Knight Foundation invests $750,000 in innovative strategies in the San Jose arts community

Knight Foundation’s investment will allow four San Jose arts organizations to expand audience engagement through tech platforms, digital skill building and program support.

San Jose, Calif. — (Dec. 17, 2020) — During a time when communities have been rattled by the effects of COVID-19, San Jose arts organizations received a $750,000 investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to expand digital strategies, produce new content and fund operational costs.

These organizations — San Jose Museum of Art, MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, School of Arts and Culture and San Jose Jazz — are commissioning digital works, producing digital media assets, creating online video campaigns and building a hub for digital content.

The investments were made to a diverse group of four San Jose arts organizations and support Knight Foundation’s belief in the power of the arts to build strong communities and connect people to the place they live and to each other. In San Jose, artists and arts organizations are using innovative measures to continue fostering that connection among San Joseans despite the pandemic. 

“Technology has been at the forefront of new strategies by artists and art organizations to create new, innovative works in a time of physical distancing, health protocols and shutdowns,” said Chris Barr, Knight’s director of arts and tech innovation. “With Knight’s new support, San Jose arts organizations and local artists will push the boundaries of audience engagement and creativity in a time when it is needed the most.”

Knight’s investments will also help artists and arts organizations to address operational costs and allow them to use their resources to continue producing new works.

“Artists in San Jose have long been affected by the city’s high cost of living. Add to that the side effects of business closures, and it’s visible that they have been faced with a nearly unbearable situation,” said Priya Sircar, Knight’s director of the arts program. “Knight’s $750,000 investment will allow these innovators to activate physical and virtual space to engage diverse audiences and build digital capacity to advance their missions.”

The organizations and projects receiving funding are:

  • San Jose Museum of Art ($250,000): To expand its art and technology exhibition series and support the commissioning of digital works. The investment will relaunch the series in 2021 with a year-long inaugural presentation of Hito Steyerl’s Factory of the Sun (2015). The installation is slated to be on view from August 2021-August 2022. Funds will also go to develop a new program that includes digital commissions starting in 2021 with new works by artists including Trevor Paglen and Sofía Córdova that aim to eventually become an established part of the museum’s regular programming.
  • MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana ($250,000): To allow for digital media and technology-driven programs at MACLA, a Chicanx/Latinx contemporary art space in San José. Knight’s funding will support the launch of MACLA Studio, a new social enterprise program that will produce digital media assets for public and private sector clients, and MACLA’s Artist Fellowship program in which Knight will support artists working with technology.
  • School of Arts and Culture ($150,000): To build digital skills at six San Jose multicultural arts organizations through media production training and the creation of online video campaigns. The funding supports the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza and its Multicultural Arts COVID-19 Campaign. The campaign includes a project, in coordination with CreaTV, to develop the digital skills of five multicultural arts groups — MACLA, Teatro Vision, Chopsticks Alley, San Jose Taiko and Sangam Arts — and support the creation and dissemination of content encouraging the adoption of safety measures that combat COVID-19. Knight funds will specifically support video production costs for partnering arts organizations who will produce mini-documentaries and digital art about the impact of COVID-19 on their families and community.
  • San Jose Jazz ($100,000): To create the “Break Room”, a pop-up music venue in downtown San Jose that showcases local musicians and serves as a production hub for digital content. Knight’s investment supports the conversion of San Jose Jazz’s office space into an intimate, state-of-the-art venue for live music production and performance. The setup enables the projection of live or produced video content directly onto floor-to-ceiling windows, creating a magnet for street life. The Break Room will feature local and regional artists with performances experienced in-person and online.

Earlier this year, Knight commissioned research firm HG&Co to conduct the Digital Readiness and Innovation in Museums Report. The study captures data from 480 museums of all sizes across the U.S., including art museums, historic institutions and sites, science museums and others. Conducted prior to COVID-19, the report shines a light on the status of digital innovation in the field prior to the crisis and identifies challenges and opportunities that exist in building capacity for resiliency as the cultural landscape changes. Data found that dedicated digital staffing was limited, digital strategies were still emergent and that leadership support for digital projects is high.

For interviews, please contact Alexa Lamanna at [email protected] or 202-320-2766.

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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 kf.org.

Image (top): Hito Steyerl, Factory of the Sun (video still), 2015. Single-channel video and environment. San José Museum of Art. Purchased jointly by Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; San José Museum of Art; and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, through the Board of Overseers Acquisitions Fund, 2017.08. Courtesy of the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.