57 Detroit arts projects win $2.5 million in Knight Arts Challenge Detroit

DETROIT – Nov. 9, 2015 – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced 57 winners that will share $2.5 million in this year’s Knight Arts Challenge Detroit.  Now in its third year in Detroit, these winners emerged from more than 1,000 submissions.

Related Link

Knight Foundation announces new $9 million commitment to the Detroit arts” – press release, 11/8/2015

Do-It-Yourself spirit results in renewal of Knight Art Challenge Detroit” on Knight Blog by Victoria Rogers, 11/8/2015

A project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the challenge funds the best ideas for the arts.  The Knight Arts Challenge has only three rules for applying: 1) The idea must be about the arts; 2) The project must take place in or benefit Detroit; 3) The grant recipients must find funds to match Knight’s commitment.

“From creating large-scale public art to bringing professional artists into classrooms, all of the Knight Arts winners are authentically Detroit. They make art by Detroiters for Detroiters and for the world.  And, in making art for everyone, they connect Detroiters to each other and to their home town,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation.

This year’s winners are efforts big and small. They include projects from a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, literary powerhouse 826Michigan, the Sphinx Organization and renowned artist James Turrell, in addition to a variety of grassroots efforts, such as a small salon series directed by Marsha Music and bilingual songbook featuring Bengali culture and the local immigrant experience.

Additionally, many of this year’s winners will use Detroit as an urban stage. With challenge funds, they will transform Brightmoor park trails into performance spaces, create outdoor puppet spectacles that tell the story of the surrounding neighborhood, make art more accessible with famous paintings recreated on former rooftop commercial signs and turn the side of the Cobo Center into a display for digital art.

A full list of winners is below and online at KnightArts.org.

“Detroit’s future is being driven by artists and creatives. Over the past three years, the Knight Arts Challenge has helped to further fuel that momentum, funding high-quality projects that reflect the city’s hopes for tomorrow,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation.

In addition Monday, Hamtramck Free School was revealed as the winner of the 2015 Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice Award, the culmination of a record-breaking text-to-vote campaign. Hamtramck Free School was one of four small arts organizations up for the $20,000, which is in addition to their Knight Arts Challenge grant, and can be used for the artistic project of their choice. Knight created the People’s Choice Award to raise the public profiles of small and emerging arts groups and their contributions to the city.

In addition Monday, XXX was revealed as the winner of the 2015 Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice Award, the culmination of a record-breaking text-to-vote campaign. The XXX was one of four small arts organizations up for the $20,000, which is in addition to their Knight Arts Challenge grant, and can be used for the artistic project of their choice. Knight created the People’s Choice Award to raise the public profiles of small and emerging arts groups and their contributions to the city.

Because of its early success in Detroit, Knight Foundation also announced this week that it will renew the challenge, which was first brought to the city in 2013, for another three years. Knight Foundation’s arts program has a two-pronged approach: to invest in larger institutions so that they better engage the public, and in more grassroots efforts through the Knight Arts Challenge. Past winners whose projects have engaged and captured Detroit’s imagination include Hardcore Detroit, which screened its documentary on the Detroit dance craze, The Jit, at a community celebration at the Detroit Institute of Arts; Nick Cave’s Here Hear, which was presented by the Cranbrook Art Museum and engaged a large swath of the city over six months, the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers, which puts true Detroit stories onstage, the Ballet Folklorico Moyocoyani Izel, instructing and presenting traditional Mexican dance, and From Detroit to Baghdad: Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, an exhibit and festival highlighting the artists books and letterpress broadsides commemorating the 2007 bombing of the famed street of Baghdad booksellers.

For more on Knight Foundation’s arts initiative and to view a full list of Knight Arts Challenge winners, visit www.KnightArts.org. Connect with Knight Foundation on Facebook, Twitter using #KnightArts and on Instagram.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

2015 Winners of the Knight Arts Challenge Detroit

Recipient: 826michigan

  • Amount: $150,000
  • Fostering a love of literature in youth by turning this writing center in Eastern Market into a pretend “robot factory” where students create stories to humanize the bots

Recipient: AFROTOPIA

  • Award: $30,000
  • Bringing together art and the cosmos in Sigi Fest, an annual performance art festival at House Opera | Opera House that aims to rejuvenate the spirit of Detroiters

Recipient: Adrienne Brown

  • Award: $25,000
  • Engaging artists in the city’s future by expanding a salon series that uses science fiction to envision – and ultimately create – a better Detroit

Recipient: Alise Alousi

  • Amount: $32,500
  • Sharing the stories of recent Iraqi women refugees in Detroit by pairing them with Iraqi artists and writers to develop a series of photo essays about their lives

Recipient: Anders Ruhwald

  • Amount: $25,000
  • Turning a Detroit apartment into an art installation and community space that embraces fire’s transformative qualities, with everything inside made of charred wood, steel, molten glass and black ceramics
  • Award: $50,000
  • Increasing the public’s understanding of Arab and Arab-American culture through an artist-in-residence program that engages the community and serves as an incubator for new works 

Recipient: Assemble Sound

  • Amount: $50,000
  • Exploring the breadth of music talent in the city by pairing local musicians across genres and generations to write, produce and record albums together
  • Award: $12,000
  • Celebrating Bengali culture with a bilingual songbook and CD featuring the works of Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore, set to the work of Detroit composer Akram Hussain and reflecting on the immigrant experience of Bengali-Americans in the Motor City

Recipient: Burnside Farm

  • Amount: $100,000
  • Bringing together art and urban farming by expanding to year-round a series of art installations, performances and community dinners at the farm in a new community space

Recipient: CAVE

  • Amount: $15,000
  • Helping artists create more ambitious projects by providing financial support for emerging artists exhibiting at this artist-run project space

Recipient: Cedric Tai Studios

  • Amount: $25,000
  • Exploring life in two post-industrial cities by pairing artists from Detroit and Glasgow, Scotland, to collaborate on curated exhibitions
  • Amount: $50,000
  • Composing new narratives for Detroit by staging an Outdoor Puppet Spectacle Series featuring larger-than-life performing objects that use the city as their backdrop

Recipient: Chace Morris

  • Amount: $7,500
  • Using an energetic hybrid of poetry and music to examine gentrification, renewal and the tense relationship between citizen and city within Detroit, through the lens of the science-fiction film “RoboCop” 
  • Amount: $40,000
  • Inspiring the city by programming Cobo’s large exterior screen with digital art from local and national artists
  • Amount: $30,000
  • Highlighting the quality of contemporary art in Detroit by presenting the works in a national and international framework in the new journal Detroit Research

Recipient: Complex Movements

  • Amount: $45,000
  • Bringing the interactive performance installation, “Beware of the Dandelions,” which toured nationally with stories of Detroit’s social justice movements, back home so Detroiters can experience the stories of other cities it visited

Recipient: Corktown Studios

  • Amount: $4,500
  • Highlighting Detroit’s rock and hip-hop musicians by professionally recording sessions of Corktown Studios’ “unplugged” performance showcase, “The Haunted Wood Revue”

Recipient: Corpus

  • Amount: $30,000
  • Creating a sense of place through art with a series of murals on Southwest Detroit’s commercial buildings that feature Mexican culture along with advertisements
  • Award: $60,000
  •  Presenting a Detroit tour of “The Truth Booth,” a portable film studio in the shape of a speech bubble by Hank Willis Thomas and The Cause Collective that compiles responses to the statement “The truth is…”

Recipient: Deonte Osayande

  • Award: $4,000
  • Expanding the Michigan Metaphorical Melee, a poetry festival, to include a team poetry slam, showcases of local publishers, workshops and a theater production where local poets perform characters based on their writings
  • Award: $50,000
  • Creating a nomadic funk opera by staging cutting-edge outdoor musical performances throughout the city
  • Award: $25,000
  • Preserving this moment in Detroit’s evolution by partnering with students at the College for Creative Studies to “Re-Document” Detroit in a photo series similar to one done by a professor and students in the 1970s and ’80s
  • Award: $10,000
  • Reimagining the Osborn neighborhood as an art destination by commissioning two Osborn-born artists and a fellow Detroit artist to engage the community in creating a large-scale welcome mural
  • Award: $150,000
  • Preserving the legacy of sculptor Louise Nevelson by restoring one of her prized works and potentially relocating it to the Dequindre Cut Greenway or the Detroit Riverfront
  • Award: $22,000
  • Recording a hip-hop violin single featuring Eastside youth performing classical pieces with the beats of three local artists
  • Award: $50,000
  • Preserving hip-hop culture and the legacy of Detroit rapper and producer J Dilla with daylong workshops in art and technology that help youth explore the creative potential of cutting-edge software and tools 

Recipient: Halima Cassells

  • Award: $25,000
  • Creating interactive installations where participants exchange goods, stories and ideas, and take part in up-cycled fashion workshops
  • Award: $10,000
  • Sharing the poetry and visual art of imprisoned individuals who meet weekly in a writing workshop by publishing a chapbook series that showcases their art and stories

Recipient: Heritage Works

  • Award: $100,000
  • Sharing West African traditions with Detroiters by providing a residency for a West African griot who will mentor local youth and artists in the oral traditions of Mali and Senegal, resulting in a performance of Detroit stories
  • Award: $50,000
  • Expanding the literary arts in Detroit by turning the statewide teen poetry slam “Louder Than a Bomb” into year-round programming for students

Recipient: Interstate Arts

  • Award: $25,000
  • Bringing the stories of a Detroit building to life in “Good Bones,” a multimedia performance of shadow puppetry and projections that explores the Sophie Wright Settlement House and the neighborhood’s stories of perseverance and evolution
  • Award: $50,000
  • Preserving the mariachi tradition by expanding the Mariachi Juvenil Detroit program, which trains local youth to become professional mariachis, and creating an all-female ensemble

Recipient: Marsha Music

  • Award: $6,000
  • Creating “Salon De’troit,” a space led by Marsha Music for artists and thinkers to exchange ideas and explore topics relating to the Motor City
  • Award: $13,000
  • Exploring design tactics for early industrial “balloon-frame” houses in Detroit, a research project that presents alternatives for vacant and publicly owned structures, to be displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit

Recipient: Michigan Theater

  • Award: $100,000
  • Building community through the Cinetopia Film Festival by increasing the number of free screenings and events for underserved audiences while expanding the Detroit Voices program for local filmmakers
  • Award: $100,000
  • Bringing more arts programs into Detroit schools by pairing professional performing artists with middle schools that don’t have theater programs for short-term residencies
  • Award: $100,000
  • Expanding the DEPE Space residency program for individuals of any discipline whose work expands the thinking around what is possible when art is used as a change agent

Recipient: Opera MODO

  • Award: $20,000
  • Exploring gender and sexuality through a transgender production of Bizet’s “Carmen” where the performance is set in a minimum-security prison reminiscent of the series “Orange Is the New Black”

Recipient: Pewabic Pottery

  • Award: $60,000
  • Creating an interactive ceramic experience for all ages through a mobile clay party where participants work with an artist to decorate a pot, which is fired on site and pulled red-hot from the kiln to reveal unique designs and patterns that serve as a metaphor for creative rebirth

Recipient: Popps Packing

  • Award: $25,000
  • Turning an unused alley behind Popps Emporium into “The Back Forty,” a green corridor and community resource hub that modifies backyard garages and sheds into a chain of art studios, workshops, a tool lending library and more.

Recipient: rootoftwo

  • Amount: $50,000
  • Examining the impact of technology on 21st-century life with two architectural installations that propose methods for designing buildings, clothes and objects that can evade electronic means of detection

Recipient: Scott Hocking

  • Award: $37,500
  • Bringing art into communities by using the metal armatures of former commercial signage to hold illuminated sign versions of famous artworks

Recipient: Shara Worden

  • Amount: $50,000
  • Engaging audiences by bringing to Detroit a newly composed modern baroque chamber opera, “You Us We All,” a work inspired by Beyonce and Bach that reinterprets classical forms for audiences in the iPhone age
  • Amount: $40,000
  • Enlivening public spaces with nature-based art through Sidewalks and SideTrails, a residency program that develops and presents walkable performances and installations along the trails of Brightmoor’s Eliza Howell Park 

Recipient: Signal-Return

  • Award: $35,000
  • Celebrating the art of letterpress, and the growing number of practitioners and aficionados in Detroit, with “Letterpress Love Fest: Type Takes Over Detroit,” an interactive and collaborative festival of the printing, visual and literary arts

Recipient: Skyspace Detroit

  • Award: $150,000
  • Commissioning artist James Turrell to design Detroit Skyspace, a place for gathering and inspiration at Gabriel Richard Park

Recipient: Sphinx Organization

  • Award: $50,000
  • Increasing diversity in and accessibility to classical music by providing free tickets and programming – plus TV and online broadcasts – of the annual Sphinx Finals Concert at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Max M. Fisher Music Center

Recipient: Spread Art

  • Amount: $35,000
  • Providing space and support for Detroit-based visual, performing and literary artists through a three-month residency to create and present new work
  • Amount: $150,000
  • Turning the abandoned childhood home of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson into a space that promotes the literary arts via a resident fellow at nearby Marygrove College
  • Amount: $25,000
  • Providing training for teens in creative industries by launching a youth-led, membership-based community print shop focused on screen-printing, design and entrepreneurship

Recipient: Stupor

  • Amount: $18,000
  • Sharing Hamtramck through “Stupor,” a zine that collects and publishes true stories from the people who frequent the city’s many bars and watering holes
  • Award: $8,000
  • Strengthening the Detroit Hair Experience, a hair, fashion and art event for Detroiters to share their passions with each other

Recipient: The Prankster Press

  • Award: $10,000
  • Creating new ways to perceive and navigate the city through “The Detroit Atlas,” a series of maps that demarcate the city based on a variety of perceptions collected from history, weather patterns, public data and subjective experiences

Recipient: Third Wave Music

  • Award: $20,000
  • Bringing together musicians at a storefront that sells instruments and accessories, offers repairs, and educates with private and free lessons on playing, do-it-yourself repairs and songwriting

Recipient: Tiff Massey

  • Award: $25,000
  • Launching a one-month residency for international and national visual artists who use metal as their primary medium 
  • Award: $14,000
  • Preserving a symbol of local Chicano pride by restoring and completing a mural, the “Shield of Peace and Non-violence,” in Southwest Detroit

Recipient: YETI

  • Award: $18,000
  • Sharing the gospel music of Detroit by reissuing several gospel albums produced in Detroit in the 1960s and ’70s



Peter Van Dyke, Berg Muirhead and Associates, , [email protected], 313-872-2202

Marika Lynch, Communications Consultant, Knight Foundation, [email protected], 305-908-2677