Knight Foundation

Knight Arts Challenge Winners

These 40 Knight Arts Challenge winners are helping to make art general in St. Paul, bringing it more deeply into the city's neighborhoods and engaging and enriching the lives of the people who live there.

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  • Production Draws Parallels Between Reconstruction and Contemporary Injustice

    Recipient: Brownbody

    Award: $70,000

    Aim: Drawing parallels between the Reconstruction era and today’s social justice movements with a new production that combines figure skating, Afro-modern dance, live vocals and Ida B. Wells’ speeches.

  • Flamenco Processions Energize St. Paul Streets

    Recipient: Deborah Elias Danza Española

    Award: $5,000

    Aim: Bringing festivity to the east and west sides through a traveling flash mob of flamenco singers and dancers creating Christmas and spring processions.

  • Roving Performance to Take Over Lowertown

    Recipient: Flying Foot Forum

    Award: $30,000

    Aim: Bringing the community together with Dancing Through the Streets, a roving, summer adventure where the audience travels to performances at six Lowertown locations, culminating in a group song and dance party.

  • Program Develops Bharatanatyam Dancers

    Recipient: Kala Vandanam Dance Company

    Award: $20,000

    Aim: Elevating young, high-potential Bharatanatyam dancers through opportunities to participate in an original, professional ensemble production titled “Ritu: The Seasons”.


  • Hmong Films Take Over Silver Screen

    Recipient: In Progress

    Award: $20,000

    Aim: Bringing Hmong voices to the silver screen through Qhia Dab Neeg, a two-day Hmong film festival at Metropolitan State University.

  • A New Digital Cinema Theater for St. Paul

    Recipient: Metropolitan State University Screenwriting Program

    Award: $30,000

    Aim: Serving film artists and building community by creating Film Space, a state-of-the art digital cinema theater on the campus of Metropolitan State University.

  • Legacy of Gordon Parks to Engage Young Black Men in Media and Art-making

    Recipient: SoulTouch Productions

    Award: $50,000

    Aim: Engaging young black males in the arts through a fellows program that teaches photography, music, visual arts, filmmaking and writing in the tradition of the legendary media-maker, artist and humanitarian Gordon Parks.

  • Twin Cities Film Fest Offers Year-Round Programming

    Recipient: Twin Cities Film Fest

    Award: $30,000

    Aim: Expanding the geographic footprint of the film festival through year-round events and screenings of nationally recognized independent films in new St. Paul venues.


  • Local Artists Bring Works to Transit

    Recipient: Arcata Press/St. Paul Almanac

    Award: $45,000

    Aim: Bringing dynamic art into neighborhoods by combining the work of local poets and visual artists on posters in trains and buses.

  • Coffee Sleeve Conversations Come to St. Paul

    Recipient: Coffee House Press

    Award: $5,000

    Aim: Fostering community conversations on race and the arts in St. Paul through the production and distribution of coffee cup sleeves featuring the words of St. Paul writers of color.

  • Spoken Word Events to Pop Up Around St. Paul

    Recipient: Cracked Walnut

    Award: $25,000

    Aim: Creating community in different spaces throughout St. Paul by staging more than 50 spoken literature events with local writers and music ensembles.

  • Art Engages Seniors in Creative Enterprise Zone

    Recipient: Naomi Cohn

    Award: $10,000

    Aim: Building community and increasing the well-being of older adults by engaging a professional writer to conduct high-quality arts activities with seniors in St. Paul’s Creative Enterprise Zone.

  • Floating Library Heads to Lake Phalen

    Recipient: Sarah Peters

    Award: $10,000

    Aim: Bringing one-of-a-kind, artist-made books to people paddling on Lake Phalen through a custom floating library.


  • All-Ice Instrument Ensemble Debuts at Winter Carnival

    Recipient: Erik Barsness

    Award: $25,000

    Aim: Stretching ideas of what music can be by creating a set of percussion instruments from ice and using them to play new compositions during the 2017 Winter Carnival.

  • Public Gets Hand at Music-Making

    Recipient: Greg Herriges

    Award: $5,000

    Aim: Engaging the public in music-making by placing handmade, crank-operated music boxes that play original compositions in public spaces.

  • Baseball Signals Become Art in Percussion Performance

    Recipient: Mary Ellen Childs

    Award: $25,000

    Aim: Finding the musicality in baseball through a virtuosic, percussion performance that is influenced by real-life baseball signals and plays from St. Paul Saints coaches and players.

  • “Pirates of Penzance” Gets Gender-Bending Staging

    Recipient: One Voice Mixed Chorus

    Award: $60,000

    Aim: Presenting a gender-bending production of the “Pirates of Penzance,” staged outdoors on St. Paul’s Raspberry Island.

  • World-class Musician Combines Talents with 100 Community Flutists

    Recipient: The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

    Award: $50,000

    Aim: Combining the talents of a 100-member community-sourced flute chorus and MacArthur Fellow and world-class flutist Claire Chase in a special performance of Salvatore Sciarrino’s “Cutting the Circle of Sounds”


  • People of Color at Center of Shakespeare Remake

    Recipient: Alberto Justiniano

    Award: $45,000

    Aim: Building trust between St. Paul’s immigrant communities by remaking Shakepeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” from the perspective of the Latino Garcias versus the Hmong Vang family.

  • Production Explores How Theater Changes Lives

    Recipient: Full Circle Theater Company

    Award: $5,000

    Aim: Exploring, through a new production, how theater has changed the lives of diverse St. Paul artists and how, in turn, these artists have shaped the theater community.

  • Students and Professionals Participate in Spoken-Word Events

    Recipient: Heather (Desdamona) Ross

    Award: $20,000

    Aim: Celebrating the spoken word by bringing together the voices of students with those of professional artists and poets in a series of readings and workshops.

  • Hmong Storytelling Traditions Shared

    Recipient: Hmong Museum

    Award: $20,000

    Aim: Preserving the art of Hmong storytelling by hosting a series of public events that share a range of love, ghost, orphan and refugee camp stories.

  • Performance Piece Explores Fear of Water

    Recipient: Robert Karimi

    Award: $50,000

    Aim: Exploring how culture shapes the fear of water with a pool-based performance piece that engages the community to talk about the disproportionate numbers of people of color who cannot swim.

  • Performance Piece Explores Effects of Serious Illnesses

    Recipient: Katie Ka Vang

    Award: $16,000

    Aim: Opening a dialogue around cancer and other serious illnesses through a piece by playwright Katie Ka Vang, based on her experiences with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

  • Mobile Stage Brings Comedy to Neighborhoods

    Recipient: Mobile Comedy Suitcase

    Award: $6,000

    Aim: Creating space for human connection, art-making and joy with a mobile, suitcase-like container that turns into a stage where people can create and share jokes.

  • Telegram Deliveries Become Performance Art

    Recipient: The Theater of Public Policy

    Award: $60,000

    Aim: Turning the entire city into a performance space through delivery of improvisational performance telegrams to offices, parks and homes.

Visual Art

  • New Art Hub Spotlights Work of Latinos

    Recipient: Electric Machete Studios

    Award: $50,000

    Aim: Highlighting the voices of Latinos in St. Paul’s West Side neighborhood by creating an arts hub with studios for music production, visual arts, performance and more.

  • Dakota Culture at Center of Art Project

    Recipient: Healing Place Collaborative

    Award: $35,000

    Aim: Preserving Dakota culture with an artist-created sculptural table that incorporates Dakota place names and cultural information and serves as a focus for discussion and art presentations at public events.

  • Water Tower Gets Stained-Glass Mural Remake

    Recipient: Karl Unnasch

    Award: $50,000

    Aim: Enlivening the Creative Enterprise Zone by transforming a water tower into a beacon wrapped in a backlit, contemporary stained-glass mural.

  • Residencies Explore Racial Justice Through Art-making

    Recipient: Million Artist Movement

    Award: $25,000

    Aim: Exploring racial justice, trauma, and healing with a series of art-making events that culminate in a community-driven exhibition.

  • Bee Real, Bee Everywhere Campaign Highlights Plight of Bees

    Recipient: Public Art Saint Paul

    Award: $115,000

    Aim: Engaging St. Paul residents with the plight of bees through a multidisciplinary, public art project that involves creating bee habitat environments and placing tiny bronze bees in nearby neighborhoods.

  • Lanterns and Mythical Creatures Take Over Frogtown Skyline

    Recipient: Public Domain Productions

    Award: $25,000

    Aim: Creating a community spectacle in the Hamline Midway and Frogtown neighborhoods with a nighttime lantern parade that illuminates the streets with larger-than-life mythical creatures created by local puppet artists and groups.

  • Memories of St. Paul Curated into Virtual Exhibition

    Recipient: The Drawing Project

    Award: $10,000

    Aim: Engaging a global community through the act of drawing with virtual art collaborations that will be curated in local exhibitions.

  • Large-Scale Installation Transforms Walker West’s New Center on Selby Avenue

    Recipient: Walker West Music Academy

    Award: $50,000

    Aim: Transforming the look of Selby Avenue through a large-scale permanent art installation by artist and community activist Ta-coumba Aiken for the exterior of the Academy’s new 6,000-square-foot music center.


  • Little Mekong Night Market Expands

    Recipient: Asian Economic Development Association

    Award: $50,000

    Aim: Transforming the five-block Little Mekong district with an expanded, two-weekend night market that elevates the work of artists.

  • Hmong Festival Provides Elevated Platform for Artists

    Recipient: Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT)

    Award: $30,000

    Aim: Strengthening a platform for Hmong artists of all disciplines by expanding the center’s Hmong Arts and Music Festival, which draws thousands to its annual showcase.

  • Spontaneous Performances Celebrate Frogtown

    Recipient: Dangerous Productions

    Award: $10,000

    Aim: Enlivening Frogtown through a yearlong series of street-level pop-up performances and adventurous educational opportunities.

  • Art to Spur Dialogues on Race

    Recipient: Dayton’s Bluff Community Council

    Award: $25,000

    Aim: Creating powerful, provocative art that reflects the community’s dialogues around racism and catalyzes change in viewpoints and perceptions in the area.

  • Northern Spark Festival Expands to the Green Line

    Recipient: Northern

    Award: $100,000

    Aim: Promoting the Green Line as a creative extension of the community by using the light rail line as the backbone of the 2017 edition of Northern Spark, an all-night, multi-venue arts festival.

  • Rondo Artists Enliven Neighborhood

    Recipient: Springboard for the Arts

    Award: $30,000

    Aim: Bringing together and supporting African-American artists who live and work in Rondo with local businesses and organizations to create small art projects that foster an authentic narrative for the neighborhood.