Articles by

Dennis Scholl

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    Six years ago, Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen asked me to develop a national arts program for the foundation focused on building community through the arts. Today, I’m excited to share a new report that chronicles our progress and introduces you to the many people and projects that have surprised us with their ideas for engaging audiences through arts and culture. In it, I hope you find both inspiration and practical examples that can help inform your work. The report focuses on projects that live the ideal of making art an integral part of people’s lives. For example, the report explores larger institutions that are literally changing the way their community interacts with art – whether it’s Opera Philadelphia surprising an entire city with its Random Acts of Culture, or the Akron Art Museum’s goal of bringing residents closer to the artistic experience. You can also read about smaller, grassroots efforts, like a poetry festival in Miami that has experimented with ways to bring a poem to each one of the area’s 2.6 million residents, and a St. Paul group that has sparked a national movement to make buying art as easy as participating in a local farm share program.
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    "Everyone Has a Place" (trailer) from Knight Foundation on Vimeo. This week WTVI PBS Charlotte will premiere a new documentary that tells the story of Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s 2013 performance of the Abyssinian Mass in Charlotte. Below, Knight Vice President for Arts Dennis Scholl, one of the film’s directors and producers, writes about the experience. When Knight Foundation heard it had the opportunity to bring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the 80-member Chorale le Chateau to Charlotte, a community with such a rich jazz tradition, we knew right away that this was a project we wanted to be involved in. Related Link  "New Documentary captures Wynton Marsalis’ Charlotte performance of  his historic composition" - press release, 2/3/2015 Then we found out the performance was going to be at one of Charlotte’s greatest houses of worship, the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, and we knew it was a project that would bring the community together. Anyone who watches the film will see how engaged the audience was.  
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    Photo: A Detroit Symphony Orchestra project explores music in Detroit and New Orleans. It is hard to believe one year has passed since we announced the winners of the first Detroit Knight Arts Challenge, a group The Detroit Free Press called the “soul of Detroit.” In the last year, projects like Dlectricty, Complex Movements’ Beware of the Dandelions, North American Souvenir’s Canadian Residency, Mark Wallace’s Recycled Guitars and more have taken shape and spread across the city. Detroit’s first group of Knight Arts Challenge winners was the quickest to match in the history of our program, continuing to prove the community’s commitment to the arts.
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    Photo: Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul winner Aaron Dysart and friends will project video art on to steam from a plant in downtown St. Paul.  Today, we are excited to announce the 42 winners of this year’s St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge. Our first year of the contest in St. Paul saw the highest per capita response for any arts challenge in history, with 868 submissions! Ideas poured in from all corners of the community and across all disciplines. We are grateful to all who participated and trusted us with their ideas and passion for the arts in St. Paul. Related Link "42 Winners Named in First St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge" - Press release (09/29/14) Each application submitted was carefully reviewed by a group of ten local readers and Knight staff. The team narrowed the list to 69 finalists, each of whom submitted a more detailed proposal and project budget. Again, our talented panel of reviewers read through each proposal and collectively recommended a list of grantees. Those recommendations were presented to our Board of Trustees earlier this month and we are honored to now share the winners.
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    Last year, Knight and the GAR Foundation released a survey on the arts in Akron that was telling. We found a real hunger for arts and culture in the city. People craved it. But we also found some gaps: African-Americans and young people in particular were having trouble finding programming that spoke to them. Related Link "Akron arts community receives $6 million boost from Knight Foundation" -- Press Release (09/21) I was impressed by how the arts community turned the information into an opportunity. They met, began to talk about what culture meant to them and the broader community, to look at strengths, opportunities and a way forward. To us at Knight, it was a great sign that Akron as a community was sitting down to reshape its cultural identity. Knight Foundation wants to play its part in helping Akron shape its new vibrant cultural community.  So today we’re excited to announce $6 million in new investments in the arts in Akron, funding we hope will build on this momentum.
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    St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.  Today, Knight Foundation is opening an opportunity for everyone—and we mean everyone—in St. Paul with a great idea for the arts. The Knight Arts Challenge is officially accepting applications. Now through May 5, we will be looking for the most innovative arts ideas to share $1.5 million in funding. You can submit them here at KnightArts.org. The first thing you need to know about the challenge is that submitting an idea isn’t like filling out a regular grant application. This is an ideas contest. We’re looking for projects that make us think differently about the arts and this community. And we believe those ideas should come from people like you who are already shaping this city through the arts. Applying is easy – it’s a 150-word max application. It’s open to everyone: you don’t have to be a non-profit. You can be an individual artist or even a business. We recognize that good ideas come from everywhere, and look for the challenge to draw them in. Your project needs to follow just three rules: Your idea must be about the arts. Your project must take place in or benefit St. Paul. And if selected, you must find funding to match the Knight Foundation grant. Remember that first rule especially when you think about your application. A panel of local readers reviews each one, and helps us ensure that winning ideas reflect the high level of artistic excellence for which this city is known.
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    Today, Knight Foundation is opening an opportunity for everyone—and we mean everyone—in St. Paul with a great idea for the arts. The Knight Arts Challenge is officially accepting applications. Now through May 5, we will be looking for the most innovative arts ideas to share $1.5 million in funding. You...
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    Today, we have exciting news for St. Paul: an $8 million commitment to the city’s cultural community. It’s a two-part investment that represents both a pledge to five of the city’s cultural institutions and a funding opportunity for everyone in the city. First, the pledge: Over the next few years, Knight will provide $3.5 million to five of the city’s arts organizations, to help them attract and engage audiences, and keep their work fresh and innovative into the future. We chose these groups – all current Knight grantees – because of their commitment to artistic excellence and their openness to finding new ways to engage the public, a key challenge for so many arts organizations. Funding will, for example, help the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra strengthen its already successful digital outreach, allow TU Dance to continue to diversify the local dance scene with expanded outreach programs, and help emerging performance groups take the stage at the Ordway Center through subsidized rentals. Penumbra Theater will fill two new positions to solidify the new vision for its future that it recently announced. And Springboard for the Arts, which has provided vital services to local artists, will bring its leadership and toolkits on issues like healthcare  to other communities around the United States. You can read more details about the efforts of these groups in today’s news release. For Knight, these groups represent the exciting momentum both St. Paul Program Director Polly Talen and I have seen here over the past few years. Through our visits to dozens of local arts groups, it’s evident that St. Paul is a community that prides itself on its thriving cultural sector, a city that knows and lives the importance of the arts to building a sense of community. In fact, that’s why Knight Foundation reinstated its arts program a few years ago – to fund ideas and projects that not just inspire and challenge us, but connect us to one another and our communities.