Knight Arts Challenge, offering a share of up to $1 million, opens for applications

AKRON – March 29, 2017 – The 2017 Knight Arts Challenge is now open for applications, offering a share of up to $1 million to the best ideas for engaging and enriching Akron through the arts. The deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m. April 28.

Now in its third year in Akron, the challenge has brought 46 ideas to life, by awarding nearly $2 million in matching grants. Knight Foundation funds the arts because of their ability to inspire communities and connect people to each other and to their city. The challenge is part of a two-pronged strategy that supports established arts institutions to help them better engage the public and funds grassroots initiatives of individual artists and organizations so that everyone has a chance to make their idea a reality.

Today, Akron residents and visitors are discovering the work of former challenge winners, including freelance photographer Shane Wynn, whose #overlooked photo series juxtaposes successful women against the backdrop of abandoned buildings as a way to spur conversation about revitalizing the land; and the Curated Storefront Project, now showcasing hearts that light up in the windows of the Akron-Summit County Public Library in response to creative tweets.

Other challenge winners are seeking participants; for example, Testa Companies is requesting applications from local artists to display work in the first North Side Outdoor Gallery, and the Akron Soul Train is accepting applications for its 2017 Artist Fellowships.

“The Knight Arts Challenge is an open opportunity for people to name their artistic dreams,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. “We want to hear what Akron arts organizations, artists and businesses believe are the best ideas to inspire, engage and advance the community.”

Applicants can get more detailed information on the challenge, and tips for applying, by attending informational events during the week of April 3. They include five Community Conversations, where former winners and Knight staff will offer insights and take questions, plus office hours, where applicants can meet one-on-one with Knight Arts Program Officer Adam Ganuza to receive feedback on their ideas. The schedule is below, and applicants can register online now.

The application is user-friendly to encourage individual artists and organizations who may never have applied for a grant. Many do apply: Just half of challenge winners are nonprofits; 32 percent have never won a grant and half have a budget of less than $100,000.

All it takes to apply is a compelling arts idea and 150 words. The application is available at

There are only three rules for submissions:
1) The idea must be about the arts.
2) The project must take place in or benefit Akron.
3) The grant recipients must find funds to match Knight’s commitment.

“Akron has seized this opportunity, by submitting ideas that are making our city an even more vibrant place to live. I’m looking forward to reading this year’s applications,” said Kyle Kutuchief, Akron program director for Knight Foundation.

The Community Conversations will be held:

  • 8:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, 2017, at Versified Expressions Café (2539 Romig Road) with former winners Ismail Al-Amin of Keepers of the Art and gospel singer Carla Davis of Were You There: An Interactive Experience in Spirituals.
  • 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, 2017, at The Exchange House (760 Elma St.) with former winners Katie Beck of Nepali Applause and Alison Caplan of the Akron Art Museum’s Art Library

  • 12 to 1 p.m. Thursday, April 6, 2017, at The University of Akron (Myers School of Art, Folk Hall, 150 E. Exchange St., Room 165) with former winners Elisa Gargarella of the Art Bomb Brigade and James “Jim” Slowiak, of the New World Performance Lab and “The Devil’s Milk Trilogy.”

  • 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 6, 2017, at Akron Art Museum (1 S. High St.) with former winners Theron Brown of the Rubber City Jazz and Blues Festival and Manju Rastogi of DAWN (Developing Alternatives for Women in New Communities), an arts project for and by Bhutanese women.
  • 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Friday, April 7, 2017, at Kent State University (325 Terrace Drive, parking in lot R19) with former winners Suzie Graham of the Akron High Arts Festival and Chris Horne of the Live at Lock 4 Series.

Office Hours, which last 15 minutes and are by online appointment only, will be held:

  • Noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, 2017, at Artisan Coffee (662 Canton Road).
  • Noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, 2017, from at Highland Square Mustard Seed Café (867 W. Market St.).

Finalists will be announced this summer, and winners in the fall.

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


Anusha Alikhan, communications director, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646; [email protected]

Morgan Lasher, president, Amp Strategy, 330-714-4833; [email protected]