Innovation for creation: supporting Charlotte artists to build digital capacity – Knight Foundation

Innovation for creation: supporting Charlotte artists to build digital capacity

On April 12, 2023 Knight Foundation announced the next round of the Knight Art + Tech Expansion Fund. The Fund supports Charlotte-based artists and arts organizations who are integrating technology into their practice. Applications are now closed. Learn more about the Fund and how to apply here.

Arts and culture are essential for growing informed and engaged communities. Arts practitioners, through their work, connect people to place, and to each other. Increasingly, technology is becoming an essential component of this work, both for individual artists and arts organizations, and technology is constantly changing. With every evolution in technology, artists leverage new and emerging tools to impact the way their work is created, viewed, shared and consumed. Across artistic genres, facility with technology and digital tools is no longer an optional skill set. 

Funding for technology in the arts is often tied to specific projects, but doesn’t always provide the resources artists need to expand capacity in order to meet growing market demand to incorporate technology and digital programming. This is particularly true in Charlotte, where arts practitioners are often left behind even in a community with a thriving  start-up and entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

This is why Knight Arts is increasing its commitment to the arts in Charlotte with the Knight Art + Tech Expansion Fund. This fund provides operational support to working artists and arts organizations seeking to use technology to increase the impact of their work in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.  This commitment was spurred by the City’s challenge to the private sector to match its commitment to increased funding for the arts, a vital component to the vibrancy of Charlotte. 

COVID-19 brought a set of complex challenges to artists in Charlotte, but thanks to technology, artists were able to find new ways to continue to tell their stories and connect with people. Examples of this across Charlotte include the BOOM Charlotte festival shifting to a hybrid online/in-person program, Jazz Arts Charlotte distributing their performances through livestream or on-demand videos, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center creating new compelling online programming, just to name a few examples. Thanks to a wellspring of creativity, people were  able to connect and engage with each other at a critically important time.

The integration of technology into the arts was well on its way before the pandemic, but over the past two plus years the trend has accelerated. Technology — whether an augmented reality headset, a recording studio, a responsive website or social media — is a tool for artists and the organizations that support them to reach people where they are, in trying times or in times of relative calm. With the Art + Tech Expansion Fund, Knight will ensure that artists and arts organizations in Charlotte will have the technical resources to engage with audiences in exciting new ways. 

American artist Robert Rauschenberg once said, “The artist’s job is to be a witness to his time in history.” As embedded stakeholders and “witnesses,” artists today are connecting, sharing and disseminating works and experiences thanks to advances in technology. What’s more, artists are using new tools to pave the way for stronger community ties, establishing stronger bonds among people, and ultimately building more informed and engaged democracies. 

This is why Knight funds digital transformation in the arts, and it’s why we’re confident that the Art + Tech Expansion Fund will help Charlotte’s artists do what they do best: Innovate to create. 

Koven Smith is senior director for the arts at Knight Foundation. Have questions about the Knight Art + Tech Fund? Visit the FAQs page in English or Spanish, email Koven at [email protected] and make sure to follow him on Twitter at @5easypieces