Knight Foundation's $19.25M a shot in the arm for Detroit arts, culture

By Mark Stryker

Detroit’s arts and culture scene has received a $19.25 million dollar vote of confidence from the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. And that windfall is no accident.

Foundation officials said that Knight’s Detroit initiative is a direct result of an entrepreneurial spirit that’s driving innovation at all levels of the cultural community, from individuals and grassroots collectives to the legacy institutions like the Detroit Institute of Arts and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

“We feel the energy here,” said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation vice president for arts, who noted that the city has become a magnet for young artists and a cause célèbre of the international art world.

The Knight Foundation has been a longtime funder of cultural initiatives in Detroit, but foundation officials said the collective vitality of the cultural scene, the quality of art being produced in the city and the resiliency displayed by Detroit’s cultural institutions during the recession — especially the undiminished drive to seek out and nurture new audiences — led directly to the new investment.

“You cannot do this just anyplace,” said foundation president Alberto Ibargüen.

The foundation’s unique two-pronged initiative includes just over $10 million earmarked mostly for endowments at seven large- and medium-size metro Detroit cultural institutions ranging from the Detroit Institute of Arts to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. The money is targeted for community engagement and audience building.




About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit