34 projects to infuse South Florida with art as Knight Arts Challenge winners

MIAMI, Dec. 3, 2012—Bringing art into neighborhoods from Hialeah to Delray Beach, 34 projects received $2.28 million in funding Monday as part of the Knight Arts Challenge.

The challenge – a program of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – is a community-wide contest funding projects that bring South Florida together through the arts.

In addition, Knight Foundation announced earlier this week that it would invest $23 million in new funding to extend the Knight Arts Challenge through 2015 and to support cultural projects at seven South Florida institutions. More information on the new support is available at KnightArts.org.

The 2012 Knight Arts Challenge winners will:

  • Strengthen the performing arts scene, with Indian dance based on Western fairy tales, mentorships for local choreographers and a new black box theater for small performances.

  • Integrate the arts into unexpected places, with musical performances at Miami International Airport and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and theater performances in shipping containers.

  • Celebrate Miami’s diversity by expanding a Haitian music series and a monthly art event in Little Havana, launching a “Reading Queer” literary series and promoting a Hip Hop Symphony.

The full list of winners is below.

In addition, Arts Garage, a Palm Beach collaborative, won the Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice Award, besting five other emerging organizations in a text-to-vote campaign.  Arts Garage can use the $20,000 prize to further its mission.

“Everywhere you go in South Florida we want you to have an encounter with art,” said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation’s vice president for arts. “Knight Arts Challenge winners make it happen by bringing arts to the people, and engaging audiences in ways that delight, challenge and inspire us.”

Each year, since 2008, the challenge has asked everyone in South Florida for their ideas to enhance the South Florida arts. The contest has just three rules: Projects must be about the arts, take place in or benefit South Florida, and match Knight’s funding.

The best ideas receive Knight Foundation funds. Some 6,601 ideas have been received over the past five years. More than half of these ideas came from individuals, businesses, and small organizations that don't have 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. In total, 143 projects have received close to $20 million in funding.

Knight Foundation is extending the contest because of its success: A new, independent evaluation of Knight Foundation’s impact found that the challenge has helped fuel Miami’s cultural scene.  In particular, the challenge has helped small projects with an entrepreneurial spirit take shape. For example: A newly created art-book publishing house, [NAME] Publications, has sold books about Miami artists nationally, and internationally recognized visual artist, Naomi Fisher, is hosting Weird Miami Bus Tours that take visitors to little-known local haunts.

Since 2006, Knight Foundation has invested $86 million in the South Florida arts, including cutting-edge exhibitions at North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art, a new media program that includes the signature “Wallcasts” at the acclaimed New World Symphony campus and bringing every Miami-Dade third grader to the soon-to-open Perez Art Museum Miami on the downtown waterfront.

For more information about the new funding commitment, and about the Knight arts program, visit KnightArts.org.

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. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Knight Arts Challenge Miami: 2012

Bringing Hip-Hop and Cultural Events to Kids

Project: TruSchool Hip-Hop

Recipient: 6th Street Dance Studio/WholeProject

Award: $40,000

The 6th Street Dance Studio’s TruSchool is a free hip-hop program for young people serving Little Havana and Overtown and based on the original elements of hip-hop. With challenge funding, the studio will incorporate house dance, lindy hop, writing and cultural events into its programming, as well as deejaying, emceeing, spoken word and graffiti. The project also will also collaborate with local, national and international performance companies to mentor the program’s participants.

Miami’s nonprofit, professional 6th Street Dance Studio/WholeProject is located in the heart of Little Havana. Directed by professional dancer-choreographer Brigid Baker, the studio is known for its open-air, open-door hospitality and has been home to some of the best professionals in contemporary, urban and commercial dance. Baker ensures that the studio upholds life principles of deep ecology, diversity and greenness. The studio is “dedicated to conquering barriers of racism, sexism, classism and all other forms of small mindedness.”

Introducing Broadway to High School Students

Project: In the Heights for Eighth to Twelfth Graders

Recipient: Actors’ Playhouse Productions


To enrich Miami-Dade Schools eighth- through 12th-grade students, Actors’ Playhouse Productions will make 3,000 seats available to the Tony-winning musical In the Heights, and engage them through a rap-writing contest. Students will prepare with study guides on the show’s plot line and will participate in discussions with the director, actors and creative team to better understand the performance and possibilities for arts careers. Students will then write their own personal or family story that mimics the play’s musical score or is in a style appropriate to their cultural background. Finalists will perform their works at the Miracle Theater.

Actors’ Playhouse is the nonprofit resident theater company and managing agent of the historic Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables. Winner of 75 regional Carbonell Awards for artistic excellence, Actors’ Playhouse is a Florida Presenting Cultural Organization and one of 22 major cultural institutions in Miami-Dade County. In addition to its Mainstage season, Actors’ Playhouse offers Musical Theatre for Young Audiences, a National Children’s Theatre Festival, a theater conservatory and summer camp program, as well as outreach programs for underserved youth. It is led by executive producing director Barbara S. Stein and artistic director David Arisco.

Creating Discussion Around the Visual Arts

Art and Culture Center of Hollywood

Project: Hot Topics Artist Series

Award: $20,000

To foster conversation around the visual arts, the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood will host an ongoing lecture series featuring nationally and internationally recognized artists. Audiences will not only hear the artist’s stories, but learn about the trends influencing the direction of contemporary visual art. The project builds upon the center’s previous Knight Arts Challenge grant that establishes a series of Hot Topics discussions.

The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood is an independent nonprofit that operates visual arts galleries in the 1924 Kagey House, an Art School adjacent to the main facility, and a 500-seat theater in downtown Hollywood. The center, incorporated in 1978, is one of eight organizations designated a Major Cultural Institution by the Broward Cultural Division. Each year, ACCH presents more than a dozen contemporary gallery exhibitions; more than 70 arts-education programs for children and adults; and the free or low-cost Family Performance Series.

Giving a Voice to More Miami Stories

Project: Lip Service: True Stories from all Miami Communities

Recipient: Lip Service

Award: $50,000

To give voice to more Miami stories, Lip Service will create live storytelling performances about personal experiences focused on people who, for a variety of reasons, don’t often have opportunities to tell their stories.  The performances, taking place quarterly at the Miracle Theatre and other community theaters, will be produced in collaboration with local community groups.    

Created by Andrea Askowitz and Esther Martinez, Lip Service gathers, shares and broadcasts true, personal stories from our community. Each quarter, eight stories are chosen from hundreds of submissions. These stories are edited, rehearsed and then read by their authors before a live audience. Through the writing and editing process, the meaning of a life event is crystallized; on stage, personal stories are transformed into art.

Arts Skill Building for High-School Students

Project: ArtWorks

Recipient: Arts for Learning/Miami

Award: $225,000

Arts for Learning/Miami will provide opportunities for high school students to pursue their interests in the arts while learning essential work skills by offering six-week paid summer art internships and apprenticeships. Professional artists will team with students five days a week to focus on a specific art form such as dance, printmaking, painting, graphic design or photography. The program will focus on students from the Miami neighborhoods of Overtown, Wynwood, Little Haiti and Liberty City to help them develop deep appreciation for the arts. Students will also participate in Art Basel Miami Beach, via tours or volunteering.

 Miami’s leading organization dedicated solely to advancing teaching and learning through the arts, Arts for Learning (A4L) works to ensure that the arts are central to the life of every child. Connecting professional visual and performing artists to school, preschool, after-school and summer programs, A4L annually reaches thousands of students, giving them the opportunity to experience and understand an art form, create a work of art, and connect their work to other areas of learning. A4L’s services include teacher and artist professional development, arts integrated instruction, student studio programs, community arts programs and student internships and mentoring.

Developing Local, Contemporary Dancers

Project: Miami Dance Mecca

Recipient: Augusto Soledade Brazzdance

Award: $45,000

To build Miami’s reputation as an emerging center for contemporary dance, the Augusto Soledade Brazzdance company will create new works and help dancers develop professionally. Company classes, master class series, new work and repertory performances will be available to professional and advanced dancers as will internship opportunities. The project seeks to increase the ranks of local professional dancers who remain in Miami to pursue a dance career and simultaneously attract out-of-town dancers into the community.

Augusto Soledade, a native of Bahia, Brazil, is a performer,choreographer and assistant professor in dance at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Fla. He is founder, artistic director and resident choreographer for Augusto Soledade Brazzdance, or Brazz Dance Theater, in Miami.  In the fall of 2012, Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs for the fourth time awarded Soledade the Miami-Dade Choreographer's Fellowship. He also received the 2012 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. He received his M.F.A in dance from SUNY Brockport in 1998.

Mini Theater in a Shipping Container

Project: Microtheater

Recipient: Centro Cultural Español de Cooperación Iberoamericana Miami

Award: $100,000

To bring Spanish theater into the community, Centro Cultural Español de Cooperación Iberoamericana Miami will offer a series of exciting yet short plays to small audiences in a 150-square-foot shipping container. Lasting 15 minutes each, the plays will be presented three times a year in both English and Spanish.  Actors from around the world will be invited to participate as a way to support local creativity and cultural exchange.

CCEMiami’s mission is to contribute, through culture and science, to social and human development in South Florida. It seeks to disseminate information on the breadth and diversity of Spanish culture in Miami, to cooperate with local actors and cultural institutions, and to promote the exchange of cultural ideas, projects and proposals from different countries.

Expanding a Nonprofit Film Arts Center

Project: Coral Gables Art Cinema

Recipient: Coral Gables Cinemateque

Award: $150,000

The Coral Gables Art Cinema, one of South Florida’s leading, first-run alternative movie theaters, will expand to include a number of new components. With challenge funding, the nonprofit arts center will produce a three-day annual event as part of existing family programming, in partnership with the New York International Children’s Film Festival; and launch initiatives to support feature film production and distribution, including visiting director, screenwriter and producer residencies, in conjunction with existing exhibition programs.

Coral Gables Cinemateque Inc. is a nonprofit that presents and supports the media arts in South Florida, primarily by developing and running the two-year old Coral Gables Art Cinema as a venue for alternative film serving the whole community. This state-of-the-art, 141-seat theater is runs seven days a week, presenting premieres of quality American independent and international features that speak to the linguistic and cultural diversity of the region. Most films are not generally available at other venues in South Florida. Also programmed are classic films, family events, educational activities and film festival weeks.

A Creative Hub for Culture in Palm Beach

Project: Arts Garage Jazz Project

Recipient: Creative City Collaborative DBA Arts Garage

Award: $30,000

The Creative City Collaborative will facilitate an exchange of art and ideas by presenting contemporary musical performances, feature films, visual art exhibitions and new theater productions at a Palm Beach collaborative.  The project will continue its signature repertoire series and add special new programming, including performance that will highlight regional emerging artists. Arts Garage will also partner with regional cultural arts organizations to produce new plays and expand its educational programs.

The Arts Garage mission is to build and promote the cultural community that celebrates Delray Beach, and to be the instrument for Delray Beach as the international cultural destination for artists and patrons.

Crowdsourcing Funding for Broward County’s Arts

Project: power2give.org

Recipient: Business for the Arts of Broward

Award: $75,000

To connect local cultural projects to more donors, Business for the Arts of Broward will bring power2give.org to its community. The online crowdsourcing platform is designed to connect donors directly with projects they are passionate about, whether it is, for example, a new theatrical production in need of costumes or a musician needing a new instrument. Since the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, N.C., launched the platform approximately a year ago with Knight support, three other arts agencies across the country have used the platform to raise more than $1 million for arts projects.

Business for the Arts of Broward is a nonprofit organization engaging business and business leaders to advocate and educate about the importance of the county’s art and cultural community as well as to recognize the connection between cultural vitality, creative success and economic development.

Expanding Performance Art and Literary Residency Opportunities

Project: Theater Lab

Recipient: Deering Estate Foundation

Award: $35,000

To foster a cultural dialogue between artists and audiences, the Deering Estate Foundation will support a performing art series and a residency opportunity that includes lectures and master classes at the estate. Building on its already successful visual, literary and performance art program, the expanded residencies will include a playwright development program, retreats and a resident theater company. Interdisciplinary workshops, lectures and master classes will be offered in exchange for residency opportunities.

The mission of the Deering Estate Foundation is to raise public awareness, outreach, understanding and the appreciation of the Deering Estate at Cutler and to raise funds to support education, research, exhibits and collections, natural conservation and historical restoration and preservation.

Bridging Art, Music and Nature

Project: Expanded Cultural Programming

Recipient: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Award: $150,000

To bring together nature and art, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden will strengthen its GardenMusic program under conductor Teddy Abrams. Musical performances and concerts will be available throughout the year. Additional fine art exhibitions and an annual weeklong festival will celebrate various forms of music that integrate the visual, dramatic and performance arts.

Fairchild's mission is to save tropical plant diversity by exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants; fundamental to this task is inspiring a greater understanding and love of plants and gardening so that all can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the tropical world.

Experimental Music Event for South Florida Musicians

Project: International Noise Conference

Recipient: Frank Falestra

Award: $15,000

Now in its 10th year, the International Noise Conference is an exceptional opportunity for South Florida musicians to perform and network with composers from other cities. This year, with challenge funding, the experimental music festival will expand. Local, national and international musicians will be invited to participate, and a recording studio and music archive will supply tools to encourage innovative compositions. New works will be produced and broadcast over the Internet.

Frank “Rat Bastard” Falestra for over two decades has been one of the most ubiquitous presences in the local music scene. When Rat’s not fronting conflagrations such as Laundry Room Squelchers, women who play anything that generates a sound, or Scraping Teeth, Spin’s worst band in America of 1993, he’s heading up the International Noise Conference, a weeklong cacophony that has blasted Miami for 10 years. For over 25 years Rat was part of what has become known as the Miami noise scene that played at Churchill’s almost every week.

New Original Contemporary Arts Performances

Project: Miami on Stage Knight New Works

Recipient: FUNDarte Inc.

Award: $100,000

FUNDarte will use Knight Foundation funding to strengthen the performing arts scene by commissioning three original contemporary performance works by Miami-based artist companies. As an outgrowth of FUNDarte’s three-year-old Miami on Stage series, which presents completed full-length works by local artists, the Knight New Works component will select three projects to fully produce, present and tour to two additional locations in greater Miami. FUNDarte will also offer managerial and logistical support to the artist-driven works.

FUNDarte is a multidisciplinary nonprofit dedicated to producing, presenting and promoting music, theater, dance, film and visual arts that speak to Miami’s diverse cultures, with a special emphasis on artists from Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain. FUNDarte works to nurture emerging artists and those with little or no exposure to South Florida audiences, to facilitate intercultural and international exchanges, and to provide local audiences and artists with educational opportunities that expand their creative, critical and social perspectives.

Using Hackathons to Connect Technology and Art

Project: A Three-Day Art Hackathon

Recipient: The LAB Miami

Award: $30,000

The LAB Miami will bolster innovation in the arts by bringing together creative professionals and techies for a three-day art hackathon. During the event, coders and designers will develop apps and websites that answer one question: how do we enhance the delivery of local art to users? The project seeks to bridge Miami’s tech and creative communities. A product demo will be open to the public on the final day of the event. Other programming for the hackathon includes keynote speeches by tech and creative leaders and a mentor system to coach teams.

The LAB Miami Innovation Campus is a center for technology, design and social enterprise. Composed of working space, education platform, gallery, pop-up shop and cafe, The LAB Miami is a place to learn, act and build. Through this shared space concept, entrepreneurs are easily able to collaborate, cocreate and connect, thus improving their practice and developing effective networks. The LAB Miami is also committed to providing a cutting-edge educational platform. Its mission is to drive entrepreneurial growth and generate positive social impact at the local, national and international levels.

Establishing a Cultural Center for Hialeah

Project: The Hialeah Cultural Center

Recipient: Miami Dade College

Award: $80,000

To celebrate and preserve the arts and culture of Hialeah, Florida’s fifth largest city, Miami Dade College will create and launch the Hialeah Cultural Center. Miami Dade College’s Hialeah Campus, serving a city without art museums and with limited opportunities for arts performances, will conduct start-up activities for the new center, including planning, program development and promotion. A launch event will showcase the work of area artists and feature a public discussion on intellectual and artistic freedom. Additional activities include hands-on art projects and a video of oral histories from Hialeah.

Miami Dade College’s Hialeah Campus, with over 17,000 students registered annually, became the college's seventh campus in 2005. Serving the Greater Hialeah-Miami Lakes and Hialeah Gardens area, it offers day and evening classes seven days a week. Courses leading to associate degrees in arts or science are offered, with business, computer technology and health sciences the most popular programs. The Hialeah Campus is undergoing the most significant expansion in its history, a transformation leading to a "greener" footprint with more open spaces and state-of-the-art facilities that make use of natural light and the campus’ central location.

Introducing Travelers and Residents to Global and Local Rhythms

Project: Educational and Entertainment Encounters

Recipient: Miami International Airport

Award: $40,000

To engage and connect audiences to global and local rhythms, Miami International Airport will present performances of world music to its travelers. Building on the success of the airport’s Random Acts of Culture performances, the project will coordinate elements of live performances and formulate a list of key ensembles and areas for performance. Additional exhibits will offer a range of visual experiences including a contemporary fine arts show and children’s arts and crafts from around the world. Presentations will highlight global issues.

The primary mission of the Miami International Airport’s Division of Fine Arts and Cultural Affairs is to humanize and enrich the airport environment. The division does this by: providing a cultural and educational experience for passengers and the public; creating an exhibition program unique to Miami that reflects the history, cultural life and resources of Miami-Dade County; addressing the interests of the traveling public with exhibitions that will communicate culture, environment and art resources of an international scope with special emphasis on the areas served by Miami International Airport. 

Artists in Resident Program for Emerging Artists

Project: Here & Now: A Knight Emerging Artists Program

Recipient: Miami Light Project

Award: $120,000

To support emerging artists, the Miami Light Project will create an artist-in-residence program as part of its annual Here & Now Festival, which commissions and presents local works. Artists will be offered year-round, dedicated rehearsal space at The Light Box and professional development support including workshops on financial, legal and marketing topics. Presenters, managers and agents from across the country will be invited to Miami to attend the performances and speak one-on-one with each of the commissioned artists.

Founded in 1989, the nonprofit Miami Light Project presents live performances by innovative dance, music and theater artists from around the world, supports the development of new work by South Florida-based artists, and offers educational programs for students of every age. Since inception, it has reached a diverse cross-section of communities throughout Miami-Dade County with an extensive outreach effort that includes partnerships with other arts organizations, universities and social service agencies. Miami Light Project is a cultural forum to explore some of the issues that define contemporary society.

Series Celebrates the Artistic Talents of Miami-Raised Artists

Project: Bring It Home Miami

Recipient: Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs

Award: $45,000

To celebrate native talent, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs will present a Bring It Home Miami series at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Center. Featuring artists from South Florida who have developed national and international reputations, it will honor and welcome talented alumni back “home.” The series seeks to kindle community pride among South Floridians around the accomplishments of its homegrown talent.

The Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and its volunteer advisory board, the Cultural Affairs Council, develop cultural excellence, diversity and participation throughout Miami-Dade County by strategically creating and promoting opportunities for artists and cultural organizations, and all of our residents and visitors who are their audiences.

Infusing Symphony with Innovative and Emerging Composers

Project: Residency Program

Recipient: The Miami Symphony Orchestra

Award: $45,000

The Miami Symphony Orchestra will commission new works through a composer-in-residence program, as a way to further develop South Florida’s musical voice. The orchestra will train, develop and promote three emerging composers to create music reflective of the city of Miami, including Latin-American, Afro-Caribbean and traditional orchestral pieces. The program will give the orchestra an original focus and new purpose as it channels the inspired energy of talented composers.

The Miami Symphony Orchestra's mission is to present the highest levelof musical artistic excellence to the diverse audience of South Florida. By combining symphonic music from Latin America and Spain with the music of American composers and the great European masters, MISO strives to enlighten and entertain the multicultural community and help to develop the audiences of the future.


Celebrating South Florida’s African Diaspora Artists

Project: Art Exhibit and Festival

Recipient: Opa-locka Community Development Corporation

Award: $60,000

To celebrate the art of the African diaspora, the Opa‐locka Community Development Corporation will produce a multidisciplinary juried arts festival and exhibit to coincide with major public art installations in Opa‐locka. The event will bring noted national and regional artists from throughout the African diaspora to Opa‐locka. Highly participatory community programming will engage youth, residents and attendees in the art‐making process. Lectures and workshops will increase exposure for artists and community access to the arts. The event is part of a larger plan to make quality art of all forms accessible in Opa‐locka.

The nonprofit Opa‐locka Community Development Corporation (OLCDC) serves as a catalyst in rebuilding North Miami‐Dade’s most challenging low‐income neighborhoods into healthy and sustainable communities. Its mission is to create and stimulate economic development and affordable housing, improving the quality of life for residents in Opa‐locka and neighboring communities. OLCDC is leveraging a $22 million HUD housing rehab grant to catalyze the sustainable revitalization of Opa‐locka. Art is a strategic component of this approach. A major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts supports integration of the arts and culture into its holistic community development approach.

Building Community Among Filmmakers

Project: An Open, Friendly Space for Filmmakers

Recipient: Open Lab

Award: $35,000

To help build the local film community, Open Lab will create monthly gatherings where filmmakers screen their work. Monthly events will include work-in-progress screenings with feedback sessions and case studies from industry experts.  These open get togethers will be held at a different space each month, engaging audiences from various parts of the community and introducing them to cultural organizations and arts venues around Miami. The project will culminate with visits from three leading industry experts, connecting the Open Lab community with the national resources and knowledge on how to market and distribute completed films.

Open Lab’s mission is to propel Miami's existing film and video art scene nationally and internationally with monthly gatherings at various locations where filmmakers screen their work, exchange ideas and engage South Florida’s diverse voices to produce new work.

Celebrating a Hip-Hop Symphony

Project: The Hip-Hop Symphony

Recipient: Pablo Malco Foundation

Award: $10,000

To celebrate South Florida’s cultural traditions, the Hip-Hop Symphony combines hip-hop dance and music with classical music and instrumentation. The show features 13 versatile hip-hop and contemporary dancers, a 20-piece orchestra, a five-piece rock band and seven-voice choir. Several tickets will also be donated to youth organizations as a way to engage young people in theater productions and classical music.

The Pablo Malco Foundation strives to provide performing arts excellence. from beginning-level classes with master instructors to professional performance opportunities for novice and professionals. The foundation is committed to helping youths grow with positive morals, dignity, confidence, self-esteem and self-discipline; to providing quality classes in which aspiring performers may continue their education; to providing paid work opportunities for performing artists in our community who live from their art or craft; and to producing fun-filled world-class musical productions for the entire family to enjoy.

Series Celebrates Genre- and Gender-Bending Literature

Project: Reading Queer

Recipients: Paula Kolek and Neil de la Flor

Award: $30,000

To promote Miami as a center for LGBT literature, Paula Kolek and Neil de la Flor will create a Reading Queer series for writers who create hybrid, genre-bending works. The annual, weeklong series will feature headliners at local cultural centers and galleries and writing workshops. An anthology of the series also will be printed. The project will reach out to young people to give them a safe space to talk about and explore sexual themes.

Paula Kolek is a visual artist, poet and teacher whose poetry has been published in New Letters, Collective Brightness Anthology and Ditch. Kolek earned her MA from the University of Massachusetts Boston and MFA from the University of Miami. She teaches writing and literature at Miami Dade College and Barry University. Neil de la Flor is a writer, teacher and photographer. His publications include An Elephant's Memory of Blizzards, and Two Thieves and a Liar. He is the performance arts journalist for KnightArts and contributes to the arts bureau Art Burst Miami. He holds a MFA from the University of Miami.

Demystifying Indian Classical Dance

Project: Adoption of Western Fairly Tales

Recipient: Ranjana Warier

Award: $25,000

To promote cross-cultural understanding, Ranjana Warier will showcase traditional Indian dance through the stories of Western fairy tales. Leading professional Indian classical dancers will collaborate on the performance, while a lecture series will seek to demystify the complexity of traditional Indian storylines. The resulting stage shows will maintain the integrity of the ancient art form while breaking it down to make it more enjoyable for all ages.

Ranjana Warier was introduced to Indian classical dance at the age of 6. She has been an active performer/choreographer at events and festivals in United States and abroad. Recognized for her efforts to educate children on culture and history of India through dance, she thrives on preserving and promoting India’s artistic traditions. She has won grants from local government organizations and is the artistic director of Rhythms School of Dance in South Florida. Warier, a cyber security engineer for Miami-Dade County, has an engineering degree and a master’s degree in computer science.

Free Concerts Make Miami a Musical Destination

Project: Stipend for Touring Acts

Recipient: Sweat Records

Award: $140,000

To help make Miami a musical destination, Sweat Records will provide a stipend for touring acts to provide free or affordable concerts for an all-ages crowd.  The project will increase the number of quality events it brings to the community and will host and pay more touring acts to visit. Sweat Records will also revamp its stage area with new sound equipment, a simple lighting rig and seating for more patrons. Concerts will be documented via audio, video and photography. Highlights will be posted online and performers will get high quality footage for promotional use.

Sweat Records was founded in 2005 to fulfill the dual missions of providing Miami with a world-class record store and to be a unifying entity for South Florida's independent music scene.  

A Hub for Creative Writing in South Florida

Project: The Writer’s Room

Recipient: The Betsy Hotel

Award: $60,000

To brand South Florida as a muse for authors, The Betsy Hotel will expand its new writer-in-residence program on Miami Beach. The program offers a private space for writers offering them the solitude and support necessary to complete their work. The award-winning writers will also participate in public readings and a workshop and art salon series. A biannual publication will contain commentary and works from the writers.

The mission of the Writer’s Room at The Betsy Hotel is to create a very special place on South Beach for writers and other creative artists where they can find the tranquility and inspiration needed to do their best work. The room is made available to visiting artists working in a wide variety of domains and disciplines – with a focus on poets during final-stage efforts. Betsy is a historic property committed to exploring the capacity of the arts to bridge past, present and future.

Sharing African-American History Through the Arts

Project: Liberty City Renaissance

Recipient: Miami Children’s Initiative

Award: $75,000

The Miami Children’s Initiative will launch a cultural movement that shares local history using the arts, inspires and showcases local African-American artists, and encourages the creativity of the next generation of performing and visual artists. The project includes a jazz series led by the musician Nicole Henry and the Orchestral Academy for Liberty City’s kids from 4- to 18-years-old in partnership with the Miami Music Project.  The initiative will establish Liberty City Renaissance Arts Council responsible for commissioning work from local artists and maintaining a robust and lively online presence.

The Miami Children’s Initiative is creating a community‐based network that develops, coordinates and provides quality education, accessible health care, youth development programs, opportunities for employment – all ingredients for safe neighborhoods for children and families.

A Space For Small Performing Arts Groups

Project: Miami Theater Center: Sandbox Series

Recipient: Miami Theater Center

Award: $100,000

To help nurture individual artists and small performing arts groups, Miami Theater Center (MTC) will provide a small, well-equipped black box theater at discounted rates. The theater will make available its 70-seat space to promising performing artists and provide public relations, marketing and production support. Talented artists will be chosen to produce and perform their work in the theater and be provided a commissioning fee and rehearsal and performance space for six shows.

MTC, under the leadership of artistic director Stephanie Ansin, produces classical and contemporary works that entertain and educate audiences of all ages and abilities.

Innovating Miami’s Theatrical Experience

Project: Strengthening Alternative Theater

Recipient: The Project [theatre]

Award: $25,000

The Project [theatre] will use challenge funding to expand efforts to redefine the local theatrical experience. To attract both new and existing theatergoers, the Project will create large-scale immersive theater events in which the audience literally follows and experiences a story throughout its environment. The organization will also expand its Beer & Cigarettes project that blurs the line between spectator and spectacle. During these immersive, site-specific performances, the audience acts as voyeurs and stories unfold throughout a bar over the course of a night. These nontraditional theatrical experiences intend to help establish Miami as a place for theatrical innovation."

The Project [theatre] works to redefine the theatrical experience in Greater Miami.

Big Night in Little Haiti Gets Bigger

Project: Big Night in Little Haiti

Recipient: The Rhythm Foundation

Award: $120,000

To continue the growth of Little Haiti as a cultural and entertainment destination, and to introduce new audiences to Haitian music, The Rhythm Foundation will expand its successful Big Night in Little Haiti monthly concert series.  A previous Knight Arts Challenge winner, the project offers free concerts, art exhibits, food and kids activities on the third Friday of each month at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. The growth involves the collaboration of civic, institutional and media partners who can provide additional outreach activities, documentation and broadcast reach, in addition to special events within the series.

Rhythm Foundation is a nonprofit organization celebrating its 24th season of presenting outstanding international artists in South Florida. It is considered the foremost presenter of world music in South Florida – presenting more than 500 concerts, events and festivals by established and innovative artists from around the world.

A Creative Center for South Florida’s Dance Community

Project: The Synapse Performance

Recipient: Thought Loom

Award: $50,000

To position South Florida as a hub for dance, Thought Loom will pair South Florida-based choreographers with national and international dance artists for seasonal performances. Three South Florida-based choreographers will be selected to create original works using dance artists hired from cities outside of Florida. Each will work with his/her cast for several weeks, culminating with a run of live performances.

Thought Loom (www.thoughtloom.org) is a virtual/physical platform whose mission is to cultivate the generation, execution, and communications of ideas that nurture and push the field of dance. It hopes to create a generative pipeline between and among dance artists from around the globe, as well as thinkers from other disciplines.  Thought Loom is the brainchild of choreographer Letty Bassart and is being built with bicontinental dance artists, Lydia Bittner Baird and Ilana Reynolds; as well as generous contributors, designers and co-dreamers.

Murals Engage Young People with Overtown’s Art, History

Project: Murals for Dorsey Park

Recipient: Urgent Inc.

Award: $35,000

To engage and inspire young artists, Urgent Inc. will help young people create murals in Overtown’s historic Dorsey Park to commemorate it as the home of South Florida’s Negro League baseball team. Artist Kadir Nelson will help mentor young people as they work on the murals and learn about a time and place that connects them to their cultural past. The 30 murals created will be officially dedicated to the players of the Negro and Cuban leagues.

URGENT Inc. is a community-based organization whose mission is to empower young minds to transform communities. It does this by promoting shared leadership through empowerment, education and engagement to create collective well-being. Urgent Inc. chooses to work with individuals and communities that are most in need of transformation because its vision is that all people will have the social, educational and economic resources to thrive. It believes elders are the anchors of communities, parents are the coaches, but young people are the drivers of change.

Transforming Little Havana Through Art

Project: Monthly Cultural Festivals

Recipient: Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays

Award: $80,000

To accelerate the transformation of Little Havana’s arts district, Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays will expand the scope and programming of its popular monthly cultural festival. The event will also establish new offerings for younger generations such as introducing the game of dominoes and offering Latin dance classes. By expanding its marketing and promotional campaigns, it will bring diverse communities together with artists from different Hispanic nations and provide new opportunities for emerging artists. Gallery tours will also be offered.

The mission of Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays is to promote cultural, artistic and economic renaissance of historic Little Havana, to accelerate the transformation of its arts district using arts and culture to bring people of different cultures together, to promote economic revitalization and tourism, and to provide a venue for visual artists and entertainers to showcase their work while linking the artistic community to the public.

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 www.knightfoundation.org.