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

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    O, Miami accepting proposals for 2016 poetry festival

    Oct. 9, 2015, 8 a.m., Posted by Melody Santiago Cummings

    Melody Santiago Cummings is operations manager for O, Miami, an organization that promotes literary culture in Greater Miami and receives Knight Foundation support. Photo by Michael D. Bolden on Flickr.

    O, Miami is now accepting proposals for events and projects to take place during our next festival in April 2016.

    Each year, we try to adopt more and more sophisticated strategies for delivering a poem to every single person in Greater Miami. This year, we’re using our open submission period to target three communities outside of the downtown core that we feel we haven’t done enough in: West Kendall, Hialeah, and Opa-locka.

    “Each of these communities has an exciting combination of people, history, and leaders, and we’re thrilled to see what kinds of ideas Miamians have for creating poetry in these communities,” says O, Miami Director P. Scott Cunningham.

    The 2015 festival reached more people and communities in Miami-Dade County than ever before. Our “in-person” audience was 15 percent higher than in 2014. Based on surveys, we reached 49 out of 72 ZIP codes in Miami-Dade County, and we received 3,304 “ZIP odes” from 187 different South Florida ZIP codes. That’s not even taking into account the impressions from such projects as our intervention on the side of the InterContinental Miami hotel downtown (estimated at just shy of 2 million impressions during April) and the Steve Powers mural on the side of The Carlton Hotel on South Beach, nor does it take into the account the many other projects from 2014, including the poems we hid inside magazines at hair salons, the 1700 “poetry popsicles” we handed out and the poems we gold-leafed onto urinals.

    But we can still do better. O, Miami is working with leaders in West Kendall, Hialeah, and Opa-locka to bring more of the festival to their communities. Ideas for events and projects in these three places will be given priority during the proposal review process, but any idea that offers effective and novel ways to bridge the gap between poetry and people will be seriously considered.

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    New Voices theater series gives Philadelphia's youngest playwrights a stage

    Oct. 9, 2015, 6 a.m., Posted by Chip Schwartz

    Despite what its name might imply, Philadelphia Young Playwrights isn’t solely focused on developing the next generation of dramatists. Instead, the Knight Arts grantee uses the process of writing scripts and bringing stage productions to life as a means of instilling a love of learning in elementary, middle school and high school students. By engaging local youth, their families and the larger community in the creation and performance of live theater pieces, Philadelphia Young Playwrights helps its students develop important skills like literacy, collaboration, creativity and responsibility.

    Started in 1987 by Adele Magner, Philadelphia Young Playwrights has been helping students take their ideas from the classroom to the stage ever since. Its core program is classroom-based: an artistic team, comprised of a classroom teacher and a theater professional, leads students to develop original content. At a minimum, participants write one scene, but many students complete an entire one-act play.

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    Five lessons for cities from Copenhagen

    Oct. 8, 2015, 1:16 p.m., Posted by Lilly Weinberg

    Photos by Kyle Kutuchief on

    2015 Copenhagen Study Tour via 8 80s Cities on YouTube

    Exceptional. Life-changing. Inspiring. Transformative.

    Those are just some of the adjectives used by our Knight community leaders who joined us on the 8 80 Cities Trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, recently. I couldn’t agree with them more. I feel energized and excited by the potential work we can do together in Columbus, Ga., Gulfport, Miss., Grand Forks, N.D., Lexington, Ky., Long Beach, Calif., and Tallahassee and West Palm Beach, Fla. The hard part, though, is still in front of us: We need to take the theory and learning from the trip and make them a reality in our communities. It won’t be easy, but if anyone can execute, it’s the group of leaders who joined me in Copenhagen.   

    I learned so many things, and – this was tough – I have condensed my roughly one thousand lessons into my top five. Here they are:

    Lilly’s Top Five

    No. 5. Detail and Quality Matter: When it comes to building public space, Copenhagen does an extraordinary job of paying attention to the details and quality. The city beautifully incorporates the interests and backgrounds of the community. They design public spaces that promote  interaction and play for all ages. Yes, that’s right. Playgrounds for adults too! And why not? The city also understands the importance of the edges of spaces. The placement of a cafe or restaurant (instead of a bank or office) facing a public space activates it even more. How? More eyes will be on the park, allowing the public to feel safer. And, let’s face it; we all love to people watch (there’s data to back this up). On top of these important details, Copenhagen always opts for top-notch materials in its  public spaces. Quality helps spaces to last longer and residents to take more pride in them.

    No. 4. Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure: This is fairly self-explanatory; for transformational change, there must be infrastructure investments. Period. In particular, if you want residents to bike, then you must build protected bike lanes. Yes, that’s right; they must be protected or don’t bother doing it. And on top of that, there must be a connected network. Cities can start small with the network and expand, but the emphasis must be on connecting important nodes. This could include your city’s schools, parks, libraries and the business district. And equity for the people who live in the city must be a priority for designing this connected infrastructure.

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