61 ideas named finalists in Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul

Today, we’re excited to share the finalists of the 2015 Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul—61 ideas culled from 450-plus submissions from neighborhoods across St. Paul, Minn.

The list below is packed with exciting ideas that reflect the new St. Paul, a diverse and collaborative city. We also see a few trends: ideas that will remix the classics with a St. Paul spin, ideas that re-envision public transit spaces as a platform for the arts and projects that seek to use the arts to address important community issues.    

We will announce the winners on Oct. 6 after a panel of local artists and arts advocates review the finalists’ detailed proposals. Winners will share in $1.5 million.

Thanks to everyone who submitted an idea, and we look forward to celebrating with the winners in the fall.

Nicole Chipi is interim arts program officer for Knight Foundation.

Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul Finalists 2015

Alberto Justiniano

Making a classic relevant to contemporary St. Paul by setting Shakepeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in the city and plotting the Latino Garcias against the Hmong Vang family

Arcata Press | Saint Paul Almanac 

Combining the dynamic work of 24 local writers and visual artists on posters in trains and buses throughout St. Paul

Asian Economic Development Association

Transforming the five-block Little Mekong district with an expanded night market that includes art performances, cultural vendors and activities, similar to markets held across Asia

Atlas Story Circle

Connecting cultures through a curated storytelling series in Lowertown that explores how many traditions – Irish, Native American, Lao, Hmong – share similar themes in their folktales

Bedlam Theatre

Bringing together Lowertown through The Big Lowdown, which turns 12 blocks into a performance space with a dozen ensembles playing out scenes that form one narrative

Black Dog Cafe Mirroring the changing neighborhood of Lowertown through a World Roots series featuring African, Nordic, Eastern European, American Folk, Irish, Middle Eastern and Balkan music


Drawing parallels between the Reconstruction era and contemporary racial oppression with a new production that combines figure skating, Afro-modern dance, live vocals and Ida B. Wells’ speeches

Can Can Wonderland

Providing a stimulating, arts-immersive environment at St. Paul’s Can Can Wonderland with sculpture, installation, multimedia, movement and sound

Casa de Alacran

Remembering loved ones who have died during a Dia de los Muertos-themed evening of visual and performance art

Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT)

Strengthening CHAT’s Hmong Arts and Music Festival, which draws thousands to its annual showcase of more than 100 local, national and international Hmong artists

Coffee House Press

Curating a series of authors of color whose essays will be printed on coffee sleeves and distributed throughout St. Paul coffee shops

Comedy Suitcase

Building a mobile comedy container that turns into a stage on which people can create and share jokes at public events


Transforming the utilitarian underpass that is the entrance to St. Paul’s new Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary into a large-scale, 3D arts experience

Conundrum Radio Players

Bringing theater to a new audience of sci-fi/fantasy fans through a live radio production of “Frankenstein”

Cracked Walnut

Creating community in different spaces all over St. Paul by staging more than 50 spoken literature events with local writers and music ensembles

Dangerous Productions

Celebrating the diversity of Frogtown through a yearlong series of street-level pop-up performances and adventurous educational opportunities

Dayton’s Bluff Community Council

Creating powerful, provocative art that reflects the community’s dialogues around racism and catalyzes change

Deborah Elias Danza Espanola

Bringing energy and festivity to the streets of St. Paul through a traveling flash mob of flamenco singers and dancers for Christmas and spring processions

Electric Machete Studios

Highlighting the voices of Latinos on St. Paul’s west side by creating an arts hub with studios for music production, visual arts, performance and more

Erik Barsness

Experimenting with new art forms by creating a set of percussion instruments from ice and using them to play new compositions during the 2017 Winter Carnival

Foci Minnesota Center for Glass Arts

Celebrating the wonders of glassblowing through a mobile glass hot shop and a foldout demonstration stage at festivals and other public events

Flying Foot Forum

Bringing the community together with Dancing Through the Streets, at which the audience travels to see performances at six different locations in Lowertown, culminating in a group song and dance part at Bedlam Lowertown

Full Circle Theater Company

Exploring how the theater has changed the lives of a diverse group of St. Paul artists and how in turn these artists have shaped the theater community, through a new production to debut in 2016

Greg Herriges

Engaging the public in music-making through the placement of handmade, interactive music boxes in libraries, colleges, skyways and at City Hall

Healing Place Collaborative

Preserving Dakota culture by creating a wood language table that incorporates Dakota place names and serves as a focus for discussion and art presentations at public events and parks

Heather Cole

Bringing the arts into people’s lives by commissioning local artists to create a work that will wrap a Green Line train for a month

Heather (Desdamona) Ross

Celebrating the spoken word by bringing together the voices of students with those of professional artists and poets in a series of readings and workshops

Hmong Museum

Preserving the art of Hmong storytelling by hosting a series of public events that will share a range of love, ghost, orphan and refugee camp stories

HSR Events

Advancing talent and exposure for blues artists through new outdoor venues during the free, two-day Lowertown Blues Festival

In Progress

Bringing Hmong voices to the silver screen through Qhia Dab Neeg, a two-day Hmong film festival at Metropolitan State University

Kala Vandanam Dance Company

Elevating young, high-potential Bharatanatyam dancers through opportunities to participate in an original, professionally-produced ensemble production

Karl Unnasch

Enlivening the Creative Enterprise Zone area by transforming two water towers that mark its boundaries into self-illuminated beacons wrapped in backlit, contemporary stained glass murals

Katie Ka Vang

Opening a dialogue around cancer and other serious illnesses through a piece by playwright Katie Ka Vang based on her experiences with non-Hodgkins lymphoma

Kyle Waites

Bringing life to the neglected Sibley underpass with a lighting display that interacts with the people and cars that pass through it

Lee Vong

Producing an eclectic series of audio recordings that expresses the cultural diversity of this acoustically rich city

Mary Ellen Childs

Finding the musicality in baseball through a virtuosic, percussive performance by Flying Foot Forum and CRASH that is influenced by real-life baseball signals and plays from St. Paul Saints coaches and players

Metropolitan State University

Building community through film by creating a state-of-the art digital cinema theater in a little-used auditorium at the university

Million Artist Movement

Exploring racial justice and equity with a series of art-making events that culminate in a community-driven festival

Minnesota Fringe Festival

Spotlighting successful Fringe artists and challenging them to create singular performances for a two-weekend, single-venue festival in St. Paul

Minnesota Museum of American Art

Bringing art into people’s lives by commissioning a Minnesota-based artist to create a work for the 16-story glass elevator well in the Pioneer Endicott building traversed daily by thousands of St. Paul skyway users


Inspiring civic engagement by suspending screens between the 10 pillars of St. Paul’s Union Depot and projecting 10 poems-turned-films about pillars of St. Paul society

Naomi Cohn

Building community and increasing the well-being of older adults by engaging a professional writer to conduct high-quality arts activities with seniors in St. Paul’s Creative Enterprise Zone


Promoting the Green Line as a creative extension of the community by holding the 2017 edition of the Northern Spark festival, an all night, multi-venue arts festival, along the line’s route

Olivia Mulvey

Collecting stories of love and regret from senior residents of St. Paul to exhibit on notecards in a gallery exhibition

One Voice Mixed Chorus

Presenting a gender-bending production of the “Pirates of Penzance” staged outdoors on St. Paul’s Raspberry Island

Public Art Saint Paul

Raising awareness about the plight of bees, which are dying in large numbers, with a public art project of small bronze bees and sculptures that serve as bee habitats

Public Domain Productions:

Creating a community spectacle in Frogtown with a nighttime lantern parade that illuminates the streets with larger-than-life mythical creatures created by local puppet artists and community groups

Robert Karimi

Exploring how culture shapes the fear of water with a pool-based performance piece that engages the community to talk about the disproportionate numbers of people of color who cannot swim

Sarah Peters

Bringing one-of-a-kind books made by artists to people in canoes, kayaks or paddleboards on Lake Phalen through a custom-built floating library

SoulTouch Productions

Engaging young black males in the arts through a fellows program that teaches photography, visual arts, filmmaking and writing in the tradition of the late St. Paul artist Gordon Parks

Springboard for the Arts

Creating an authentic narrative for the Rondo neighborhood by bringing together African-American artists who live and work there with local business and neighborhood organizations to create small art projects

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

Combining the talents of 100 flutists with MacArthur Fellow and world-class flutist Claire Chase in a special performance of Salvatore Sciarrino’s “Cutting the Circle of Sounds”

Theater Latté Da Music Theater 360

Bringing together audiences and artists under age 35 for a new adventure of fellowship, food and intimate new musical theater in a downtown St. Paul living space

The Column

Using film and live performance to tell the unexplored history of the art form of drag in St. Paul

The Drawing Project

Inviting the global community to submit experiences, memories and observations of St. Paul through a virtual art collaborative that will be curated in analog exhibitions

The Theater of Public Policy

Turning the entire city into a performance space through delivery of improv performance telegrams to offices, parks and homes


Elevating the importance of poetry by holding a spoken word competition to identify one young person as St. Paul’s youth poet laureate

Twin Cities Film Fest

Expanding the geographic footprint of the film festival through events and screenings of nationally recognized independent films in new St. Paul venues

Twin Cities Public Television

Activating public spaces with Big Screen Lowertown, a large-scale screening of live concerts, film festivals and motion poems on the exterior façade of the television station

Walker West Music Academy

Transforming the look of Selby Avenue through a large-scale permanent art installation by artist and community activist Ta-Coumba Aiken for the wall of the academy’s new 6,000-square-foot music center

Yes! Lets Collective

Bringing musicians, paddlers and music lovers to the underutilized Lake Phalen for a waterway festival, with bands performing on three stages around the lake to a flotilla audience