KnightBlog

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

Arts
Nov 19, 2015

Announcing the finalists in the Knight Arts Challenge Akron

Posted by Bahia Ramos and Kyle Kutuchief

Bahia Ramos is arts program director and Kyle Kutuchief is Akron program director at Knight Foundation. Photo: Ape, a screen printer coming to the 7th annual Crafty Mart; photo by Daniel Lozada.

‚ÄčThis post has been updated to reflect that winners will be announced in March 2016. 

Our first Knight Arts Challenge Akron launched just four short months ago, opening up opportunities for anyone with a great arts idea to make their contribution to the city’s cultural growth. Residents did not disappoint with their tremendous response. Today we’re excited to share the finalists of the inaugural Akron Knight Arts Challenge: 58 ideas, chosen from more than 540 submissions from neighborhoods across the Akron community and Northeast Ohio region.

The finalists represent a broad range of themes, and are all eager to build and strengthen the local arts ecosystem. Whether using Akron’s natural landscape as a canvas for visual art, or leveraging non-traditional spaces for sharing different artistic expressions, finalists are seeking to make high-quality arts experiences more widespread and put the arts at the top of everyone’s mind. The ideas reflect Akron’s diversity, imaginative thinking and desire to engage new audiences in the development of the region’s cultural voice.

We will announce the winners in March 2016, once the finalists’ proposals are reviewed by a panel of local artists and arts advocates. Please join me in congratulating the finalists, and thank you to all who submitted ideas. We are looking forward to celebrating with you in the spring.

Knight Arts Challenge Akron Finalists 2015

Akron Art Museum

Introducing new audiences to collecting art by starting an art rental program, where any resident with a library card can check out works to display in their home

Akron Civic Theatre

Exploring the art of songwriting by hosting a weeklong summer songwriters workshop for Akron residents

Akron Community Foundation, Akron Digital Media Center and Akronist.com

Highlighting Akron’s local talent and the city’s history through a video series that showcases performance artists in famous Akron locations

Akron Roundtable

Exploring the role of arts in building community by bringing artist Theaster Gates to speak in Akron and meet with artists and entrepreneurs in 2016

Akron Street Art Project

Creating a cohesive arts district in Akron through a new organization focused on saturating the area with public art

Akron Urban League

Bringing more art into the community by creating a showcase where performers can compete several times a year at the Urban League for cash prizes

BLU Jazz+ Akron

Bringing training to local jazz musicians through a series of master class workshops at BLU Jazz+ led by top musicians

Brianna Kelly

Making art accessible by transforming an old cigarette machine into a dispenser for local arts and craft goods

Carolyn Behrman 

Exploring local stories by using recordings of local residents collected by the Akron Story Circle Project to inspire artists in designing a public art project

Center for Applied Drama and Autism

Providing audiences with a greater understanding of the challenges facing people with autism with a theater experience that shows what life is like on the spectrum

Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture/ New World Performance Laboratory

Providing a platform for experimental performance by launching PLAY! the Akron International Festival of Alternative Theater

Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture and Summit Historical Society

Telling the story of Goosetown, once Akron’s German neighborhood, by presenting a new production based on its stories of perseverance

Chad Mason

Offering creative opportunities with a public-access glass studio that offers rental space for experienced artists and workshops for those eager to learn

Charles Beneke

Creating FEED, an artist-run contemporary art collaborative working to construct a better, healthier, more dynamic future for Akron

Crafty Mart

Strengthening the creative community with a series of evening educational events for artist entrepreneurs and creative business people


The Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University.

Developing Alternatives for Women in New Communities (DAWN)

Helping Bhutanese refugees strengthen their craft of knitting by teaching them how to better make and market their works

Diane Davis-Sikora

Enlivening downtown by building a public art program based on 2011 Guggenheim Fellow Kasumi’s exhibition “The Optics of Memory,” a multimedia piece about the formation of memory and collective consciousness

Downtown Akron Partnership

Demonstrating the power of art and play by bringing together local artists with technologists to project 3-D animation on downtown buildings

DT Visions

Bringing together a diverse group of women in a series of workshops where they will create artistic pieces that reflect their individual life visions and goals

Dylan Yellowless

Fostering the next generation of musicians by bringing the Girls Rock Camp summer camp, where girls 10-16 write and perform songs, to Akron

East Akron Neighborhood Development Corp.

Immersing teens in urban design by having them transform vacant lots in East Akron through public art

Fairlawn School of Music

Preparing students for careers by creating an internship program that helps local musicians and artists manage their logistics and organizational challenges

Geometry Global

Celebrating Akron arts and ingenuity by inviting artists and creatives to participate in a floatable art parade along the Towpath Trail

Greater Akron Musical Association

Activating a space for artists by turning the Akron Symphony’s garage bay into a stage for local musicians to perform in open-mic events and jam sessions

GroundWorks DanceTheater

Providing a flexible space for arts programming for individual artists and small to mid-size organizations by rehabbing a former manufacturing space in downtown

Heart to Heart Family Support Center

Providing a vehicle for self-expression through creative dance classes for at-risk children ages 8 to 15

Highland Square Neighborhood Association

Telling Akron stories through a film festival of local works that will take place the night before the Porch Rokr Music and Art Festival

Highland Square Neighborhood Association

Bringing art into the community by hosting workshops, on everything from painting to music and storytelling, in laundromats where people can learn and enjoy a communal experience

International Institute of Akron

Preserving oral storytelling traditions by creating a printed international storybook with works from the Nepalese, Burmese, Karen and Mon refugee communities

International Institute of Akron

Celebrating Akron’s diversity by pairing native Akronites with newly arrived immigrants and refugees to create multilingual, multicultural performances that will tour the city

International Institute of Akron

Showcasing the work of the local immigrant community by connecting them with local fashion designers to create couture gowns that reflect their culture for presentation in a fashion show

Jennifer Kay Jeter

Documenting the stories of Akron’s African-American community through three original plays written by Jennifer Kay Jeter

Kasota Artist Management

Supporting the work of grassroots artists by launching the Akron Train, a series of refurbished rail cars that will be turned into housing, galleries and studio space


Katie Beck

Illustrating the rich history of the Nepali-American population in North Hill with a bilingual variety show featuring art, dance and music

Keepers of the Art

Strengthening a podcast called Beats, Rhymes and Race, which examines racism and its impact on hip-hop

Kent State University

Promoting a greater knowledge of Muslim culture by presenting a three-year series on art in the Muslim world

Mary E. Ciesa

Bringing an inspirational story to the stage by turning a children’s book, “Dina Prima the Ballerina,” into a ballet that is performed in the community

Ma’Sue/The Oatman Players

Sharing the classics of the African-American theatrical canon with “The Black Essentials Series”

Neos Dance Theatre

Engaging new audiences by bringing together classically trained ballet dancers with local hip-hop dancers, graffiti artists and urban/pop musicians to create new work

Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition

Bringing new life to the darkened underpasses and tunnels along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail by transforming them with murals, artistic lighting and sculptures

Ohio Conservatory

Inspiring a passion for music and the arts by offering intensive music classes to Akron students in preschool through first grade

Proyecto Raices

Creating “Somos Akron,” a theater piece that incorporates Hispanic music and dance performed by local children

Richard Rogers

Activating unused storefronts in downtown Akron with multimedia art installations that showcase local and regional artists

Shane Wynn

Producing a series of photographic portraits of a cross section of women leaders in Akron set against the backdrop of underused public spaces, as a way to celebrate their accomplishments while empowering them to improve the city’s landscape

Singers Companye

Fostering a love of choral music in the next generation by offering a high-quality, free after-school choral program

Testa Companies

Strengthening the Northside Arts District by creating an outdoor art gallery with digital projections on the side of buildings and yearlong displays of visual art mounted outdoors

Wandering Aesthetics

Providing a platform for Akron’s artists through the Breadbox, a quarterly cabaret show of local talent that will travel to different neighborhoods

Weathervane Playhouse

Engaging Akron through theater by expanding the playhouse’s outreach program to include a playwriting program at two urban high schools

The American Toy Marble Museum

Celebrating Akron as the birthplace of the world’s first mass-produced toy – the clay marble – with an interactive, kinetic public sculpture of a marble railway in Lock 3 Park

The Cappies (Critics and Awards Program for High School Students)

Building the next generation of art critics by having local newspapers train high school theater and journalism students in writing reviews, and then honoring the best work at an awards show

The Lippman School

Enriching cultural knowledge through the creation of “Arts on the Ancient Path,” an effort to bring attention to the Portage Path, an ancient Indian trail once the western boundary of the United States

The Nightlight Cinema

Improving the cinema experience by purchasing equipment that will allow the Nightlight to create broadcast-quality content, including Skype-based Q&A sessions with directors and filmmakers, high-quality pre-show content, promotional materials and more

The Nightlight Cinema

Building community through film with a “Nightlight Cinema Explorers” program where high schoolers learn to think critically about movies


Akron musicians (from left) Brian Connell, Dan Wilson and Theron Brown. Photo by Paul Bynum.

Theron Brown

Building on Akron’s musical legacy by launching a downtown jazz festival that features local and national talent

Tuesday Musical Association

Cultivating new audiences for classical music by partnering with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center on a new series that leads attendees through the history and evolution of chamber music

University of Akron

Fostering collaboration among artists, engineers and scientists through the creation of a lab where they can work across boundaries, experiment and innovate

University of Akron Myers School of Art

Creating an “Art Bomb Brigade,” a traveling group of artists that visits neighborhoods in need of a facelift and engages the community in painting murals

Wick Poetry Center

Sharing the voices of Akron by enabling residents to submit a short video of an original poem, a selection of which will be displayed on posters on local buses and in public spaces

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