Knight Arts Challenge Miami countdown: Rhythm foundation shares some thoughts

Arts / Article

In November, Rhythm Foundation was awarded $125,000 to showcase Haitian music through a free monthly concert series in Little Haiti.

As Director of Rhythm Foundation, Laura Quinlan has played a key role in the organization’s growth and in the development of Big Night in Little Haiti.  In fact, Quinlan has helped coordinate more than 400 concerts featuring world music in South Florida, impacting the community in a number of ways.

Read on to see what she had to say about her experience with the Knight Arts Challenge.

Knight Foundation: What made you decide to apply to the Knight Arts Challenge Miami? Laura Quinlan: I love the concept behind the initial request, ‘What’s Your Idea?’  We have ideas every day for projects, and to have Knight Foundation really care about hearing them is very empowering.  We appreciate the Knight Arts Challenge helping to turn an idea into reality.

So, how has the Knight Arts Challenge influenced you and your work? We feel like Rhythm Foundation has been elevated to the next level in the community.   We have also been given a great challenge – to follow through on the idea and make the project a successful reality.  We are now faced with the task of building partnerships, raising matching funds and producing the event.  The “seal of approval” and the grant give us the momentum to create something of value for Miami.

Has working on this project been different than others you’ve put forth?  What has been your experience working with the Haitian community? The Rhythm Foundation has been presenting world music in Miami since 1988. In that time we have presented several leading Haitian and French Caribbean groups like Boukman Eksperyans, Kassav, Beethova Obas, Tabou Combo and others.  Working with Haitian music is always a great experience because there is such a vibrant infrastructure to reach the music fans.

We are used to doing street promotions, working with the various radio programs and community partners for this type of promotion.  But last summer was a real eye-opener for me about the changing nature of music promotion, Haitian music in particular.  We were preparing for a concert by the zouk stars Kassav, from Guadeloupe and Martinique but very popular with Haitian music lovers. The Rhythm Foundation has started using Facebook ads to announce our concerts and we always set up some targeted ads.  The amount of clicks we received from the Kassav ads was literally off the charts from our other ads. We were blown away by the response.

Big Night in Little Haiti is getting ready for its first of a series of free concerts and arts exhibitions (third Fridays starting March 18th).  Can you tell us about some things to look out for? Look out for a night that enters the collective community calendar!  Every Third Friday is now Little Haiti night, a great opportunity for you to enjoy the music, art, food, cultural facilities and shops of one of Miami’s unique neighborhoods.  As we delve deeper into the Haitian community, we continue to be really impressed by the level of artistry, talent and opportunities we find. It is going to be a pleasure to present them to the Little Haiti neighborhood and the South Florida community at large.  Visit the website for updates: BigNightLittleHaiti.com.

Do you have any advice for those applying this year?  Maybe some tips on writing those 150 words that mean so much? Have a few people re-read your 150 words before you submit them, to make sure you are clearly expressing all the merits of your idea.  Believe me, this is the easy part of the process! Any other thoughts? See you March 18th!

And don’t forget to submit your idea here.

(Photo by Luis Olazabal)