From new dance works to digital art at a grocery store, 25 arts ideas win Knight Arts Challenge Detroit

DETROIT – Nov. 7, 2018 – Emerging from neighborhoods throughout Detroit, 25 ideas were named winners of Knight Arts Challenge Detroit on Wednesday. A community-wide initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the challenge funds the best ideas for engaging and enriching the city through the arts.

Reflecting the quality and range of creative ideas in the city, the winning projects will, for example, bring together curators from three top arts institutions for an ambitious public art and performance series, and create a virtual reality installation at a local grocery store. The winners, receiving a total of $1.46 million, seek to:

  • Share Detroit stories – including through a festival of new, 10-minute plays that speak to the city and its history.
  • Enliven public spaces – with a new sculptural and light installation in the Core City neighborhood, and a transformative public garden on Belle Isle by the landscape designer of New York City’s High Line.
  • Explore the identities and experiences of Arab Americans in Detroit – through photography, sound installations and dance.

Knight Foundation celebrated the winning ideas at an awards event at the Fillmore Detroit Wednesday night. They join more than 250 past winners recognized since the challenge launched in 2013.

“Artists and arts organizations have completely changed Detroit’s landscape, and Knight Arts Challenge winners are leading the way,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. “They are telling Detroit’s stories, helping to frame the world around us and writing Detroit’s next chapter.”

Knight Foundation funds the arts because of their ability to inspire communities and connect people to each other and to their city. Knight Arts Challenge is just one way that Knight Foundation invests in the arts. Last month, Knight Foundation announced a new $20 million investment in Detroit’s arts community, which will enable some of the city’s anchor arts institutions to reimagine their relationships with the community through innovation and experimentation, and allow smaller organizations to build their own capacity. The new funding, bringing Knight’s investment in the arts here to $52 million since 2012, will also support the continuation of Knight Arts Challenge Detroit.

Knight Arts Challenge Detroit is open to anyone. Applicants must follow only three rules: 1) The idea must be about the arts; 2) The project must take place in or benefit Detroit; 3) The grant recipient must find funds to match Knight’s commitment.

“Great ideas for the arts can come from anywhere. We see it in the winners of Knight Arts Challenge, who are driven by skill and powered by a passion for their craft and our community,” said Katy Locker, Detroit program director for Knight Foundation. 

The winners of this year’s challenge are: 

Arab American National Museum

Arab American Arts and Cultural Festival


To celebrate Arab-American culture with a summer festival in East Dearborn featuring artists, makers, musicians and traditional food

CAN Art Handworks/Carlos Nielbock

Detroit Gallery of Metals


To establish a gallery exploring the role of metals in Detroit and abroad – from iron elements of the Industrial Revolution to ornamental metalworks from the city’s historic architecture – in order to encourage interest in the metal arts that built the city and the world

Collective Sweat Detroit

Collective Sweat Detroit


To advance the rigor and relevance of dance in Detroit through a choreographic residency program, and by expanding weekly classes for professional artists

Core City Beautification Fund/Prince Concepts

Public Art Commission


To commission local artists to create two sculptural and light-based installations for a new public park in the Core City neighborhood

Cranbrook Art Museum

Material Detroit


To bring together three Detroit curators and institutions – Taylor Renee Aldridge (ARTS.BLACK), Laura Mott (Cranbrook Art Museum), and Ryan Myers-Johnson (Sidewalk Festival) – in an epic public art, conversation and performance series focused on themes of material ingenuity, resourcefulness and resistance

Detroit Artists Market

Fly | Drown


To commission performance artist Jennifer Harge to draw on personal, collective and ancestral memory to create an immersive exhibition centering on intimacy, domesticity and resilience through the creation of black space

Detroit Public Theatre

48Hours in… Detroit


To produce – in collaboration with Harlem9 – “48Hours in… Detroit” a festival of new 10-minute plays by native and current Detroit artists who will reimagine stories that speak to the rich history of the city

Detroit Writers’ Guild

The All Access Cafe of Detroit


To create an all-access cafe at Detroit Public Library that brings together differently abled artists and audiences for literary readings and musical performances, where people can share conversation, connection and common ground through the arts

Detroit Public Theatre, in collaboration with Harlem9, will produce “48Hours in… ™Detroit, a festival of new 10-minute plays by local artists. Credit: Garlia Cornelia Jones

Karen Dybis

Project SAVE: The Delray Neighborhood Preservation Plan


To create a record of the people, businesses and landmarks of the disappearing Delray neighborhood through a community-driven exhibition and online archive

Living Arts



To showcase the power of dance as a lens through which to explore celebration and resistance in Southwest Detroit with partners Motor City Street Dance Academy, Ballet Folklorico Moyocoyani Izel, and Compas, that will subsequently be filmed and projected onto buildings by artist Sacramento Knoxx

Mark Stryker

Jazz from Detroit


To create a festival of salon-style interviews and performances, produced in partnership with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, that celebrates Detroit jazz musicians, and demonstrates that the city’s remarkable jazz heritage remains a living tradition

Marshalle Montgomery Favors

The Fearless Tribe of Fanatic Filmmakers


To uplift the stories of Detroit’s black independent filmmakers and showcase their work by hosting screenings, panels and workshops in unconventional venues

Michael Khoury

Zombie Frequencies of the Palestinian Diaspora


To explore the context for several waves of Palestinian emigration in recent years with a new performance work of sound and dance

Michelle Andonian

CORE 375


To commemorate the closing of the I-375 freeway in Eastern Market with performances and installations that celebrate the history of the people and neighborhoods that preceded its construction

Michigan State University Community Music School-Detroit

Women of Jazz


To share the rich legacy and contributions of women in jazz through public performances and a week-long symposium featuring bassist and scholar Marion Hayden, to empower and inform the next generation of young musicians

NKSK Events + Productions/Njia Kai

The Temple of John Coltrane


To celebrate the legacy of pioneering musician and composer John Coltrane with a two-day event in a gallery setting featuring live performances of Coltrane’s work by professional and emerging Detroit musicians, dancers, spoken word and visual artists

Michigan State University Community Music School, a 2018 Knight Arts Challenge winner, will share the rich legacy and contributions of women in jazz through public performances and a week-long symposium. Credit: Perry Holmes

Norwest Gallery of Art

Norwest Gallery of Art


To provide affordable arts programming for people living in Detroit’s Northwest side by expanding offerings at this community-based gallery, including live performances, cinema, trainings and hands-on arts workshops

Oudolf Garden Detroit

Piet Oudolf Garden on Belle Isle


To bring to life a transformative public garden on Belle Isle designed by Piet Oudolf, visionary designer of the High Line in New York City


ProjectArt: Detroit


To bring more art into community spaces by providing emerging visual artists with studios in public libraries, where they will offer classes, talks and exhibits, engage in public art projects, and mentor art students

Shara Nova

Body Vessel


To present a theatrical musical event exploring friendship and experiences as women of different skin colors, with Shara Nova and Helga Davis wearing a sculptural dress for two created by Annica Cuppetelli


Power (Up!) The Press Fest


To grow and celebrate Detroit’s rich community of printmakers, bookbinders, poets and papermakers with a festival of print media in all its variety

The Hinterlands

The Hinterlands Present: Assemblage Contemporary Performance Series


To advance the conversation around cutting-edge contemporary performance in Detroit by presenting a series of internationally-recognized theater and dance artists from across the U.S.

University of Michigan-Dearborn

Halal Metropolis: Exploring Muslim Visibility in Detroit


To create a series of exhibitions by Osman Khan, Razi Jafri and Sally Howell that explore aspects of Muslim visibility in Metro Detroit, both reality-based as well as perceptions shaped by other factors, to support and deepen community connections

Wayne State University

Between Two Worlds: The Arab American Experience in Detroit


To commission Farah Al Qasimi, internationally renowned fine art photographer, to explore the experience of Arab Americans in Detroit through a series of photographs created during her arts residency in the city

Vanessa Cronan

Digital Arts Programming at New Local Grocery Store


To bring virtual reality and digital art into everyday spaces by presenting installations inside a new grocery store, including events where 3D printed musical instruments and edible desserts are produced

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 published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit


Peter Van Dyke, Van Dyke Horn Public Relations, [email protected]

Images available upon request

Image (top): Detroit Artists Market, a 2018 Knight Arts Challenge Detroit Winner, will commission performance artist Jennifer Harge (pictured) to create an immersive exhibition centering on intimacy, domesticity and resilience through the creation of black space. Image courtesy of Detroit Artists Market.