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

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    MAXimum impact: Vehicle brings together research, community and the arts in Charlotte, N.C.

    Oct. 9, 2015, 1 p.m., Posted by José Gamez

    José Gamez is associate professor of urban design in the College of Arts + Architecture at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He and Assistant Professor of Theater CarlosAlexis Cruz developed the concept for the Mobile Arts & Community Experience – or MAX – as a multiuse mobile venue to bring people together and invigorate the cultural landscape across the Charlotte region. MAX is supported by Knight Foundation

    The new academic year is in full swing and MAX, the Mobile Arts & Community Experience, is about to roll back into action. MAX’s performances last spring on both the Levine Avenue of the Arts and on campus successfully launched one side of our two-fold mission to extend the reach of the College of Arts + Architecture. Now, as we settle into the fall term, MAX is preparing to take on its role as a pop-up community engagement space — the second side of our two-fold mission. That mission involves mobilizing arts-based practices (such as theater and community design) as a means of engaging communities where they are, as a means of empowering community voice, and as a vehicle for positive social change. 

    Carlos Cruz’s blog post from April pointed to the role that theater can play as both a creative and as a transformative social act. So, last spring, MAX opened its “stage facade,” which unfolded to showcase the theater department’s role in our growing community engagement efforts. This fall, MAX will once again open for performances, as part of the Mini Maker Faire—also supported by Knight Foundation—on Charlotte’s North Tryon Street on Oct. 10. But MAX will also open its other facade to create an outdoor/pop-up lab or classroom environment in support of our Community Planning Workshop, a graduate-level course for community planning and urban design students in which they engage with real communities in partnerships that seek to create positive change in our local landscapes. We call this “action research” – a reflective form of research that involves active partnerships with community agents engaged in scholarly activities while addressing civically meaningful challenges.

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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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