Knight Arts Challenge names Detroit finalists

Photo: Ernest Camel from 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios paints wood pallets for a theater production at Recycle Here! Credit: Carl Goines.

DETROIT – June 16, 2014 – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced 88 finalists in the Knight Arts Challenge, a community-wide contest in its second year of funding arts and cultural projects that engage and enrich Detroit.

Related Link

Meet the Detroit Knight Arts Challenge finalists” by Tatiana Hernandez on Knight Arts Blog

The finalists propose a range of ideas – from art and performance in viaducts, gardens and living rooms, to Javanese theater puppetry and Mexican dance, a “Story Census” and celebrations of opera, gospel, DJs, drumlines and ragtime. The majority of the finalists are grassroots efforts led by small organizations and individual artists.

A full list is below and at Winners will be announced in October.

“Earlier this year, we asked a simple question: What’s your best idea for the arts? The answers reflect truly Detroit ideas for bringing the arts into the city’s neighborhoods and into people’s everyday lives,” said Dennis Scholl, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation.

In addition, the public will again have a say in who receives funding with the Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice Award. In August, Detroiters will be invited to vote via text message for one of several small or emerging arts organizations. The winner will receive $20,000 in support.

“The People’s Choice Award puts the city’s small arts groups in the spotlight, highlighting their importance and contributions to our cultural community and city,” said Katy Locker, Detroit program director for Knight Foundation.

Open to everyone, the Knight Arts Challenge offers matching grant money to the best ideas for the arts. 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.

Last year, the first of three for the Detroit Knight Arts Challenge, the contest awarded $2.1 million to 56 ideas.

The challenge is part of a $19.25 million investment in the Detroit arts that Knight Foundation announced in the fall of 2012. It includes support for the three-year challenge, which provides $9 million in funding, exposure and momentum to smaller arts efforts, and $10.25 million to some of the region’s premiere cultural institutions: the Arab American National Museum, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit School of Arts, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Opera Theatre and the Sphinx Organization.

For more information, visit

Knight Arts Challenge Detroit Finalists 2014

2739 Edwin / 9338 Campau

To create “Emergency Cinema,” an exhibition of short documentaries made by Syrian filmmakers shown continuously on a storefront screen

555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios

To provide artists access to studios and equipment through residencies and monthly memberships at the gallery

6th Street Dance Studio/WholeProject

To build connections between the urban dance communities in Miami and Detroit through master classes in each city and via video conferencing, anchored by Hardcore Detroit and Miami’s 6th Street Dance Studio/Whole Project

∞ mile (infinite mile)

To foster critical artistic discourse in Detroit through a newly launched online journal of art and culture

A Host of People

To celebrate the do-it-yourself movement in both food and the arts by creating a site-responsive theater piece performed in community gardens around the city

African Bead Museum

To enhance an educational center for African culture by creating and renovating an exhibition and programming space for the African Bead Museum

Alibi Studio

To reimagine neglected Detroit spaces into dining rooms for curated, locally sourced meals shared by neighbors

Allied Media Projects

To expand the annual Allied Media Conference to include a full music showcase, further exploring the intersection of art and social change

Anders Ruhwald

To explore the transformative qualities of fire – both destructive and constructive – by creating “The Charred House,” a permanent art installation inside a Detroit home where the interior is made of charred wood and black ceramics

Andrew Krieger

To weave art into people’s everyday lives by creating “Kamishibai Man,” a bicycle-mounted wooden theater – based on a Japanese tradition – where performers use paper art to tell serial stories


To create a post-industrial homage to the Javanese tradition of shadow puppetry through a modern performance with towering, robotic puppets and gongs

Artifact Makers Society

To promote contemporary craftwork by establishing a museum and retail shop featuring the works of local artists who design for homes or other living spaces


To support Detroit Dance City Festival, a three-day celebration that provides an opportunity for local and national artists to present their work and strengthen ties in Detroit’s dance community

Ballet Folklorico De Los Renacidos

To preserve Mexican culture by offering free, traditional dance instruction and costumes to Detroit’s youth

Ballet Folklorico Moyocoyani Izel

To share the traditional dances of Mexico’s La Huasteca region by partnering with a local dance group and professionals in Mexico to teach the choreography to Detroiters

Biba Bell

To invite the public to experience both dance and classic architecture by producing “It Never Really Happened,” an intimate performance inside an apartment in the 1950s Detroit high-rise designed by Mies van der Rohe

Body Rhythm Dance Theatre

To celebrate Detroit’s former Black Bottom neighborhood by creating a dance piece dedicated to its legacy

Broadside Press

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Broadside Press, a Detroit-based publisher for many leading African-American writers, by helping digitize its works

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

To showcase how unique and connected global cultures are by hosting “Call of the Drum: A Drum Summit” featuring percussionists from around the world


To honor the spirit of Southwest Detroit by creating “Inspiración,”  a mosaic mural in the Springwells viaduct, one of the area’s main arteries

CMAP (Carrie Morris Arts Production)

To present “The Living Room Series,” an artistic experiment with intimate space that includes contemporary puppetry and multimedia works in a renovated, abandoned house

Corktown Cinema L3C

To expand Corktown Cinema’s offerings to include music, performance art and filmmaker and artist talks

Cranbrook Art Museum

To mount performance artist Nick Cave’s “Biggest, Baddest Performance of All Time!” a series of spectacles around the city

Detroit Digital Stewards

To tell the story of Detroit’s neighborhoods through sound by creating “Detroit Music Box,” a suite of community radio shows produced by the people who live there

Detroit Drumline Academy

To build on a strong history of Detroit percussionists by having former drummers from Detroit-area schools teach and mentor middle and high school students

Detroit Economic Growth Association

To bring new life to vacant storefronts and properties by commissioning artists to design high-quality installations across neighborhoods and local business districts  

Detroit Fiber Works

To push the limits of fiber as an art material by hosting free fiber art workshops for teens

Detroit Future Schools

To use the arts to help children tell their neighborhood stories by having them conduct research about their communities and convey their findings through “Data Murals”

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

To explore the role of art in shaping the history, recovery and resurgence of a city through “Coney Dog Jambalaya: Cities Collide,” a cultural exchange between Detroit and New Orleans


To create a video series profiling established and emerging artists that will explore the creative processes that drives Detroit’s musicians


To foster a dialogue around the arts and arts book by supporting a small publishing house focused on literary and visual arts books

Forward Arts

To enhance the natural and man-made space of the Dequindre Cut Greenway through a public art project


 To engage Latino youth in the theater arts through a bilingual performing arts program in southwest Detroit

Hastings Street Blues Project / Marsha Music and Juanita Anderson

To explore the story of Detroit’s mid-century, African-American community through a documentary on Joe Von Battle’s seminal blues and gospel record store

Haute to Death

To showcase Detroit culture around the country by presenting the city’s Haute to Death dance parties as a traveling exhibition


To stage an opera based on the occupancy, vacancy, demolition and repurposing of a home, exploring urban planning issues and the life cycle of houses in Detroit

InsideOut Literary Arts Project

To host a techno-poetry performance exploring the history of Detroit DJs and their contribution to contemporary music

Jacob Street/The Untitled Bottega

To transform an abandoned property next to a North End art gallery into “The Coliseum,” an outdoor theater and cultural hub meant to strengthen a neighborhood through the arts

Jefferson East Inc.

To transcend the symbolic and physical boundary between Detroit and Grosse Point Park through art interventions at Alter Road

Jessica Krcmarik

To preserve Detroit’s historic signs by saving the typography around the city via photography and making them into useable, digital typefaces for local business and letterpress use  

Kremena Todorova and Kurt Gohde

To promote civic pride via “The Detroit Tattoo Project,” where a local poet is commissioned to create a piece about the city which is then divided and drawn for use on free tattoos that, when reassembled, reveal graphic elements containing a secret image representative of the city

La Salonniere Nomade

To build bridges with the Arab world by presenting an exhibition in Detroit on Arab Spring contemporary art from North Africa, and having the artists co-create and engage with the community

Leith Campbell

To use a sundial set to the cadence of the sun to reinterpret a piece by composer John Cage that was meant to be played as slowly as possible

Lineage Studios International

To teach local women the art of hand weaving, and create a new textile line that represents the city, as part of an international network providing economic opportunities for women

Liquid Flow Media Arts Center

To provide a space for people with limited resources to create, innovate and network about art, business and technology

Literary Detroit

To jumpstart a monthly series that includes communal composition, word games and more giving poets and audience members a space to co-create poems and stories and play with language


To explore the array of cultures and music in Hamtramck by conducting “field recordings” of local music – for example, a Bangladeshi street fair or a gospel trio – presented with minimal editing

Loveland Technologies

To conduct a Story Census, whereby a production team records residents telling their stories and combines them into a short documentary about the city’s neighborhoods

Marygrove College

To bring a northwest Detroit community together through the arts by staging a series of community-led art events that culminate in a festival surrounding Marygrove’s campus

Matrix Theatre Company

To commission a well-known bilingual playwright to work with the city’s Latino community in developing a new piece, “Caridad in the Comunidad”

Michelle Andonian

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide through a book of photographs and a live performances

Michigan Underground Group

To build on experimental musicians’ interest in Detroit by inviting more artists from within and outside the city to share and record their works

Mothlight Microcinema

To highlight the work of local filmmakers by offering free monthly screenings of avant-garde and experimental film and videos where the artists discuss their work

Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)

To invite international curator Jens Hoffmann to create a salon-style exhibition exploring a cross-section of Detroit ‘s visual arts over the past 15 years

Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts

To make the Music Hall more accessible to Detroit arts organization by allowing theater, dance and music groups to use the space for free or at cost

Nate Young

To bring local and international musicians together by presenting “The Maggotbrain Fest,” a two-day festival featuring electronic music in all its forms

New Music Detroit

To spotlight challenging and dynamic new music from the late 20th century through today during “Strange Beautiful Music,” a daylong marathon concert

Nina Marcus-Kurlonko

To strengthen Eastern Market After Dark, an annual event that spotlights galleries and other creative businesses in the neighborhood

Obsidian Blues Detroit

To empower Detroiters to reimagine and co-create a united future through a series of meditation, writing and performance arts, culminating in an interactive show, “Playing the Matrix: Detroit’s Shadow Effect”

Organic Weapon Arts

To form a new poetry slam series that will build a community of writers and performers to compete nationally

Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design

To expand Brightmoor’s community of makers by turning an abandoned home into the Brightmoor Maker Space where neighbors can develop creative skills

Piper Carter

To explore the role and impact of women on hip-hop through a gathering of leading figures in Detroit’s digital media, art, dance and performance communities


To formalize and expand a visiting artist-in-residence program dedicated to producing art in and for Detroit

Popps Packing

To support the expansion of Popps’ unique artist residency program, which caters to national and international artists with children, providing a holistic space for artists with families to create

Power House Productions

To celebrate the diverse work in art and culture that has been presented in the Banglatown neighborhood through a community-wide block party

Rachel McCollough

To foster the art of burlesque in Detroit by producing quarterly shows, ongoing classes and a costume rental exchange program


To support a new home for Detroit’s traditional weekly blues jam session led by drummer John Estes

River Raisin Ragtime Revue

To highlight the city’s role in creating ragtime music through workshops and performances at local schools and institutions

Rola Nashef

To foster a dynamic community of Detroit storytellers by offering “Detroit Film Labs,” a series of workshops to first-time filmmakers in underserved communities


To explore how fear is used in contemporary media by creating do-it-yourself kits for making dynamic sculptures that change colors to reflect the prevalence of fear-related keywords in news stories

Rowe Niodior African Dance Company

To create community through a four-day festival exploring how West and Central African groups use music and dance to celebrate their culture

Sidewalk Festival of Performing Arts

To expand an outdoor celebration of performance and installation art to neighborhoods across the city

The Heidelberg Project

To capture the richness of one of the city’s oldest African-American communities by recording and sharing residents’ oral histories

The Hinterlands

To explore Detroit’s 20th century history of radical art and politics through “The Radicalization Process,” a yearlong performance series built on interviews, artifacts and historic footage

The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art

To create “Quarter Pop on Grand River,” an arts incubator meant to strengthen local projects by providing access to new skills and storefront spaces

The Raiz Up

To use hip-hop to spark conversations about the city’s cultural heritage and social issues through “Paint my Roots – Pinta mis Raices,” a series of concerts, workshops and collaborative murals

The Work Department

To use design for the public good by creating a highly visual “toolkits” about complex social or policy issue affecting Detroit that will help residents understand and take action


To create a commissioning program that will fund new works in music and the visual arts and award a prize to an artist for their contribution to Detroit’s culture

Walter Wasacz

To foster an exchange of ideas between Detroit and Berlin-based artists on ways to bring about cultural revitalization

Wayne State University

To prepare aspiring musicians for the rigors of college programs through a free vocal music institute


To bring the stories of Detroit’s ethnic communities to life by partnering with artists and galleries to create pop-up installations featuring photography, listening stations and ambient sound – as well as a segment on WDET

What Pipeline

To expand the narrative of the city’s creative talent by publishing a series of art books on Detroit-based artists past and present

Billy Mark

To combine two of Detroit’s iconic symbols – gospel music and cars – in the “Hammond-mobile,” an organ-turned-automobile that will play music as it drives through Detroit neighborhoods

Write a House

To bring new vitality to the literary arts in Detroit by expanding “Write a House,” which awards renovated homes to writers based on the quality of their work

Y.M. Granata

To produce a true “TV Dinner,” a media art installation event at galleries that combines video art and a meal

Young Nation

To create a neighborhood gathering place by engaging local artists, youth and residents in Southwest Detroit in designing and building an art-filled public plaza

YoYo School of Hip Hop

To use hip-hop to teach students about technology, physical fitness, career goals and communications skills through a summer camp

Yvette Rock

To tell the rich and varied stories of Detroiters and their city through the panels of a quilt

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



Anusha Alikhan, director of communications, Knight Foundation, (305) 908-2677, [email protected]