Knight Blog

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

How Knight Arts helps build community by binding people to place

Sept. 28, 2012, 12:34 p.m., Posted by Dennis Scholl

Knight Foundation believes the arts help build community by binding people to place and to each other. Done with excellence, the arts inspire and connect people.

Our grantmaking strategy in the arts has four initiatives:

  • Creative Placemaking
  • Making Art General
  • Institutional Reform
  • Spurring Innovation

The strategy is carried across Knight’s eight resident communities but is implemented in varying landscapes. Here’s a snapshot of the arts sector in each:

  • Akron: Akron has a history of developing established arts institutions however, the organizations have struggled financially. The City of Akron has played a significant role in supporting culture, specifically in developing summer programming as well as increasing programs in neighborhoods such as downtown. Recently, the city has faced financial challenges which put many of its arts programs at risk of budgetary cuts. Despite the financial challenges, Akron hosts a significant dance program at the University of Akron as well as dance programming through the city. Akron is also home to an excellent modern art collection, at the Akron Art Museum
  • Detroit: Detroit’s arts institutions are beginning to show signs of bloom after a long decline. Despite the economic challenges, or perhaps because of opportunities derived from those challenges, individual artists and small arts groups have thrived. Detroit is also home to several longstanding arts institutions that have remained resilient and innovative through the many changes faced in the last half a century. These artists and arts institutions are building a strong network, seeking to reestablish Detroit through sustainable communities rooted in creative solutions.

Knight Foundation’s National Program strategy

Sept. 28, 2012, 11:42 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation's National portfolio fosters informed and engaged communities by discovering and spreading civic innovations, with the transformative goal of igniting active citizenship. This leads to more resilient communities, where residents have more control over their destinies.

We work in the eight “resident” Knight communities, but also in 18 “non-resident” communities through partnerships with their community foundations.

Informed and Engaged

Here's a look at how the national portfolio advances full, active, participatory citizenship:

  • Tech for EngagementExplore online tools for offline engagement, our Tech for Engagement initiative began in 2010 and is now hitting its stride. It supports projects that experiment with ways people can engage with each other and take action on issues that they care about.
  • Universal Broadband AccessKnight believes that no citizen should be left behind in having convenient access to the Internet.
  • Public Libraries: Knight believes public libraries are essential 21st century democratic institutions. Our funding of them focuses on access; digital skill development; content creation and engagement hubs.
  • Soul of the CommunityWe strengthen and leverage the passion and loyalty residents have to the place they live, and create environments in which engagement thrives. Three years of research by Gallup for Knight discovered that openness, social offerings, and aesthetics drive attachment to communities. Knight is developing the next phase of its Soul work now.

An experiment: Journalists at a convention take time to engage with the community

Sept. 28, 2012, 8:18 a.m., Posted by Eric Newton

A week ago, I helped moderate an experimental discussion between South Florida residents and a group of journalists from all over America. Why? Because a big gathering – the joint convention of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio and Television Digital News Association – had come to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the journalists wanted to hear what community leaders had to say about the news media.

The “community engagement lunch” was worthwhile and long overdue. Community members learned about the daily realities journalists face. They learned both organizations have strong codes of ethics. The journalists learned that community members have longstanding issues that are not being dealt with - yet anyone who seeks credibility as a source of news and information must address them.

We started by looking at the Knight Commission on Information Needs of Communities. Did community members and journalists agree that news and information are core community needs? They did. Had they noticed the digital-age explosion of traditional media’s advertising-based model and the resulting local journalism cutbacks? They had.

Then we got into it. Here are the major topic areas:

Real names on news websites

Community members said they do not leave comments on media websites because of all of the anonymous hate speech there. Why, I asked, do news organizations allow anonymity on the web? The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics says journalists should “always question sources’ motives before granting anonymity.” Says the Radio and Television Digital News Association code: “identify sources whenever possible.” Yet many news organizations do precisely the opposite. They never question the motives of the people who comment on their websites and then all of them remain anonymous. They do not “identify sources whenever possible.” So… what is the point of having a code of ethics if we then ignore it?