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    Some 20 years ago, when I interviewed soprano Barbara Hendricks, who was making her New World Symphony debut, she expressed concern over the absence of music education in school curricula and the devastating consequences of that omission, especially on African-American children. “Remember,” said the exquisite Arkansas-born singer, “that in a few years we will ask ourselves where the new Leontynes are. At the rate we are going, they will be few, or fleeting.” This month, Leontyne Price, the singer Hendricks referenced, celebrated her 90th birthday, and Hendricks’ farsighted observation rings true.In the opera world, African-American singers have achieved what was unthinkable decades ago. There are more singers today, but–just as Hendricks predicted–fewer stars since their peak in the 1960s and '70s. At the time, we saw glittering new figures dominating opera houses for many seasons–figures like Price, Shirley Verrett and Grace Bumbry.There was no one better than Price to herald the rise of the African-American soprano. She possessed a different voice, an unprecedented and unexpected sound in the operatic landscape. It was smoky and sensual, bringing new color and character to the genre. Her unique sound sparked controversy and praise, raising once more the question: “Is there such a thing as a 'black' voice?” Theories, both reasonable and preposterous, will continue to abound, even if there’s a broad consensus that the voices of African-American singers tend to possess a particularly velvety quality that elicits an incomparable thrill.
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    Social change is messy and complicated, and it can take a long time to come to fruition, typically by way of a winding, sometimes meandering, path. Such a context requires patience, comfort with complexity, and the humility to recognize that bets are just that—guesses about what might work over time.Certainly, monitoring and evaluation have an important place in assessing the strength of investments over time as well as the yield (or unanticipated consequences) of past efforts. What is often missing, however, is sufficient clarity about the problem or challenge a bet is intended to address.At Knight Foundation, we are beginning to use the term learning organization to describe not simply the rote mechanics of surfacing insights from past and present work, but to also encompass the ability and judgment to identify addressable challenges, formulate smart bets, and then rigorously interrogate and scrutinize those bets and the contours of the problems they are meant to attack.
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    Since becoming the first U.S. city to receive a UNESCO City of Design designation, Detroit has been abuzz with the potential of design to shape the future of life in the city. From the 2016 Detroit Design Festival—which included a two-day summit of panel discussions about the many concerns and influences of a design-based approach to social and cultural intervention—to anticipation of the return of DLECTRICITY in the fall of 2017, Detroit has had design on the brain. These forays into Detroit’s conceptual potential have not merely been restricted to local reflection; as Detroit joins a cohort 47 of cities in 33 countries around the globe that form the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it is more than ever the focus of international attention. And the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, a nonprofit group that acts as the steward of the city's UNESCO designation, received $1 million from Knight to support a 10-year vision of the metropolis as a UNESCO City of Design.This attention was recently crystallized with Detroit being honored as the representative city for the United States Pavilion of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Collectively titled "The Architectural Imagination," the exhibition featured the works of 12 teams of architects, selected from more than 250 submissions, and presents a version of Detroit visible through a highly imaginative lens. Following its run at the Biennale through November 2016, the exhibition has come to the MOCAD (a Knight Arts grantee), where it will be on display through April 16.
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    For the past 30 years, seemingly every aspect of the music industry—from creation and presentation to the ways the product may be distributed, acquired and consumed—has been disrupted by technological developments. But for every benefit of the democratization of the creative and dissemination process there’s a real and practical challenge for the artist to get paid for his labor and make a living of it.
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    When you go to see a show, it goes without saying that you probably know at least something about what you’ll encounter, but what if you didn’t? What if the next time you arrived in front of the stage everyone in the audience was equally out of the loop? The Painted Bride Art Center is the ideal destination for curious culture connoisseurs this spring, as they kick off the second season of their Secret Show Series. Supported by Knight Foundation, these Secret Shows tantalize audiences by announcing only the artists involved in advance of the events (and maybe dropping a few clues), while leaving the rest to the imagination. To discover more, theatergoers must arrive, more or less in the dark, to witness the hourlong shows firsthand. “Anything can happen in an hour," the series’ teaser reads. “Especially when you’re at the Bride.”
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    The bright, cool afternoon boded well for the inauguration of The Underline public art program. Hired performers turned Nicolas Lobo’s steel sculpture into a jungle gym with their acrobatics, soon joined by kids passing the Brickell Metrorail stop where it was temporarily installed. Other spectators climbed aboard Agustina Woodgate’s mobile radio station, which required participants to pedal while they listened to issues about the environment and urban planning as the human-powered trolley rolled around the area. Joggers stopped to see New World School ballet dancers entwine themselves with a mirror and steel sculpture created by Naomi Fisher.These intentionally interactive art projects were a perfect introduction to an ambitious project that will integrate public art with an eco-friendly, 10-mile park running under the Metrorail from Brickell to Dadeland South stations–under eight stations in all. In an otherwise hyper-developing section of the city, these swathes of land under the cold concrete rail line are neglected. By incorporating bike and walking trails, native landscaping and public art, The Underline aims to get people out of their cars and to discover a new urban world, hopefully intermingling and fostering a civic environment as well.
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    In its first three performances of 2017—two subscription concerts, along with a special, one-night-only event—the Cleveland Orchestra Miami offered programming that lived up to the orchestra's sterling reputation. The Knight Arts grantee kicked off the year by pairing Johann Sebastian Bach and Anton Bruckner, followed by a Nordic night consisting of Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius' Second Symphony, and then hosting star soloist Yo-Yo Ma—a trio of high-caliber events that signaled the orchestra's intention to reach still higher this time around during its winter residency in the Magic City.
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    What do you get when you gather 189 community flutists and have them perform a piece mimicking the migration of birds? Honestly, a pretty cool experience. This past week, I was lucky to join The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra's presentation of Salvatore Sciarrino's “Cutting the Circle of Sounds,” a Knight Arts Challenge winner.
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    Think of the city as an orchestra – a rhythm section of cars and buses; the brass sounds of a factory; the emotions played out by a string section, told in the sounds of water; a choir of voices, perhaps in many different languages, all at once, telling stories.In Miami, we live surrounded by those sounds.
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    At the Dranoff 2 and Nu Deco Ensemble concert at New World Center in Miami Beach on Sunday, solemnity lasted a few bars — just enough for the orchestra to unpack the famous theme of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor,” and turn the piece into “Tocatta y Fuga en Re Minor,” as the program titled it. The arrangement by composer Sam Hyken, co-founder and co-artistic director of Nu Deco, quickly put Bach in the Caribbean, swaying in clave and leaving room for congas and a timbales solo — and off we were.
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    This week, the Knight arts team is in Park City for the Sundance Film Festival. Our merry band of film grantees has been growing over the years here, and we are delighted to also be joined by four new Knight Sundance Fellows.