Knight Foundation names 16 winning ideas in 2019 Knight Arts Challenge Akron – Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation names 16 winning ideas in 2019 Knight Arts Challenge Akron

Akron, OH (Sept 24, 2019) — The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced 16 winning ideas in the 2019 Knight Arts Challenge Akron, a community-wide initiative funding projects that engage and enrich Akron through the arts.

The projects, winning a total of $592,000, will share stories from Akron’s diverse communities and perspectives, help artists and arts organizations reach broader audiences, and bring new arts experiences and innovation to the city.

“Akron exceeded our expectations with ideas that inspire and advance the city through the arts,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. “The arts tell a city’s story, of the people and places that shape its identity. It’s clear from these sixteen winning projects that Akron has a lot to say.”

The broad array of winners—including projects that highlight the culture of Akron’s immigrant communities, create conversations about the scope of black identity, and promote the next generation of arts leaders—will be announced at a celebration event tomorrow night, Sept. 25, 2019, beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Akron Art Museum. A complete list of the 2019 winners is below.

This is the fourth year of the Knight Arts Challenge in Akron, which has invested more than $3 million to date for projects that answered one question: “What’s your best idea for the arts in Akron?” The challenge is part of a strategy that funds arts organizations of all sizes and types as well as talented local artists, so that everyone has a chance to make their ideas a reality.

“Each year, the Knight Arts Challenge winners showcase the rich diversity and creativity of our community,” said Kyle Kutuchief, Akron program director. “The arts are key to creating an even more vibrant Akron, and we couldn’t be more excited for these projects to come to fruition.”  

The Knight Arts Challenge was open to all, and applicants were asked to follow just three rules: 1) The idea must be about the arts; 2) The project must take place in or benefit Akron; 3) The grant recipient must find funds to match Knight’s commitment within one year.

The 2019 Knight Arts Challenge Winners:

Amber D. Kempthorn
Ordinary Magic: A Sunday in the Cuyahoga Valley
To create a stop-motion animated artwork that celebrates the landscape of Akron and the Cuyahoga Valley set to Benjamin Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes,” which will be screened with live accompaniment by the Akron Symphony Orchestra

The Center for Applied Drama and Autism ($25,000)
Along the Graveyard Path (A History of Disability in our Community)
A dramatic performance that offers an example of theater created and performed by people of all abilities, to connect Akronites with the history of disability in this community

Center for Applied Theater and Active Culture (New World Performance Laboratory) and Jairo Cuesta ($6,000)
Lost in Translation
A performance based on stories collected from local immigrants to engage the city’s Latinx community in a dialogue about culture, barriers, family, and displacement  

Cir L’Bert Jr. ($60,000)
Conjure Comics
The production of socially progressive comic books that center on the experiences of people of color, indigenous communities, LGBTQI individuals, and those of varying abilities

The Grand Exchange. Photo credit: Art Bomb Brigade

FRONT Exhibition Company ($100,000)
FRONT International Exhibitions and Installations in Akron
In collaboration with Dansbana!, a creation of a vibrant and welcoming dance floor for everybody in Downtown Akron, engaging the community in the planning, design and activation of the space

Gum-Dip Theatre ($25,000)
Three Countries, One Mother
A multilingual play that explores the history and culture of the Bhutanese-Nepali by following the journey of three brothers who live in Bhutan, Nepal, and the United States

Inlet Dance Theatre ($25,000)
Phase 2 of “The ‘Black Card’ Project”
Movement workshops, educational videos and an online platform, as well as a week of performances of Dominic Moore-Dunson’s dance theater production, “The ‘Black Card’ Project,” to create a conversation about the narrow scope of black identity and its connection to economic development

Kent State University Foundation, Inc. ($30,000)
Power of Print: Resistance and Revolution in Akron
A conference featuring exhibitions, technical demonstrations, lectures and panels
to position printmaking as an entry point for artists and communities to amplify their voices

Les Délices ($15,000)
Fables and Fairytales
Presentations of music by Baroque composers integrating puppets and visuals to animate Aesop’s Fables and a 17th-century feminist fairy tale, to provide cutting-edge early music programs to Akron

Robert Wesner ($30,000)
Akron Ascending, an Identity in Dance
Site-specific works on staircases throughout Akron that will develop an ongoing, public conversation among artists, dancers and space

Roots of American Music ($30,000)
Akron Heritage Music Project
Recording regional musicians, using direct-to-lacquer technology, in historic locations that have a connection to the genres of music being performed, or in locations inspired by the historic sites, to document through a podcast series, preserve and build awareness of regional music

Rubber City Theatre ($60,000)
Rubber City Musical Incubator
An incubator that will support the development of musical theater works and showcase them through readings, workshops, and fully-staged productions

“Series of #overlooked images displayed on the 59 Bridge of downtown Akron, in collaboration with Curated Storefronts.” Photo credit: Shane Wynn

Shane Wynn ($17,000)
A traveling exhibition of photo essays and doorbell installations documenting the stories of LGBTQ young people who have experienced homelessness as a result of their sexual identity

Summit County Probate Court ($50,000)
Curated Courthouse
A curated series of exhibits with local artists to give courthouse employees and visitors access to art in an unusual space

Synapse Art and Science Series, University of Akron ($25,000)
Synapse: Nature’s Solutions
A series of exhibitions featuring leading artists and designers focused on learning from nature to address human challenges that will highlight Akron’s location in the Cuyahoga Valley and its legacy as a city of invention

The University of Akron Foundation/Art Bomb Brigade ($40,000)
Art Bomb Artist Residency and Apprenticeship Project
A pilot program for professional and apprentice mural artists to elevate public spaces in Akron and foster the next generation of arts leaders


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


Image (top): A student working in Kent State University’s printmaking studio. Courtesy of Kent State University