What it takes to win the St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge

Arts / Article

Knight’s Tatiana Hernandez answers questions during a session at Intermedia Arts

At six community Q&A sessions this month in St. Paul,  Arts Program Officer Tatiana Hernandez  shared tips to help applicants be more competitive in the Knight Arts Challenge, which is offering $4.5  million over the next three years to ideas that engage and enrich the city. Here’s are her tips for beefing up your 150-word application – which is due May 5: 1)    Focus on your idea. No idea is too big or too small. Just make sure that idea is front and center in your application.

2)    Be clear, concise, and compelling. Make it conversational. This is a pitch, not a grant proposal. Lead with your passion and excitement. Show your 150-word statement to strangers standing in line at the grocery story or coffee shop. If they love it, push submit. If not, revise!

3)    Aim for the sweet spot: Ideas that are indicative of St. Paul and engage or inspire the community hit the sweet spot for the Knight Arts Challenge. As Hernandez  said, “Let your idea tell the story of what you call home.”

4)    Make your title memorable: Pay attention to it and make it catchy. Our readers will be reviewing hundreds of applications, so give yourself an advantage by helping them remember you.

5)    Keep your eye on the prize. Your aperture right now should be on the 150-word application. Don’t worry about the proposal in phase two or the matching funds if you should win. Keep focused on the pitch.

6)    Remember what you don’t have to be: You don’t have to be 18, a citizen or a nonprofit to apply. The contest is open to—quite literally—anyone, as long as you follow the three rules: your idea is about art, it takes place in or benefits St. Paul, and if selected, you must find funds to match Knight’s commitment.

7)    There are no pre-conceived categories or quotas. We are simply looking for the best, most engaging arts ideas that take place or benefit St. Paul. It may be something brand-new or an in-progress idea that you want to take to a new level. We’re open to both.

8)    You can submit more than one application, but don’t go wild. We’ve found that our readers’ threshold is about five submissions from the same person, group or organization. Give us your best ideas, not all of them.

9)    You can submit your idea in Spanish, Hmong or Somali.  We’re happy to get your submission in your native language.

10) Apply early. Applications are read in the order received, and given that the vast majority come in on the last day, you’re more likely to stand out with the readers if you get your application in earlier.

If you’re hungry for more, Hernandez put together another post with four resources for applicants. 

Apply by May 5 here at KnightArts.org. Your application will be read by ten diverse  local readers, chosen to represent a diversity of age, race, ethnicity, discipline and geography.

Good luck!

Kathy Graves, communications consultant for Knight Foundation Register here for occasional updates on the St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge