Coming soon: the 2017 Knight Arts Challenge

Arts / Article

Each year, the Knight Arts Challenge poses a deceivingly simple question: What is your best idea for the arts in your city? Over the past ten years, from Miami to Detroit, St. Paul and Akron, you’ve answered.

822 grants and $52 million later, the challenge has supported winning ideas that are as diverse and interesting as the people who make up the communities where the ideas were sourced. Independent cinema and imaginative public art, risk-taking performances and quality arts education, high-brow symphonies and comics based on local bands, mind-bending augmented reality and speaker-busting rock-and-roll. There is no prescription for what makes a Knight Arts Challenge winning idea.

Photo courtesy of Show Drawn.

This year, the challenge will be accepting submissions March 29 – April 28. This is an ideas challenge open to all, not just established non-profits or arts institutions. Any person or group can apply, whether an individual, non-profit, for-profit, university, municipality, or artist collective. In fact, over its history, most of the grants awarded through the challenge have not been to 501(c)(3) organizations. Many have been to first time grant winners.

Everyone is eligible to apply and all are encouraged to because, ultimately, when creativity, talent and passion are the only requirements, the results reflect the community.  Each of the four cities where the Knight Arts Challenge currently runs is different, with their own local issues, and the intentionally open structure of the Challenge allows for authentic and uniquely local solutions. This is unconventional grant-making designed to be responsive to dynamic contexts.

Photo courtesy of Contempo Dance.

There are just three rules. First, the idea must be an arts idea. Second, the idea must take place in or benefit the challenge city, whether it’s Miami, Detroit, St. Paul or Akron. Third, grant awards must be matched dollar-for-dollar.

It’s a two-step application process.  Starting March 29, applicants will be invited to submit a 150-word description of their idea, project, or program.  It can be something that’s already in progress, or it can be something completely new. There is no restriction on how many ideas you can submit.

Performance by Detroit Afrikan Funkestra.

I will be in each city in March and April hosting Community Q&A sessions, and smaller coffee hours to answer questions. You can see the scheduled weeks below, with more information coming soon.

Every submitted idea will be read by a panel of local arts stakeholders. Selected finalists will be invited to submit a full proposal. 

Photo courtesy of Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra. Photo by Debra-Lynn Hook.

We are not afraid of taking risks to support imaginative ideas that elevate the arts in your community, but we don’t know what those ideas are. So, we are asking you.

Are you ready?

Adam Ganuza is an arts program officer for Knight Foundation. He will be in the following cities for information sessions and coffee hours during the following weeks. Exact dates and times will be posted soon:

St. Paul: Week of March 13

Miami: Week of March 20

Detroit: Week of March 27

Akron: Week of April 3