Announcing a new arts initiative for St. Paul – Knight Foundation

Announcing a new arts initiative for St. Paul

Today, we have exciting news for St. Paul: an $8 million commitment to the city’s cultural community. It’s a two-part investment that represents both a pledge to five of the city’s cultural institutions and a funding opportunity for everyone in the city.

First, the pledge: Over the next few years, Knight will provide $3.5 million to five of the city’s arts organizations, to help them attract and engage audiences, and keep their work fresh and innovative into the future. We chose these groups – all current Knight grantees – because of their commitment to artistic excellence and their openness to finding new ways to engage the public, a key challenge for so many arts organizations.

Funding will, for example, help the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra strengthen its already successful digital outreach, allow TU Dance to continue to diversify the local dance scene with expanded outreach programs, and help emerging performance groups take the stage at the Ordway Center through subsidized rentals. Penumbra Theater will fill two new positions to solidify the new vision for its future that it recently announced. And Springboard for the Arts, which has provided vital services to local artists, will bring its leadership and toolkits on issues like healthcare  to other communities around the United States. You can read more details about the efforts of these groups in today’s news release.

For Knight, these groups represent the exciting momentum both St. Paul Program Director Polly Talen and I have seen here over the past few years. Through our visits to dozens of local arts groups, it’s evident that St. Paul is a community that prides itself on its thriving cultural sector, a city that knows and lives the importance of the arts to building a sense of community. In fact, that’s why Knight Foundation reinstated its arts program a few years ago – to fund ideas and projects that not just inspire and challenge us, but connect us to one another and our communities.

As I mentioned, our  investment is part of a two-pronged initiative. These grants  are for the institutions that year in and year out provide an opportunities for artists and audiences.

But we also believe in funding arts at the grassroots –so that everyone has a shot at making their idea a reality.

We do that through the Knight Arts Challenge – a community-wide contest to fund the best ideas for the arts. The challenge will launch here in the spring.

Anyone can apply for the challenge – and we truly mean anyone – whether you’re an independent artist, small collective, business or institution.

You don’t even have to be a nonprofit with 501c3 status. We realize that good ideas come from anywhere.

Applying is really simple – it includes an initial 150-word application.

And there are just three rules:

  1. The idea must be about art.
  2. The project must take place in or benefit St. Paul.
  3. And if selected, you must find funding to match the Knight Foundation grant.

If there’s one thing you need to remember about he challenge it’s this: the challenge is an ideas contest.

This is not the play it safe contest. We’re looking for innovative projects that make us think differently about the arts and this community.

Over the next three years, $4.5 million will be dedicated to these projects. And because these are matching grants, we expect the challenge’s $4.5 million to generate $9 million of new support for the local cultural community.

St. Paul is the fourth city where we’ve launched this challenge, following Miami, Detroit and Philadelphia. Each year, we’re taken aback by the ideas that come in.

We can’t wait to see what you all pitch us.

We’ll be launching the Knight Arts Challenge application period on April 7. Sign up to get email updates on the challenge – and get those ideas ready!

By Dennis Scholl, vice president of Arts at Knight Foundation