Alberto Ibargüen: Knight Arts Partnership Announcement

presented at Miami Art Museum

By Alberto Ibargüen

Good morning.

Thank you all for coming to the announcement of a major investment in the arts by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Today, I'm privileged to announce the Knight Arts Partnership, an initiative to support the arts in our home community. Over the next five years, Knight Foundation will invest $40 million and generate another $20 million for a total of 60 million new dollars for the arts in South Florida.

The new Miami is being built every day -- and I don't just mean the buildings going up all around us. The new Miami is evolving out of the millions of daily interactions of people from different places, people of different races, cultures and creeds.

In fact, nothing defines us more or better than our diversity. But the challenge of that diversity is to build a sense of community that is inclusive and functional, a fusion culture that works for us in this place and time.

It is in that sharing that we build, one by one, drop by drop, the reservoir of shared experience necessary for building great and bonded communities.

Few areas in civic life have lower barriers to entry -- lower barriers to sharing experience and understanding -- than the arts, or more opportunities to turn to the person next to you at a concert or museum and say "Wow, did you see that? Did you hear that? Did you feel that?"

The arts build ties that bind neighbor-to-neighbor and community-to-community. It is these social networks that translate cultural vitality into economic dynamism.

But most of all, when art hits home, it fills your soul; it moves you and makes you better. It helps you understand yourself and your world.

Knight Foundation was created to promote the advancement of communities the Knight brothers cared about. So, it's natural that we should engage in those areas of civic life where the nature of change in Miami and South Florida are already taking us.

All of us are aware of the enormous growth of arts and arts organizations in Miami but it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the organic nature of social change. When a handful of community leaders dreamt 25 years ago of build a performing arts center, no one knew that the 100 or so arts organizations that existed then would grow into more than 1,200 today, fueling an industry that generates $922 million per year, touching every part of this community.

Seven or eight years ago, when planning for Art Basel first started, who would have predicted its enormous success or the rise of more than 20 art fairs around it, not to mention the continued viability of Art Miami and the rise of ArteAmericas? And who would have predicted that today, Miami's cultural organizations engage some 19,000 volunteers who donated more than 648,000 hours of their time last year?

Knight Foundation has participated in that growth. Over the last two years, we have made a number of contributions to the arts, including,

That's nearly $12 million we've more or less quietly invested in the arts in this community.

Today, we want to be less quiet for two reasons. First, because we want to celebrate and sing loudly the praises of the three organizations to which we'll give endowment grants. And second, the matching grant portion of our initiative needs to be known by artists, arts organizations and by potential funders who will be encouraged to come forward to meet this challenge.

The first part of this initiative is composed of endowment grants to the Miami Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the New World Symphony. We chose these organizations because their courage, leadership, innovation and commitment to quality. Our endowments will fund activities that each organization is uniquely suited to do.

We start with the $5 million Knight New Media Endowment at the New World Symphony that will advance their use of digital technology. That will include the use of new media in re-inventing the concert experience and will also include the implementation of New World's Internet2 technology, permitting performers and audiences to share real time experiences with other ensembles around the world.

We will endow the Museum of Contemporary Art with $5 million to create the Knight Exhibition Series that will allow MOCA to present, here in Miami, two or three exhibitions each year featuring the work of the most important new and emerging artists from anywhere in the world. The endowment will also support MOCA's school programs, lectures, film screenings and creations of new works by emerging artists.

And finally, we will create a $10 million endowed fund at the Miami Art Museum that, in conjunction and collaboration with the Miami Dade Public Schools (whose Superintendent, Rudy Crew is with us this morning), will develop and carry out a program to bring some 40,000 school children to the museum every year.

So, that's the first $20 million.

The second part of the Knight Arts Partnership is a $20 million challenge that opens a window of opportunity for everyone in the community. Everyone! In each of the next five years, we will invite every artist and arts institution or organization in South Florida to offer ideas about creating art in our community. If your idea is selected to go forward, we'll ask for a fuller proposal that will need to detail how you wi'll be able to raise matching money. In that way, we expect Knight Foundation's $20 million to generate $40 million of new money for the arts.

This year, we'll accept starting today and until April 15th. Anyone interested is invited to www.knightarts.org. The first year's winners will be announced this fall.

We want to support the projects you in the artistic community will imagine and invent, so we're going to do this with just three rules:

1- The idea must be about arts.

2- Your art must take place in South Florida.

3- You must find funding to match the Knight Foundation grant.

With these grants, Knight Foundation adds to a growing tradition of philanthropic giving in South Florida's arts community. We're proud to add to a tradition that has long included the Knight brothers, Ted Arison and the Arison Family Foundation, Adrienne Arsht, Sandy and Dolores Ziff and Pat and Phil Frost (at both FIU and University of Miami). That legacy also includes many others who have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to the New World Symphony, the Arsht Center, the Miami City Ballet, the Wolfsonian, MOCA and so many other arts organizations.

There's a tradition in our country of public/private partnerships to support arts and culture. That's true in the most famous cases of New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It's true in Chicago and Houston and it's most recently true in Cleveland, where a 1.5 cent surcharge on each cigarette sold will provide almost $20 million a year for its local cultural groups. It's also true in Denver, where $40 million is dedicated annually to the arts and sciences from just one-tenth of a percent of their sales tax.

The folks who'll gather in a little while to celebrate Miami-Dade County's leadership in the arts have a lot to celebrate and I hope our announcement will add to that celebration. But like cities and counties across America, we are seeing the economy and tax revenues become more and more strained. The arts are competing every budget year with other local government services for these decreasing tax dollars.

We have too much invested in the quality of our community to leave the future of arts in jeopardy. I hope the initiative we announce today will encourage even more commitment on the part of our public officials, our mayors, commissioners and the Cultural Affairs Council to identify and secure a dedicated public revenue source for the arts.

It's therefore particularly gratifying to see here the mayors of the City of Miami, Manny Diaz, and of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Alvarez.  Their presence and that of other public officials affirms the importance and nature of public/private partnerships in support of the arts.

At the core of all of is a belief that diverse communities are rich communities and that those communities that rise to the top, who offer the greatest quality of life, are those that view every single human being as a creative entity. I believe that. And today's Knight Foundation initiative will help to prove that true.

Finally, and on a personal note, I'd like to thank Norman Braman, Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz and Aaron Podhurst, who helped me evolve an idea into a workable concept. Also, Rosa Sugrañes who, as the chair of Knight Foundation's Miami community advisory committee, has been a fierce advocate for the arts. Thanks to, Lorenzo Lebrija, the Miami program director for Knight Foundation who was instrumental in developing this initiative and who will be primarily responsible for managing it. No celebration of the arts in South Florida can fail to thank Lyn Arison and Adrienne Arsht.

And finally -- but certainly not least -- thanks to Susana Ibargüen, whose passionate advocacy for the arts has so deeply informed my own.

And now, because we believe in acting on our words, I'd like to present endowments checks to Terry Riley, director of the Miami Art Museum, Bonnie Clearwater, executive director and chief curator of Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art, MOCA, and Howard Herring, general manager, and Michael Tilson Thomas, artistic director of the New World Symphony, each of whom will say a few words.

Riley, Clearwater, Herring, Tilson Thomas.

Thank you all for participating in this wonderful announcement. I hope you'll join us for the lunch that the County Arts Council, with thanks to Michael Spring, Jorge Perez and Mayor Alvarez, have waiting for us outside.

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.