Knight Arts Challenge 2021 returns to Detroit

Local artists and arts organizations are encouraged to apply by submitting their best ideas for the arts from July 1 to 31.

DETROIT (June 21, 2021) – Artists and arts organizations across Detroit have adopted their practices to connect with audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Building on the innovation and creativity they have shown, Knight Foundation is launching the Knight Arts Challenge 2021 in July to support Detroit artists to create works that connect people to place and each other.

The open call for applications will begin on July 1 and end on July 31. Artists and arts organizations are encouraged to apply for a share of $2 million to fund their projects by submitting a 150-word proposal that answers this question: What is your best idea for the arts in Detroit?

“The arts are a powerful tool to bring people together; they foster community,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president. “Detroit’s reopening is the perfect time for artists to express the new narrative of a reborn Detroit.”

“Through the Knight Arts Challenge, we want to support artists and art organizations who are showing the way forward as cities reopen, and encourage them to embrace new forms of expression that mirror ways audiences are engaging with art,” said Victoria Rogers, Knight’s vice president for the Arts. “We look forward to adding new artists and ideas to help bring their incredible works of art to life.”

Since its creation in 2008, the Knight Arts Challenge has funded hundreds of ideas from artists and arts organizations that have helped transform the arts and culture scene in cities, including Detroit, where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. 

Now in its eight year in Detroit, the Challenge — open to anyone with an idea for engaging and enriching Detroit through arts and culture — has brought 312 projects to life by awarding over $14million in grants.

Since 2013, arts ideas that represent the broad variety of disciplines and practitioners working in the city have been realized through the Challenge. These include: 

  • Tetra — A four-show festival of theater, poetry, music and technology exploring stories of personal transformation that was created by Chace Morris and Sherina Sharpe.
  • The Porch on TAP — Southwest Detroit-based Young Nation hosted short-term residencies for artists to connect with community, stage performances, show their creations and conduct workshops — all from the organization’s front porch. 
  • Baghdad in Detroit — A collaborative video project led by poet Dunya Mikhail that highlights Detroit through the eyes of Iraqi-American poets and explores the many diverse communities within the city.

This year, the Knight Arts Challenge is interested in how artists and art organizations are creating works that attract audiences, enhance in-person experiences, document creation, or amplify reach to people who wouldn’t otherwise experience the art. Audio, video, websites, mobile apps, augmented reality and virtual reality are all potential tools.

Winners of the Challenge, who will be announced in the fall, are eligible to receive additional funding to implement digital strategies in service of their individual practice or organization, as well as getting access to experts, who can advise them on how to effectively deploy the additional funding. In addition, winners will also receive access to training resources and materials related to business sustainability, budgeting, revenue generation, marketing and outreach.

During the July 1 to 31 application period, Knight will host two virtual town hall meetings on July 1 and July 26, and members of the Knight Arts team will be available for virtual office hours to answer questions about the application process or to provide feedback on pitching ideas. Applicants are encouraged to reserve a time at, beginning on July 1.

For Knight Arts Challenge updates, follow #knightarts and @knightfdn on Twitter and Instagram, and Knight Foundation on Facebook.


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

Media Contact: Nat Synowiec, Van Dyke Horn Public Relations, 248-525-5375, [email protected]