From theater to taiko, San Jose arts groups receive Knight Foundation funding

Press Release

October 14, 2016


16 projects reflect diversity and innovation of San Jose

SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Oct. 14, 2016 – From a new, high-tech version of “Frankenstein” to a play created in concert with the community, 16 San Jose arts projects will receive $400,000 in new funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Led by cultural organizations big and small, these efforts seek to engage, educate and delight residents in ways that reflect the diversity and identity of San Jose.

The recipients include four new theater productions for San Jose’s stages. City Lights Theater for example, will use immersive video so that the audience is visually surrounded with Frankenstein’s creature’s point of view, in a March 2017 adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel. Meanwhile, the San Jose Stage Company will collaborate on a new work with the city of Dublin, and Teatro Vision de San Jose will develop a bilingual play with stories from the community. 

Several other projects will include a range of community voices. Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra, for example, will offer lessons in traditional Chinese instruments and music, particularly for the many Asian-American children who make up the city’s youth orchestras. In addition, the School of Arts and Culture will offer a fellowship for cultural leaders of color.

“Artists help to tell our stories, define who we are and where we are going,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. “We look for projects that include a range of San Jose perspectives, so that the whole community can be reflected in the city’s arts scene.”

Knight Foundation’s arts program works with artists and cultural groups that create or present art that engages, educates and delights residents in ways that reflect the diversity and identity of San Jose. A full list of the projects is below. 

“Whether you enjoy hearing the film score of one of the Harry Potter movies with the symphony this month, or are looking forward to new murals by the Exhibition District, San Jose arts and cultural groups are working to make this city an even more vibrant place to live,” said Danny Harris, San Jose program director for Knight Foundation.

Below are the 2016 grant recipients:

Symphony Silicon Valley ($20,000) To experiment with new ways to attract younger audiences by launching a digital marketing campaign for the symphony’s major film score series, including the first performance of the score from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone this month

San Jose State University School of Music and Dance ($10,000) To engage audiences with a production of Mendelssohn’s great oratorio “Elijah,” with live action and digital media that challenge the audience to experience the biblical story in the context of modern issues

Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra ($10,000) To improve instruction of traditional Chinese music and instruments through master classes for teachers, who in turn will educate students about traditional music and instruments such as the ehru, pipa or ruan

School of Visual Philosophy ($30,000) To help artists expand their practice and spark new ideas by bringing in artists and experts in science, technology and the humanities to teach courses together. These classes will allow instructors to view their own field with a new perspective and introduce students to creating interdisciplinary work

School of Arts and Culture ($25,000) To strengthen the cultural leadership pipeline in San Jose by offering a yearlong fellowship to arts leaders of color

School of Arts and Culture ($20,000) To enhance cultural offerings in East San Jose by enabling local artists and arts agencies to use the production facilities at the Mexican Heritage Plaza at a reduced cost, and to receive technical assistance in marketing and facilities operation 

Exhibition District ($40,000) To transform a central alleyway from a blighted, unused space into a landmark by orchestrating 100 artists to paint 100 murals arranged into a mosaic

San Jose Taiko Group ($30,000) To plan and produce a series of immersive events that convey the rich history and vibrant present of San Jose’s Japantown through a blending of San Jose Taiko’s drumming with Epic Immersive’s theatrical and production expertise

Naatak ($10,000) To engage audiences in a new main-stage production in 2017 that combines ideas from India’s past and America’s present, with an emphasis on how the two come together for the local Indian-American community

Teatro Vision de San Jose ($25,000) To develop a bilingual play – in concert with local residents – that combines source material from classic Mexican and Chicano literature in addition to personal stories and objects from the local Latino community.

San Jose Jazz ($25,000) To bring more local, cultural programming to neighborhoods through a “pirate radio” project – a mobile radio broadcasting station that travels to neighborhoods and highlights local musicians from the SJZ Boom Box mobile stage

City Lights Performance Group of San Jose ($75,000) To experiment with technological innovation in the theater by supporting an immersive adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, using projection mapping and first-person video tools to surround the audience with Frankenstein’s creature’s point of view

 Backwater Arts | Anne & Mark’s Art Party ($25,000) To promote San Jose as a hub for innovative visual and performance art by expanding the art and cultural festival Anne & Mark’s Art Party to include a juried competition and full week of programming

San Jose Museum of Art Association ($20,000) To engage new audiences with an exhibition of contemporary art focused on quiet contemplation, accompanied by guided meditations, tea ceremonies on the museum’s sky bridge, and related programs

San Jose Stage Company ($30,000) To raise San Jose’s artistic profile internationally with a new play titled “The Memory Stick,” which commemorates Ireland’s centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising. The play will be presented jointly with Dublin’s City Arts Office, Irish Theatre Institute and Dublin Theatre Festival. 

San Jose Poetry Festival ($5,000) To assemble local and national literary talent during the second annual San Jose Poetry Festival, with readings by poet laureates, writer workshops and literary reviews

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit


Marika Lynch, communications consultant, Knight Foundation, [email protected], 305-908-2677.