Meet 22 groups pushing artistic boundaries in Philadelphia

Arts / Article

Above: The company of the Wilma Theater participates in a combat workshop taught by Ian Rose. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.

Today, I’m excited to celebrate our latest Philadelphia arts grantees – 22 groups receiving $1.48 million. Each of these organizations represents the artistic excellence and audience engagement that Knight is committed to advancing.

Our arts program has a two-pronged strategy: We fund large institutions – the ones that provide programming to thousands of people every day – to help them open up and engage their audiences in new ways. And we look to the grassroots too, seeking out the smaller organizations known for being nimble and innovative.

In this group you’ll see a mix of both, and I’d like to spend a moment on a few of them.

The City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program, for example, is not just bringing 14 of the country’s top contemporary artists to town for a massive public art project this summer. The program is ensuring the community is a part of the artistic process and shaping the work. Artist Sam Durant, for example, is creating a large-scale, chain link maze to be placed near City Hall, a highly-visible work on the theme of the U.S. criminal justice system. He’s inviting the public to hang their own theme-related personal items on it as well.

The Curtis Institute of Music, meanwhile, is expanding the successful pilot of its ArtistYear program, which puts Curtis graduates in schools to not just teach but to become citizen artists. Artistic excellence is a given for musicians today. But they also need to communicate and engage with people off the stage to become part of the fabric of their communities – which this year of service does. You can read more about one of the ArtistYear’s beta -year experiences on our blog.

And then we’re thrilled to see smaller organizations stretch and push the boundaries of their work. I think of organizations like BalletX, which is celebrating 10 years with a retrospective of their commissions and a new work; the Bearded Ladies Cabaret, a young group now working on a large-scale collaboration with Opera Philadelphia on the legacy of Andy Warhol; and Fresh Artists and Play On, Philly!, which are fostering a new generation of artists and creatives.

Above: Play On, Philly photo by Steven Krull Photography

You can learn more about these and other grantees in the list below.

This week’s trip is part of my listening tour, where I am traveling to each of the eight Knight resident communities, getting to know the city’s artists, organizations and passions. It’s Day 105 as Knight Foundation’s vice president for arts. I’m excited to build on what the arts program has accomplished, and dip deeper into our communities to find and foster new artistic voices.

Victoria Rogers is Knight Foundation’s vice president for arts.

Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture ($55,000): Presenting guest artists from different disciplines and genres to collaborate with Al-Bustan Tahkt Ensemble as part of the group’s concert series in Spring 2015-16.

Artists U ($25,000): Helping artists build a sustainable practice with advanced workshops on strategic planning, grant writing and more

BalletX ($100,000): Celebrating 10 years with a retrospective of BalletX works that culminates in a world premiere by renowned choreographer Kevin O’Day, in addition to presenting 10 pop-up performances around the city

BlackStar Film Festival ($50,000): Celebrating cinema focused on work by and about people of African descent by supporting the 2015 BlackStar Film Festival

City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program ($100,000): Bringing 14 internationally renowned contemporary artists to Philadelphia to create a new series of public artworks that explore the city’s urban identity

Curtis Institute of Music ($135,000): Expanding the ArtistYear fellowship, which embeds professional musicians in the community for a year of service in arts education

Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance ($75,000): Engaging teens in the arts by expanding STAMP (Students at Museums in Philly), which offers youth free access to museums and cultural events, to include a rewards program that encourages repeat visits

Fresh Artists

Photo: Fresh Artists 

Fresh Artists ($50,000): Inspiring Philly kids with “Cool Jobs,” a three-day career expo in fall 2015 introducing seventh graders to careers in the creative economy by working with successful working artists, designers and makers

Heidi Saman ($30,000) Raising Philadelphia’s profile as a hub for independent filmmaking by supporting the post-production and festival run of Knight Sundance Fellow Heidi Saman’s “Namour”

INVISIBLE RIVER 2015 ($25,000): Bringing attention to the Schuylkill River and the Philadelphia watershed through a free public art and boating festival that takes place in, on and above the river in Fairmount Park on Aug. 29

Kimmel Center ($150,000): Fostering artistic innovation by expanding the center’s “Underground Residencies” to include a new residency exploring the art of cabaret and jazz.

Koresh Dance Company ($15,000): Showcasing Philadelphia’s top and emerging dance companies at the Come Together Dance Festival, which juxtaposes distinct styles by staging modern dance alongside tap, hip-hop, ballet and others.  

Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble ($40,000): Celebrating Caribbean culture with “Danzas de Cuba,” an Afro-Cuban dance showcase and workshop series in celebration of Kulu Mele’s 45th anniversary in 2014

Opera Philadelphia ($150,000): Presenting in September, in collaboration with the Bearded Ladies Cabaret, “ANDY: A Popera,” a genre-bending, site-specific cabaret opera inspired by the legacy, artistic process and fame of Andy Warhol

Pennsylvania Ballet Association ($10,000): Inspiring audiences with the company premiere of “Canvas,” a mix of classical and contemporary dance by renowned choreographer Larry Keigwin

Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts ($25,000): Celebrating Philadelphia’s jazz legacy with a yearlong series of major jazz concerts and master classes, in honor of the Clef Club’s 20th anniversary, culminating in an event in November 2015

Philadelphia Fringe Festival ($100,000): Engaging Philadelphia with the 2015 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, a forum for cutting-edge dance, theater, visual arts, music and spoken-word performances set in venues across the city.

Photo: Philadelphia Photo Arts Center

Philadelphia Photo Arts Center ($50,000): Engaging the city with innovative contemporary photography exhibitions and workshops running through August 2015

Philadelphia Young Playwrights ($15,000): Sharing the voices of Philadelphia youth by capturing student-written monologues and playwright testimonials on video so they can increase exposure and create deeper conversations around topics facing the region

Play On, Philly! ($100,000): Supporting the launch of the POP Academy program this fall which expands POP’s K-8 programming into high school to engage Play On graduates in mentoring younger musicians

Play On, Philly! ($25,000): Strengthening Play On, Philly! and other El Sistema-inspired music programs for youth by supporting the national El Sistema Symposium in Philadelphia earlier this year, in addition to knowledge-sharing and collaboration

The Wilma Theater ($60,000): Supporting talent development in Philadelphia’s theater community with “The Wilma Hothouse,” a series of master classes and workshops led by internationally renowned theater instructors in movement, voice and other advanced techniques

Vox Populi ($100,000): Elevating this art space’s popular First Friday event by presenting the work of more than 150 local, national and international artists