Akron arts community receives $6 million boost from Knight Foundation

Institutions of all sizes, grassroots projects gain support and community-wide arts challenge to launch in 2015

AKRON, Ohio – (Sept. 22, 2014) – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced $6 million in funding for the arts in Akron, in an effort to build on the creative momentum in the community and make the city an even more vibrant place to live.

Related Links

"A new arts initiative for Akron" by Dennis Scholl on KnightArts.org (9/21/14) 

Flickr.com album of grantee photos

Sign up for Akron ARTS Updates

Part of a two-pronged initiative, the support will go to individual artists and cultural organizations of all sizes whose work benefits Akron. The effort includes an immediate $3 million to some of the city’s anchor arts institutions, to help widen their reach and allow them to better engage audiences. Then, in 2015, the foundation will launch the Knight Arts Challenge in Akron, a three-year, $3 million contest to fund the best arts ideas from the community.

“The arts inspire and challenge us; they make us better, more open and creative. Importantly for our work in communities, our surveys show the arts are among the strongest connectors of people to place. They bind people to one another and the places they live,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation.

The institutional grants, which will be celebrated Monday evening, Sept. 22, at an event at the Akron Art Museum, will help organizations such as Tuesday Musical Association bring world-class, classical artists to local schools, allow small and medium-sized organizations an opportunity to perform at the Akron Civic Theatre, and prepare the next generation of artists and arts leaders through YEPAW’s intensive summer program. A full list of institutional grant recipients follows below.

The Knight Arts Challenge, which opens for applications in the summer of 2015, is a community-wide contest to find and fund innovative ideas for the arts. Everyone is eligible for funding through the Knight Arts Challenge – individual artists, organizations and businesses, both non-profit and for-profit. The contest has three simple rules: 1) the idea must be about the arts; 2) the project must take place in or benefit Akron; and 3) the grant recipients must find funds to match Knight’s commitment.

Knight’s commitment to the arts in Akron

Since reinstituting its arts program in 2008, Knight Foundation has noticed a growing arts and culture scene locally.

“As Knight’s national arts program has invested more deeply in the Akron arts scene, we’ve been impressed by artists and arts leaders, from small organizations like downtown’s Nightlight Cinema on up to the Akron Art Museum, who are committed to this community’s cultural development,” said Dennis Scholl, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. “By increasing our commitment to the arts in Akron, we hope to strengthen that work and promote risk-taking – to keep culture fresh, inspiring and engaging for audiences into the future.”

In addition, a recent survey commissioned by Knight and the GAR Foundation solidified the decision to make this new commitment. The assessment found a significant demand for arts and cultural experiences in Akron, with 75 percent of respondents having attended an arts or cultural event in the past year. At the same time, young people in general and African-Americans both responded that they are looking for more arts events and opportunities relevant to them. This new funding and the Knight Arts Challenge can help fill those gaps. Description: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/images/cleardot.gif

Institutional grants will help engage audiences

Knight selected the institutions receiving grants for their commitment to artistic excellence and their willingness to experiment with ways to engage audiences, which can be a key challenge for many groups. The grantees are:

Akron Civic Theatre ($500,000) - Over the years, the Akron Civic Theater, which serves 100,000 guests in 120 events each year, has opened its doors to organizations across Akron, to create a shared community space. Knight funding will help deepen those partnerships, and provide a stipend to continue to allow small to mid-sized groups a place to perform. Knowing the Civic is available to them will free these organizations to focus on developing quality work that fuels a vibrant arts community. In addition, the Civic will continue to diversify its audiences with successful programs such as cabaret-style concerts and Jazz@Civic programming. Information is available at www.akroncivic.com.

Tuesday Musical Association ($500,000) An organization dear to Clara Knight, mother of the foundation’s founders, Tuesday Musical presents six concerts a season featuring classical music’s greatest artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Cecilia Bartoli and Itzhak Perlman. The group is also proactive in getting students to concerts, and providing opportunities for artists and students to work together in area schools. With new funding, this artist-in-residence program will extend the time these artists spend in the city and build workshops and master class opportunities into their visits to further benefit local youth. Details at www.tuesdaymusical.org.

Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop (YEPAW) ($500,000) - For the past 25 years, YEPAW has prepared the next generation of artists, arts leaders and aficionados through instruction in performing and visual arts ranging from piano to video production. The programs are particularly important in exposing young people of color in Akron to high-quality arts training, and opportunities for creative learning and expression. New funding will strengthen YEPAW’s summer institute, which will provide programming to 300 high school students. Organizational information is at www.yepaw.org.

Greater Akron Musical Association (Akron Symphony) ($500,000) – The Greater Akron Musical Association, which operates the symphony, aims to offer a welcoming environment for all people to experience great music. During the last three years, the association has been successful in engaging the community with a series of shared experiences, including sold-out runs of “Porgy and Bess” and “Rite of Spring,” and participating in Knight Foundation’s Random Acts of Culture program. New funding will help the association seek even greater community participation in its work. Details are available at www.akronsymphony.org.

Akron Art Museum ($1 million) – As a way to engage the public, the Akron Art Museum is presenting a series of groundbreaking exhibitions where the community will help design public outreach and programming. The funding, provided beginning in 2013 for three years, is allowing museum curators to commit to six exhibitions, accompanied by ambitious public programming that seeks to draw in new audiences. These include the recent exhibition by sculptor Tony Feher, who brings a new perspective to everyday objects and transformed the museum’s facade with marine buoys, and the current retrospective of illustrator Trenton Doyle Hancock’s career, which uses the author’s graphic novel style to invite the public into his creative process. Information is available at www.akronartmuseum.org.

About the Knight Arts Challenge

The Knight Arts Challenge will accept applications beginning in the summer of 2015. The challenge will run over three consecutive years. Akron is the fifth city where Knight Foundation has offered such a challenge.

“The challenge invites everyone in the community with innovative ideas, and it’s our goal to help see them to action,” said Josh McManus, Akron program director for Knight Foundation. “It’s an ideas contest. We’re looking for out-of-the box projects. Start dreaming.”

Knight Foundation, which invests in 26 communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers, has invested $135 million in Akron since 1950.

For more about the challenge, 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. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.


Anusha Alikhan, Communications Director, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, media@knightfoundation.org

Alan Ashby, Account Manager, WhiteSpace Creative, 330-762-9320, alan@whitespace-creative.com

Editor’s Note: Photos and video available on request

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.