13 Philadelphia arts groups receive Knight Foundation funding

Knight Foundation’s 2016 investment in the Philadelphia arts nears $3 million

PHILADELPHIA –Sept. 21, 2016 –  Thirteen Philadelphia arts group will receive $415,000 in new funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The support will provide small organizations with new tools to thrive and help larger institutions reflect and engage the increasingly diverse city.

Several of the projects will help individual artists and institutions evolve by using technology and new fundraising models. They include CultureWorks’ VENTURE, which will provide a shared revenue development team and technology for small-scale arts projects, and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance’s efforts to pair technologists with art groups to figure out ways to use data to expand their patron base.

Others will help organizations engage diverse audiences and present a wider range of voices in their programming. Taller Puertoriqueno will bring in artists to help residents challenge perceptions of the city’s largely Latino Fairhill neighborhood, and in October, Asian Arts Initiative will present a new site-specific piece by a Korean artist that explores three instances of loss. Mobballet, meanwhile, will create a multimedia exhibition to tell the history and stories of Philadelphia’s black ballerinas.

In addition, the projects will include a multi-sensory night of music, art and food at the Barnes Museum, “surprise” shows at the Painted Bride where the performance isn’t known until patrons show up that night, and a new PHILDANCO! Production by choreographer Rennie Harris called  “Straight Outta Philly.”

A full list is below.

Earlier this year, Knight Foundation announced $2.5 million in support for Opera Philadelphia, to help it rethink and present a new format for it’s season opening festival, part of which will be tested at its fall opener this week.

Knight Foundation’s arts program works with partners who create or present art that engages, educates and delights residents in ways that reflect the rich diversity and identity of Philadelphia.

“Artists help to tell our stories, define who we are and where we are going,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. “This investment in Philadelphia artists and organizations will help them innovate and broaden their appeal to a more diverse audience.”

In addition to Opera Philadelphia, the 2016 grantees are:

  • Asian Arts Initiative ($20,000) Supporting the development and production of “Salt Soul,” a site-specific performance by Jungwoong Kim featuring dance, music, video and vocalization that explores three incidents of sudden loss, disaster, and grief from an Asian-American perspective.
  • Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra ($20,000): Creating a multi-sensory experience with “Synaesthesia,” which pairs music, art and a meal prepared by a celebrity chef at the Barnes Museum that explores the connections between the aesthetic and sensory experiences of each genre. The project is inspired by the branch of philosophy- somaesthetics – which explores the role of the body experience in aesthetic appreciation.
  • Black Star Film Festival ($50,000): Celebrating filmmakers of the African diaspora, and sharing their stories with Philadelphians, at the 2016 festival this summer. More than 4,000 people attended the festival which explored the theme of migration.
  • CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia ($50,000): CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia ($50,000): Increasing the capacity of individual artists and small arts organizations to get the support they need for their work through VENTURE, a new funding model that offers a shared revenue development team and technology for small-scale projects and organizations. VENTURE will develop and test new ways to provide affordable fundraising and marketing support to cultural organizations and creative enterprise.
  • Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania ($5,000) Increasing artistic literacy and developing new audiences for contemporary art with a free public education series “What is Contemporary Art?” The sessions will be taught by a combination of University of Pennsylvania faculty, local artists and writers at the Institute of Contemporary Art.
  • Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance ($50,000) Helping arts organizations use data to build their patron base by partnering with Code for Philly on a year-long initiative pairing technologists and arts groups. The event will include meet-ups with leaders in politics, sports and retail to talk about how they use data to transform their organizations and businesses.
  • Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and PATH – Preserving, Archiving & Teaching Hip Hop ($50,000) Showcasing Philadelphia artists during the 2016 Democratic National Convention by activating the city’s main thoroughfare, Broad Street, with the arts, including a median mural, a performance of the contemporary hip-hop musical “The Last Jimmy” and a youth-created public art installation
  • MoBBallet ($50,000): Documenting the experiences of black ballerinas with media installations telling the stories of four trained in Philadelphia starting in the 1940s. As more ballets seek to diversify their companies, MOBB wants to share the history of blacks in ballet to create a legacy that connects to modern audiences.
  • Painted Bride Art Center ($25,000): Exploring new ways to attract millennials to the center with the Secret Show series, where the subject of the show is unknown to the audience until it premieres. The series curated by emerging artists creates opportunities for those one-time-only, “I was there” experiences that artists and adventuresome audiences alike are seeking.
  • Philadelphia Dance Company ($40,000) To engage audiences with “Straight Outta Philly” – a new PHILADANCO! production in collaboration with acclaimed choreographer and Philadelphia native Rennie Harris that will blend street style hip-hop and modern dance in November.
  • Philadelphia Fringe Festival ($25,000): Attracting and building a diverse FringeArts audience more reflective of the Philadelphia community by supporting the 2016 Fringe Festival to present African/African American performance artists in performance, educational programing and facilitated conversations with artists.
  • Taller Puertorriqueño ($25,000): Engaging artists and residents in challenging perceptions of the city’s Fairhill neighborhood with Yo Soy Oro, a multi-media campaign and exhibition. This effort builds on a successful 2014 initiative, where the award-winning artists Escobar-Morales created a fake advertising agency to develop a campaign that contemplate economic and social issues through the lens of advertising.
  • Three Aksha ($5,000) Creating new choreography for classical Indian dance by bringing master artists from India to Philadelphia to form a 20-minute piece based on the Indian text Natyashastra, an ancient and classic Sanskrit piece on stagecraft in the performing arts.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once owned newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit


Marika Lynch, communications consultant, Knight Foundation, [email protected], 305-908-2677.