Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Leap of faith accelerates growth of South Florida's cultural community

Oct. 15, 2012, 11:50 a.m., Posted by Mayur Patel and Dennis Scholl

Five years ago, Knight Foundation took a leap of faith and launched the Knight Arts Challenge, a $40 million initiative to accelerate the momentum in South Florida’s cultural community.

We called it a leap of faith because the arts challenge was one of Knight Foundation’s first contests. We knew we didn’t have a corner on the market for innovative arts ideas. By opening up the process, and asking the community for their best ideas for the arts, we thought we could use the challenge as a magnet to pull good ideas out of the region’s most creative thinkers. 

Each year, we have been taken aback by the number of ideas we have received, and have funded 110 to date for projects by small cultural start-ups and big institutions and nearly everything in between. 

As a regular part of our work, though, we often review our initiatives midstream, to see how they've progressed and how we can improve them. 

We hired AEA Consulting to pore through the data and to interview members of the arts and cultural community. The result is Building the Arts in Miami, a new multimedia report available at that we’ll unveil at the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference in Miami Beach this afternoon. It features insights and recommendations for the challenge, and also profiles of grantee projects that give a great overview of the achievements of South Florida's cultural community. 

Here are some of the key insights:

Reaching a Diverse Pool: In total we've received 5,299 applications in the first four years of the challenge. The pool of applicants itself has been varied - ⅗ of the applicants aren’t even traditional nonprofits, but individual artists, businesses, public agencies and the like.  That’s likely because of the simple application process that asks just three questions in the first round. Geographically, while winners have been concentrated in Miami Beach and the Wynwood Arts District - Miami's cultural center - we have had winners from a wide swath of the county.

Fueling South Florida’s Creative Zeitgeist: When we surveyed artists in Miami, Knight Arts Challenge applicants and finalists in the challenge, the majority said South Florida has become culturally vibrant over the past five years. Some 63 percent of those surveyed indicated that the Knight Arts Challenge has made an important contribution to this trend. Perhaps most interestingly, the challenge funding has had the biggest impact on individuals, start-ups and less prominent organizations that benefitted from the visibility and reputational boost. Gean Moreno, who launched an art book publishing company, said that winning the challenge forced him to think strategically about how to make his idea a reality. Since launching, [NAME] Publications has been invited to present at the New York Art Book Fair and the NADA Fair. 

Tracking affordable housing in Washington, D.C. via web, mobile platforms

Oct. 15, 2012, 10:15 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan


Photo Credit: Flickr user carfull...Wyoming

There's a lot of housing data in the Washington, D.C. region, from lists of owners and addresses to numbers of code violations, but it can be close to impossible for researchers and policy makers working with the data to pull it into one easy to manage, coherent whole.  The recent Knight Foundation grant to the The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region will help the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development, and NeighborhoodInfo DC,  a project of The Urban Institute, create a new web/mobile tool that will provide an easier way to access and work with infomation on affordable housing for the D.C. region.

The DC Preservation Catalog project brings data that comes from several disparate sources into one Access database  that is used by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic DevelopmentNeighborhoodInfo DC, and the DC Preservation Network--an entire coalition of city agencies and affordable housing advocates and developers--to identify and track affordable housing units. The new and improved platform for this data will give users an easier way to track and help maintain a healthy pool of affordable housing.

According to Peter Tatian,  Senior Research Associate in the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center and the project's manager, there are over 1,000 properties currently listed on the DC Preservation Catalog. However, the listings are in a kludgy Access database that is hard to use. This means that the best solution that staffers who use the data as part of the  DC Preservation Catalog network have is to compile the listings into a giant PDF every month and then make printouts to bring to meetings.

"We use the housing data during meetings to make decisions on how to work with landlords, tenants, and owners to help keep their properties affordable, occupied and viable," explains Tatian. "Building an app will make it so much easier to use the data--and map it--so we can discuss and decide on preservation strategies for properties that need support in a more agile way."

Tatian and his team are basing some of their inspiration for their project on a similar project launched in New York City in 2011 by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a New York University housed research center that developed a data search tool that provides online access to New York City housing data collected by the Furman Center. In the year since its launch, the Furman Center Data Search tool has been used to create hundred of customized maps, downloadable data sets and housing trendiness.

The new housing database and app Tatian is planning will allow current members of the DC Preservation Catalog network to more easily search D.C.'s roster of affordable housing by categories such as name, owner, location, year built, financing, subsidy expiration dates, the numbers of affordable apartments, and latest housing quality inspection. Data will be able to be overlaid on a map interface that can be set to show information pulled from HUD, county databases and other sources.

Remembering Bill Friday

Oct. 12, 2012, 1:09 p.m., Posted by Alberto Ibargüen

Bill Friday, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina and co-founder of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, died on Oct. 12. To honor his legacy, Knight Foundation is giving $25,000 to a scholarship fund in his name

Here, Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen shares his remembrances.

Bill Friday has died.  As we commend his soul to the tender mercies of his Creator, let us resolve to remember him and honor that memory by resolving to never forget the lessons of an amazing life of service and commitment to principle.