Knight Foundation awards infuse Philadelphia arts scene with $2.7 million as thirty-six winners are announced

Community space supports young writers; artists expand skills at sculpture gym; cultural icons pair up with world-renowned orchestras

Community space supports young writers; artists expand skills at sculpture gym; cultural icons pair up with world-renowned orchestras

PHILADELPHIA – Thirty-six ideas for the Philadelphia arts will receive $2.7 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of a community-wide contest to inspire and enrich the city.

The Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia, a three-year, $9 million initiative, launched in October of last year and asked the question: “What’s your best idea for the arts in Philadelphia?”

The first-year winners represent a broad spectrum of the community. They include individual artists and artist-driven organizations such as Nichole Canuso Dance Company, author Kathleen Bonanno, and theater company Tiny Dynamite Productions, in addition to some of the city’s premier cultural institutions, including the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Theatre Company and the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

Selected from a field of over 1,700 submissions, the winning ideas include projects to:

  • Nurture young residents through poetry by establishing a gathering space offering cultural workshops, as well as homework tutoring and life-skills mentoring, presented by Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement; 
  • Help Philadelphia sculptors create their works safely by creating a “sculpture gym,” organized by sculptor Darla Jackson, where artists can use heavy-duty tools, have storage space and get one-on-one help with projects; and
  • Attract new audiences to classical music by bridging genres and generations with a Cross-Over Classical summer series that pairs cultural icons and larger-than-life multimedia presentations with world-renowned orchestras in a relaxed outdoor setting at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

The full list of winners is included below, with additional project details available online at  Knight Foundation will open year two of the challenge in the fall of this year.

"People understand that the arts move and inspire us.  On another level, they also bring people together around shared experiences and help us imagine our collective potential,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation’s president and CEO. “As we look for artists and arts institutions who can do this, we don’t tell them what to do or how to do it.  We want Philadelphia artists to tell us what moves them and by supporting them, we think we can move the soul of the community.”

The Knight Arts Challenge began in 2008 in Miami, where the initiative is now in its fourth year. Philadelphia is only the second city in which Knight is offering this program.

The challenge has just three rules: The idea must be about art, must take place in or benefit Philadelphia, and winners must find funds (within a year) to match Knight Foundation’s grant.  Applications were open to anyone in the region and were accepted online at

“Anyone can enter the Knight Arts Challenge – all you need is a great idea. Tonight’s winners show that Philadelphia has an abundance of them – coming from a thriving creative community that makes this city special,” said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation’s vice president/arts.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit

For more on Knight Foundation’s arts program, visit  Philadelphians can also learn more and share ideas with the community on the Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia Facebook page here.  Knight Foundation can be found on Facebook here.

Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia 2011 Winners

Dance and Music Enliven Seventh Street Plaza

  • Project:  RAAMP It Up Wednesdays
  • Recipient:  African American Museum in Philadelphia
  • Award:  $45,000
  • To showcase local artists by presenting commissioned dance and gospel performances through free weekly concerts at the museum’s Seventh Street Plaza.

Arab Music Promotes Cross-Cultural Understanding

  • Project: Arab Music Concert Series
  • Recipient: Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture
  • Award: $50,000
  • To promote cross-cultural understanding and appreciation for Arab music by creating a unique concert series with a resident ensemble

African-, Asian- and Latin-American Cultures Celebrated Through Classical Music

  • Project: Spiritual Voyages Festival
  • Recipient: Astral Artists
  • Award: $35,000
  • To spotlight distinctive voices in classical music by celebrating composers who are exploring their African-, Asian- and Latin-American cultures through their music

Mini-Performances Expand Cultural Experiences for Ballet Audiences

  • Project: eXpanding the eXperience of BalletX
  • Recipient: BalletX
  • Award: $13,000
  • To expand the cultural experience of ballet audiences with unexpected dance, comedy, music and spoken word during BalletX’s seasonal performances

Museum Collection Goes Mobile With App and Printed Guide

  • Project: You CAN take it with you!
  • Recipient: The Barnes Foundation
  • Award: $120,000
  • To expand the reach of the foundation’s art collection by creating an app and a printed guide that highlight and contextualize works

Audiences Get Hands-On Lessons in Conducting with Free Music Series

  • Project: iConduct!
  • Recipient: Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra
  • Award: $25,000
  • To engage audiences in classical music by creating a free summer series where participants take part in fun, mini-conducting lessons in front of professional musicians and a live audience

Free Performances and Films at City Hall

  • Project: City Hall Presents 
  • Recipient: City of Philadelphia, Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy 
  • Award: $100,000 
  • To strengthen City Hall’s role as a cultural center by presenting free music, theater, dance and spoken word performances and film screenings in the building's indoor and outdoor spaces

Dance Performances Travel to Public Places with Portable Floor

  • Project: A Portable Floor for Dance in Public Places
  • Recipient: Dance/USA Philadelphia
  • Award: $45,000
  • To bring live dance performances to broader audiences by making available a portable dance floor that can be used by companies throughout the region at festivals and other events

Artists Get Access to Specialized Tools and Training at Sculpture Gym

  • Project: Philadelphia Sculpture Gym
  • Recipient: Darla Jackson
  • Award: $20,000
  • To help Philadelphia sculptors create their works safely by creating a “sculpture gym” where artists can use heavy-duty tools, have storage space and get one-on-one help with projects

Festival Celebrates the Evolution of African Arts

  • Project: Dance Africa Philadelphia!
  • Recipient: District One Community Education Center
  • Award: $50,000
  • To celebrate the African arts by bringing the renowned festival Dance Africa to Philadelphia

Public Art Lights Up the Night Sky

  • Project: Open Air
  • Recipient: Fairmount Park Art Association
  • Award: $250,000
  • To create a new kind of communal space through a world premiere public art event that will transform the night sky with roving searchlights

Teens Gain Job Skills in Print Shop Program

  • Project: Fresh Artists Studio
  • Recipient: Fresh Artists
  • Award: $75,000
  • To engage inner city youth in the arts by creating a print studio with teen apprentices

Free Program for Students Inspires Life-Long Love of the Arts

  • Project: 10th Grade “Passport to the Arts”
  • Recipient: Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
  • Award: $75,000
  • To inspire a life-long engagement with the arts by giving Philadelphia 10th graders free admission to participating cultural institutions for one year

Art Festival Connects to Philadelphia’s Urban Landscape

  • Project: Hidden City Philadelphia Festival 2013
  • Recipient: Hidden City Philadelphia
  • Award: $100,000
  • To reconnect residents and visitors to Philadelphia’s urban landscape with an interactive festival that commissions temporary, site-specific art projects at historic landmarks

Local Writers Develop and Share Their Works in Literary Center

  • Project: Musehouse: A Center for the Literary Arts
  • Recipient: Kathleen Bonanno
  • Award: $50,000
  • To promote the creation and appreciation of poetry, plays and performance works by opening Musehouse: A Center for the Literary Arts in the city’s Mount Airy neighborhood

Live Music Connects Online With New Audiences

  • Project: Collaborative Connections
  • Recipient:
  • Award: $100,000
  • To illustrate how music connects cultures by commissioning innovative concerts for Philadelphia’s World Café Live that will be simulcast to new audiences

Cultural Icons Pair Up With World-Renowned Orchestras

  • Project: Cross-Over Classical
  • Recipient: Mann Center for the Performing Arts
  • Award: $200,000
  • To attract new audiences to classical music by bridging genres and generations with a Cross-Over Classical summer series in a relaxed outdoor setting

Audio Documentary and Website Explore the Legacy of Black Philadelphia Radio

  • Project: Sound and Fury
  • Recipient: Mighty Writers
  • Award: $50,000
  • To inspire community pride by creating Sound and Fury, an audio documentary, interactive website and public panel discussions about the role of black Philadelphia radio from the 1950s to the 1980s

Local Talent is Showcased at Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby

  • Project: Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby
  • Recipient: New Kensington Community Development Corporation
  • Award: $20,000
  • To strengthen the cultural and economic fabric of the Kensington community by celebrating the talents of local artists at the annual Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby

Audiences Grow in a Garden of Art and Dance

  • Project: The Garden
  • Recipient: Nichole Canuso Dance Company
  • Award: $50,000
  • To broaden people’s understanding of art and dance by turning the audience into a participant in an aural and visual performance journey called The Garden

Opera Comes to Independence Mall

  • Project: Opening Night Philadelphia
  • Recipient: Opera Company of Philadelphia
  • Award: $150,000
  • To unite Philadelphia in a celebration of arts and culture by displaying – on a giant video screen at Independence Mall – the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s opening night performance of Bizet’s Carmen

Spotlight Shines on Iconic Local Symbols in Short Film Competition

  • Project: Philadelphia Film Festival Short Film Competition
  • Recipient: Philadelphia Film Society
  • Award: $30,000
  • To promote Philadelphia’s film industry by organizing a contest where filmmakers incorporate one of 20 iconic local symbols in a short film

Performance Artists Test Their Work in Monthly Salon Series

  • Project: The Live Arts Festival presents SCRATCH Night
  • Recipient: Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe
  • Award: $50,000
  • To nurture emerging artists by creating a salon night in the festival’s new headquarters where artists will present short excerpts of their work

World-renowned Street Artists Reinvent Neighborhood Tableaux

  • Project: Favelas to Philly
  • Recipient: Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
  • Award: $100,000
  • To help transform the urban landscape by hiring a world-renowned team of street artists to develop a major project in Philadelphia

Audiences Get Real-Time Mobile Content During Orchestra Performances

  • Project: iNotes
  • Recipient: The Philadelphia Orchestra Association
  • Award: $150,000
  • To expand concert content and accessibility by creating smart phone apps that supply real-time context about live performances

Festival Fosters New Play Development

  • Project: PTC@PLAY
  • Recipient: Philadelphia Theatre Company
  • Award: $75,000
  • To enhance Philadelphia’s reputation as a leader in the development of new plays by producing an annual festival of new works

After-School Program Introduces Students to Orchestral Music

  • Project: Tune Up Philly
  • Recipient: Philadelphia Youth Orchestra
  • Award: $150,000
  • To immerse communities in orchestral music by providing daily after-school music instruction and frequent community performances for elementary school students in Southwest Philadelphia

Community Space Supports Young Writers With Workshops and Tutoring

  • Project: Philly Youth Poetry Movement
  • Recipient: Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement
  • Award: $40,000
  • To nurture young residents through poetry by establishing a gathering space offering cultural workshops, as well as homework tutoring and life-skills mentoring

Program for Contemporary Performing Arts Trains Actors and Directors

  • Project: The Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training
  • Recipient: Pig Iron Theatre Company
  • Award: $150,000
  • To strengthen the contemporary performing arts scene by launching a two-year training program for actors and directors

Outdoor Performances Come to the Heart of Latino Philadelphia

  • Project: Cafe under the Stars: Spotlighting Arts in the Barrio
  • Recipient: Taller Puertorriqueño
  • Award: $75,000
  • To create personal cultural experiences that connect audiences across cultures by producing a series of monthly outdoor performances in the heart of Latino Philadelphia

Public School Children Interact With Artists in After-School Program

  • Project: Arts Wide Open in North Philadelphia, Anchor of the Avenue of the Arts
  • Recipient: Temple Performing Arts Center
  • Award: $20,000
  • To involve public school children in the arts by exposing them to performances and having them interact with artists

A Video Tour of Philadelphia Galleries

  • Project: First Friday Art Safari, with Libby and Roberta
  • Recipient:
  • Award: $7,000
  • To introduce the art of Philadelphia’s geographically scattered galleries to a wider audience through a series of monthly tours by van that will be videotaped for later airing

Actors Interact With Local Residents Through Traveling Talk Show

  • Project: Fill in the Blanks with Theatre
  • Recipient: Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia
  • Award: $100,000
  • To expand participation in Philly’s theatrical arts by launching a new audience engagement initiative that helps actors interact with residents in their everyday lives

Series Offers Audiences Access to Affordable, Top-Quality Theater

  • Project: a Play, a Pie and a Pint
  • Recipient: Tiny Dynamite Productions
  • Award: $25,000
  • To broaden theater audiences by producing a Play, a Pie and a Pint, a U.K. performance phenomenon where residents can stop by after work to enjoy a one-act play, a pie and a beverage for a low ticket price

Arts Series Presents Innovative National and International Artists

  • Project: Spectrum
  • Recipient: Vox Populi
  • Award: $40,000
  • To inspire the community by offering an innovative arts series, Spectrum, that crosses the traditional boundaries of visual art, performance, music, film, video, dance and theater

Local Music Promoted With Web-Based Recordings

  • Project: Building Audiences for Philadelphia’s Vibrant Scene of Local Musicians
  • Recipient: WXPN Radio, University of Pennsylvania
  • Award: $50,000
  • To build audiences and appreciation for Philadelphia's vibrant music scene by creating a virtual space for the local music community and producing a concert series and a collection of web-based musical recordings and videos

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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