts and Talent
To highlight the best of Hmong design, the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent will expand the Fresh Traditions Fashion Show, an event featuring designers who are tasked with incorporating five traditional elements into a contemporary form. The show has become the premier platform for emerging Hmong fashion designers/artists and is the only culturally inspired fashion event that exhibits the creativity, originality and quality of work by Hmong designers/artists. The expanded fashion show will provide Hmong artists with career support, valuable entrepreneurial and event organizing skills, resources and more.
Recipient: Contempo Physical Dance
To challenge assumptions about African and contemporary dance, Contempo Physical Dance will conduct an annual choreography residency for those who are experimenting with fusing contemporary with Brazilian and African Diaspora dance. Artistic Director Marciano Silva dos Santos will identify one choreographer every year who is an artistic leader in his or her home country, but whose work is less familiar within the regional community. Through extensive workshops, classes and creation of a full-length work for Contempo, these residencies seek to elevate St. Paul as a pioneering site for contemporary dance production and exploration.
Recipient: curious incident
To highlight the history of St. Paul’s unused spaces, curious incident will produce three immersive arts experiences focused on raising awareness of the history of St. Paul and its vibrant arts scene. Curious incident will transform three secret, underutilized spaces into creative wonderlands that spark the imagination of and provide memorable, one-of-a-kind experiences for audiences. The group will partner with local artists, musicians, residents and historians to create these events, providing access to places and stories not typically available to the public.
Recipient: East Side Freedom Library
To promote "the work of freedom" and to honor the people who have shaped St. Paul’s East Side, the East Side Freedom Library will commission large-scale artworks for the recently vacated 1917 Beaux Arts Carnegie Library as part of the repurposing of the iconic building into an educational and cultural center. The artwork telling the stories of the community will be fitted to the architectural rondelles above the existing library shelves, carved into large new reading tables and displayed as a stairway mural and on moveable exhibition walls.
Recipient: Hamilton Ink Spot
To extend its impact and reach, downtown’s Hamilton Ink Spot will expand its programs to foster the art of printmaking and to make it more accessible to new audiences. The expansion will include letterpress and screen printing classes, a drop-in studio for families and individuals, a print cooperative for mid-career artists, paid internships, a mentorship program for high school-age artists, a mobile printmaking program serving K-12 students and exhibitions of local, regional and nationally recognized artists.
Recipient: In Progress
To build understanding of the long invisible yet vibrant North End community, In Progress will bring neighbors together to tell stories of life, work and family through digital media. Activities, led jointly by artists and youth, will help North End residents learn the art of storytelling and how to express, through photos, videos and music, what it means to be part of this community. Each activity will be product-driven, so participants receive immediate evidence of their contributions to the collection of stories.
Recipient: Independent Filmmaker Project Minnesota
To develop local screenwriters, the Independent Filmmaker Project will create a new, dedicated fellowship competition for talented screenwriters. All finalists will receive guided mentorships and dedicated classes to refine and improve their work, and one winner will receive a grant to continue developing his/her chosen piece. The new fellowship aims to raise the national visibility of St. Paul and Minnesota screenwriters and screenwriting as an art form locally.
Recipient: Jeff Bartlett
To transform landmark buildings in St. Paul, master lighting designer Jeff Bartlett will turn architectural icons into kinetic canvases for light, color and drama. Inspired by the interplay of form and movement on the theatrical stage, Bartlett adds a new layer of visual experience to the nighttime urban landscape; infusing familiar surroundings with a palpable sense of wonder and delight. Entice into Rice begins with cascades of colored light shimmering across buildings surrounding the Park during Winter Carnival 2016. It continues with a series of permanent, artistically designed lighting features within the Park to bring its landscape to life, creating a visual touchstone for a St. Paul evening.
Recipient: Jonathan Oppenheimer
To amplify the voices of artists and immigrant business owners, Jonathan Oppenheimer will transform a half-mile stretch of Snelling Avenue by commissioning four experienced public artists to create murals that weave together the theme of “starting anew.” Artists Lori Greene, Greta McLain, Eric Mattheis and Yuya Negishi will collaborate with immigrant business owners in creating mosaics, graffiti art and paint murals that reflect the changes in culture and residents, as well as the promise and struggles of the community, over time.
Recipient: Ka Joog
To preserve the art of Somali poetry, Ka Joog will bring a mobile art program to neighborhoods across St. Paul, elevating Somali art forms and creating connections across peoples and communities. The pop-up arts education programs will focus on teaching Somali traditional oral art forms, increasing intercultural understanding, and engaging youth in positive activities that simultaneously connect them with their vibrant cultural heritage. Artists will lead classes that encourage youth to explore poetry, music and theater, and learn to respond critically, thus building bridges for collaboration and exposure for Somali artists.
Recipient: M2 Foundation
To foster a love of music in St. Paul youth, leading Twin Cities drummers, dancers and singers will work with diverse youth using the model of three renowned drum ensembles from Brazil, Japan and the United Kingdom. Youth will learn drum styles from around the world, using everything from traditional percussion instruments to garbage cans and brake drums. Their co-created performances will include singing, chanting and original choreography and will take place at the new St. Paul Saints ballpark.
McNally Smith College of Music Foundation
St. Paul Lands GRAMMY Camp for Teens (pictured above)
Recipient: McNally Smith College of Music Foundation
To provide high school students with rare opportunities to improve their artistic skills, McNally Smith College of Music will host a GRAMMY camp in summer 2015. St. Paul was chosen as the fourth city in the country, after Los Angeles, New York and Nashville, to host a GRAMMY Camp. GRAMMY professionals will staff the week-long immersive residential camp for talented high school students and offer opportunities to learn about audio engineering, electronic music production, songwriting, performance, journalism, video production and the music business.
Bronze Skeleton Sculpture Doubles as Iconic Bike Rack (pictured below)
Recipient: Michael Bahl
To establish a sculptural landmark for the St. Paul bicycle culture, Paleo-osteological Interpreter Michael Bahl will create the bronze skeleton of a large imaginary mammal in repose; its ribcage will function as a bike rack. A bony crest on the dome of its skull will suggest a bike helmet. Bahl's work, called the Paleo-osteological Bike Rack, focuses on how prehistoric skeletons, while taken for granted as science, can evolve into works of art. When the individual bones are joined in a united effort, a skeleton becomes the ultimate functioning mechanism, or in this case, a whimsical bike rack.
Michael Bahl's concept for a bike rack.
To introduce new audiences to Arab-American arts, Mizna will launch Arab America at Home, a series of cultural events highlighting how the Arab-American experience is an innate part of the American landscape. St. Paul residents, for example, will be able to meet Arab writers at a literary picnic, watch an Arab film outdoors at Meers Park or take part in a community dialogue at a local bar or cafe, and more. Mizna hopes to undo pervasive stereotypes of Arabs and to gather St. Paul residents together to reflect on intersecting experiences of identity, self-expression and creativity.
Recipient: MN Spoken Word Association
To celebrate the city through spoken word, this challenge winner will create a literal tapestry of poems written by residents in 10 of the city’s rapidly growing neighborhoods. During the association’s annual festival, neighborhood teams with the assistance of professionals will create a poem that represents their community. Each team will take part in a screen-printing session where their poem is printed onto fabric for their tapestry square. The original textiles will be stitched together. A digital image will be made so that the poem can be shown publicly. Each year a new square will be added to the tapestry to show its evolution.
Recipient: Mu Performing Arts
To bring the voices of the Twin Cities’ immigrant communities to the forefront, Mu Performing Arts will work with artist Masanari Kawahara to create an original play about the 21st century immigrant experience. Kawahara is himself an immigrant who has shared his own stories through his art. The play will include puppetry, masks and movement – the hallmarks of Kawahara’s distinct theatrical style. Kawahara will gather stories from St. Paul residents for the script, and train participants in movement and basic puppetry, assisted by Mu’s teaching artists.
Recipient: Nautilus Music -Theater
To become a major resource in the renaissance of the neighborhood of Lowertown in St. Paul, Nautilus Music-Theater will use its new, street-level space to more deeply engage the public in the arts by expanding its Rough Cuts Series, which involves monthly readings of new works followed by a conversation with the audience. Funding will increase the number of readings, support new works, and help promote the events to the community and more.
Recipient: Ragamala Dance Company
Inspired by the festival of Navaratri, Ragamala will invite the greater St. Paul community to a public gathering. In South India, Navaratri (the festival of nine nights) is an occasion for communities to come together in one another’s homes, an intimate way of sharing art among families and friends. With challenge funding, Ragamala will transform the Landmark Center’s Weyerhaeuser Auditorium into a South Indian living room filled with traditional displays of art and food. Artists from the Indian community will present short performances, and any guest who wishes to participate—youth and adults of all cultures and backgrounds, celebrated artists alongside people who have never performed in public—will be invited to share his or her art.
Recipient: Rogue Citizen /Free Range Music Cooperative
To celebrate and strengthen St. Paul hip-hop, Free Range Music Cooperative and Rogue Citizen artist collective will produce an event series celebrating the genre’s elements and history. Titled CULTURE, the series will feature established visual, performance and recording artists while remaining accessible to artists and fans of all backgrounds and ages. This arts and music series highlights an underexposed subculture in and of St. Paul and prioritizes the creators’ agency in how they are portrayed and how the events are organized.
Recipient: Saint Paul Public Schools and Partners
To encourage creative expression, Gallery 65 will present high-quality, student-produced art and events to the public within Saint Paul’s Creative Arts School. The existing space opens onto a highly trafficked street through a wall of windows visible to pedestrians and drivers alike. Students will not just create the art but learn career skills including how to set up a show, market an event and more. The project is part of an overall renovation of the middle and high school that includes turning an unused pool into a performance space and new music and recording studios.
Recipient: Science Museum of Minnesota
To help students more deeply explore race and racism, the museum and Penumbra Theatre Company will use theater workshops to extend the impact of the museum’s exhibition, “RACE: Are We So Different?” This interdisciplinary experience will explore the distinctions between what science tells us about race (which has changed significantly over the past decade); the history and ramifications of race as a social construct; and the day-to-day experience of race in contemporary America. The workshops, which will take place once the acclaimed exhibition returns from a national tour in 2015, will offer a unique opportunity for students to think and feel deeply about issues within a safe space for learning and exploration.
Recipient: Shades of Yellow
To build the Hmong/ Asian Pacific Island (HAPI) LGBTQ artist community, Shades of Yellow will open a studio where artists can create, perform and receive support to creatively share their stories. Often HAPI LGBTQ artists have to compartmentalize themselves, being an artist in one space, LGBTQ in a separate space, and HAPI in yet another. This compartmentalization thwarts creativity and community. Shades of Yellow will provide a space and a leadership project that celebrates the intersection of these identities and empowers these artists to lead others to find their voices, explore their identities and creatively share their stories with the world.
Recipient: Silvia Pontaza
To make art more accessible to the Latino Community, radio host Silvia Pontanza will create “Coco’s Latinidad Art Radio Review,” a show and podcast that explains the arts in layman terms for Latinos unaccustomed to the St. Paul arts scene. Moving between English and Spanish, the show will integrate radio skits, interviews, contests, visiting guest artists and reviews, finding a thread that helps a novice take a leap of faith in experiencing the arts. The heart of the show will be Coco, a radio personality Pontaza developed during her time on a popular variety show in Guatemala City.
Recipient: Stahl Construction Company
To preserve the legacy of St. Paul’s architecture, Stahl Construction Company will restore some of the historic company signs that distinguish the Lowertown neighborhood. Some two dozen signs in Lowertown from the 19th to mid-20th centuries were painted by professionals commonly called “wall dogs” directly onto the brick walls of commercial buildings. These signs advertised everything from a cigar factory to carriages and stocks. Stahl Construction will select for restoration and conservation a number of these historic signs from Lowertown’s commercial past.
Recipient: Sumunar Indonesian Music and Dance
To introduce local audiences to Indonesian shadow puppet plays, known as wayang kulit, Sumunar will collaborate with Green T Productions, a local theatre/dance company, to create a Minnesota version. With the Sumunar Gamelan Ensemble providing the energizing musical accompaniment, the traditional form will have a strong local twist, with both shadow puppetry and live acting used for a play derived from history, current events and well-known characters, and generously infused with humor. (Imagine, for example, Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox, riding on the new Green Line.) The result will be an entertainment for all ages.
Recipient: Sweet 317
To expand on Lowertown’s interactive art offerings, Sweet 317, a live/work space focused on art-forward events, will offer an intimate music series. The events will combine the visual arts with musical performances in a living room-meets-gallery environment. Organizers hope the series will bring people together to connect with artists in surprising ways.
Recipient: The Baroque Room
To showcase Saint Paul’s classical music scene, The Baroque Room will present performances in art gallery spaces during the October, 2015 Saint Paul Art Crawl. The performances, which will feature a host of local classical music organizations, will aim to showcase the wide variety of classical groups and upcoming performances in the city, and introduce residents to new organizations. All events will be free.
Recipient: The Bindery Projects
To ensure St. Paul is part of the national discourse on contemporary art, The Bindery Projects, an artist-run exhibition space, will showcase prominent local and national artists over the course of two years. The two-year-old space sees itself as a platform where conversations on contemporary art that are happening internationally can become localized. Challenge funding will help the space expand its mission and feature those interested in how art can stimulate social change, blurring the lines between high art, community art and art-based activism.
Recipient: The Winding Sheet Outfit
To infuse a sense of magic and wonder into theater, The Winding Sheet Outfit will transform a 10-by-10-foot pavilion tent into a versatile but tiny theater. The space will be the setting for several five- to ten-minute pieces – providing curious performances for up to eight audience members at a time. Meanwhile, the outside waiting area will have a vintage carnival-type atmosphere. The organizers seek to surprise audience members with a quieter, more personal experience that evokes a moment of unexpected discovery. Jazz Festival Expands (pictured above)
Recipient: Twin Cities Jazz Festival
To increase audiences for jazz, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival will use challenge funding to add three stages in Saint Paul and bring in top national acts. Launched in 1999 to a crowd of 3,000, the festival has since grown to more than 30,000 people in a free, three-day event based in Lowertown’s Mears Park. In 2015, two new stages in the St. Paul Saints’ Lowertown Ballpark will feature headliners from New Orleans and also Minnesota’s finest jazz artists. A third stage will open in 2016 in historic Rice Park, helping the festival to further expand its footprint and increase attendance.
Recipient: Unify University!
To celebrate cultural unity, the Unify University Community Parade will commission artists to build giant street puppets for its annual event. The 5-year-old parade is a celebration of pride and power for the diverse areas at the eastern end of University Avenue, including the longtime African-American neighborhoods in Rondo and the Asian and other immigrant communities of Frogtown. Artists will lead neighborhood kids and their parents in group art projects that will be used in the event.
Recipient: Walker West Music Academy
To bring jazz music back to Selby Avenue, the Walker West Music Academy will offer a free concert series at its new music center. Beginning in 2015, the monthly events will take place in the center’s new 100-seat performance venue, and will feature Twin Cities and national artists performing in all-ages concerts. Organizers believe the series will bring critically needed arts and cultural programming to a stretch of Selby Avenue in need of redevelopment.
Recipient: Wonderlust Productions
To provide a behind-the-scenes peak of the state Capitol, Wonderlust Productions will stage a community-driven play with music and dance about – and at – the State Capitol. The play will be created using stories shared by a diverse cross-section of people who work at the Capitol, including politicians, staffers, reporters and others. It will be produced and performed by a mixture of Capitol workers and professionals. The performance will explore the place and people that translate civic life into action and keep the wheels of state government turning each day, while also offering participants an opportunity to share their stories, dreams, challenges and victories.
To engage Green Line LRT commuters, the WorkHorse Coffee Bar will create and curate the “smallest museum in St. Paul” inside a vintage fire-hose cabinet outside its establishment. While pedestrian traffic is expected to climb with the new light rail line, the coffee bar plans to commission artists to transform the outdoor cabinet on a monthly basis into a micro-museum. Organizers envision the site as a space for humor, engagement, reaction and sidewalk discourse.
To meld the musical and culinary arts, composer Ben Houge will create five musical works designed to partner with meal courses prepared by five local chefs. This “food opera” will be served to diners at Studio Z in downtown St. Paul in spring 2016. Each work will be recorded and made available to restaurants to be used to accompany featured dishes. Works will also be available for download on Zeitgeist’s website, along with recipes for the dishes they accompany.