Knight Foundation names 29 winning ideas in 2017 St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge – Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation names 29 winning ideas in 2017 St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge

The winning projects, sharing $1.29 million, will tell the stories of the people of St. Paul through the arts.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Oct. 4, 2017 – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today named 29 winning ideas in the 2017 St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge, a communitywide initiative funding projects that engage and enrich St. Paul through the arts.

The winning projects, sharing $1.29 million, will tell the stories of the people of St. Paul through the arts – from the early settlers of Swede Hollow to Hmong-American millennials, from people living with dementia to Lao refugees and children who survived the Somali civil war.

Winning projects also will shape and energize spaces and places, whether through an immersive drive-thru theater performance, a wayfinding mural to bring attention to the Creative Enterprise Zone, a movable feast of virtual reality and poetry on the Green Line, or a project matching lawn owners with artists to create public sculptures for all to see.

“The arts bring our community together and provide a place for us to tell our stories,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. “Knight Arts Challenge winners will bring those stories to life and inspire us to think differently and more deeply about the people and places of St. Paul.”

The winners were announced at a celebration event at the James J. Hill Library.

This is the fourth year of the Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul, which has provided $3.5 million to date for projects that answered one question: “What’s your best idea for the arts in St. Paul?” This year’s winners will share $1.29 million, bringing Knight Foundation’s investment through the challenge to nearly $4.8 million.

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.

“Knight Foundation funds the arts because of their ability to inspire communities and connect people to each other and to their city,” said Jai Winston, St. Paul program director for Knight Foundation. “This year’s winners are a testament to the bold inspiration and creativity that make our city a vibrant place.”

A complete list of the 2017 winners is below and at

The Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul is open to anyone and applicants follow just three rules: 1) The idea must be about the arts; 2) The project must take place in or benefit St. Paul; 3) The grant recipient must find funds to match Knight’s commitment within one year. Applicants propose their idea in a user-friendly 150-word application.

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 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

Knight Arts Challenge St. Paul winners 2017 

CommUNITY: An Urban Dance Movement

Recipient: Annie Moua

Award: $10,000
To give all dancers the opportunity to explore urban dance with free, professionally taught monthly workshops

Little Mekong Artist Residency Project

Recipient: Asian Economic Development Association

Award: $50,000

To establish Little Mekong Business and Cultural District as the center of the vibrant and rapidly growing Asian-American arts and culture community with artist residencies, exhibitions, forums and workshops

El Mesías at Our Lady of Guadalupe

Recipient: Border CrosSING

Award: $5,000

To demonstrate the relevance of choral masterworks through an integration of rarely performed music from 18th-century Mexico and a bilingual version of Handel’s ”Messiah”

East Side Stories: Using the Art of Storytelling to Build Bridges Across Generations and Communities

Recipient: East Side Freedom Library

Award: $16,000

To build bridges among neighbors by collecting the stories of East Siders and transforming them into videos which will be shared at a community festival

Way-finding Mural in the Creative Enterprise Zone

Recipient: Erik Pearson

Award: $25,000

To call attention to the thriving Creative Enterprise Zone through a wayfinding mural that will span the east wall of the West Rock paper recycling plant

Rondo Library Renaissance

Recipient: Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library

Award: $60,000

To transform the exterior of the Rondo Library with public art and greenscape that captures the creativity and knowledge inside the building and throughout the neighborhood

Amazing Grace Chorus

Recipient: Giving Voice Initiative

Award: $20,000

To celebrate the creative potential of African-Americans living with Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases through artistically meaningful choral participation

Minnesota Poetry Unbound

Recipient: Greg Watson

Award: $6,000

To bring poetry into people’s lives by printing poems on paper fans at the Minnesota State Fair

How to Have Fun in a Civil War

Recipient: Ifrah Mansour

Award: $20,000

To tell a captivating story of the resilience of Somalis who lived through Somalia’s 1991 civil war from a child’s perspective

55+ Film School

Recipient: FilmNorth

Award: $18,000
To invite adults 55 years and older to share their stories and wisdom through films created in a series of classes at FilmNorth and senior centers

Lemon Shark

Recipient: Kate Nowlin

Award: $70,000

To explore the primal instinct to return home through a musically driven episodic series that follows three middle-aged St.Paul women who resurrect their teenage cover band after the untimely death of their friend and former bandmate in a polar vortex

The Gathering

Recipient: Kathy Mouacheupao

Award: $7,500

To bring together the diverse community of Rondo with The Gathering, a series of art and food events in community gardens

Saint Paul Lawn Art Fund

Recipient: Lucas Koski

Award: $36,000

To increase the accessibility to and prevalence of neighborhood art by establishing a 1-to-1 matching fund that will help residents commission artists for the creation of public art in their front lawns

Memoirs and Tattoos

Recipient: Maysa Vang

Award: $5,000

To explore the identities of Hmong-American millennials through a documentary film that explores their experiences navigating a clash of culture, language and sexuality

Drive Through Theatre

Recipient: Mixed Blood Theatre Company

Award: $85,000

To immerse audiences in a 12-scene play experienced from their own cars in a drive-thru theater

Art and Arab America: The New Millennium

Recipient: Mizna

Award: $50,000

To showcase Mizna’s 20 years of contributions to Arab culture in Minnesota through a retrospective exhibition, discussions and guided tours at the Minnesota Museum of American Art

Chaos on the Green Line

Recipient: Motionpoems

Award: $125,000

To turn the Green Line into a virtual reality experience that is freely accessed via smartphone app and triggered by the train’s movements

NO PARKING: The Gift of Letting Go

Recipient: Nautilus Music-Theater

Award: $53,000

To present a new electro-acoustic opera that explores how caregivers might guide loved ones through the journey of dementia and memory loss

Transgender Voices Festival

Recipient: One Voice Mixed Chorus

Award: $40,000

To give voice to transgender singers across the state by hosting a two-day Transgender Voices Festival

Let’s Talk: My America

Recipient: Penumbra Theatre

Award: $35,000

To inspire a more loving, inclusive America through the true tales of dignity and strife from Minnesota’s global citizens, performed live on stage and broadcast on the radio

Aardvark in the Park

Recipient: Public Art Saint Paul

Award: $55,000

To bring several neighborhoods together around the Western Sculpture Park with a series of programming and festivals, and a playful new abstract aardvark sculpture designed and built by Cambodian-American architect Souliyahn Keobounpheng

Written in Water

Recipient: Ragamala Dance Company

Award: $45,000

To present the company’s large-scale multimedia dance work “Written in Water” with the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, in conjunction with an extended series of hands-on and digital community engagement programming

Poetry in the Dark in the Park

Recipient: Saint Paul Almanac

Award: $50,000

To bring art into people’s lives by creating a touring installation that consists of a book of poetry and art inside large, custom-designed rocks that will instantly light up when a person approaches

In the Camps: A Refugee Musical

Recipient: Saymoukda Vongsay

Award: $30,000

To tell the story of the Lao people who resettled in St. Paul through a musical with traditional folktales and songs informed by 1970-1980s Thai and American pop

The Ghost Sonata at Swede Hollow

Recipient: Sod House Theater

Award: $60,000

To deepen the understanding of the history of early immigration through a site-specific, immersive production that transforms Swede Hollow Park into a historic hamlet of shanties

WEAVE: Blanketing St Paul in Native Feminism

Recipient: The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University and Rosy Simas Danse

Award: $145,000

To envelop audiences in an immersive experience of story, dance and quadraphonic sound that weaves together indigenous, trans/queer and feminist/womanist artists of color and audiences at the Ordway Center

Black Market MN

Recipient: Tana Hargest

Award: $75,000

To convene a think tank of black artists to identify and propose solutions to challenges facing St. Paul and share the work via community conversations, podcasts, artist residencies and more

Live Music and Dance Collaboration at St. Paul’s Historic Palace Theater

Recipient: TU Dance and Bon Iver

Award; $75,000

To disrupt traditional barriers in life and art by bringing together TU Dance, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series and Grammy Award-winning Justin Vernon of the indie folk group Bon Iver for an evening of live music and dance at the historic Palace Theatre

River Music in St. Paul

Recipient: Warming House

Award: $20,000

To connect St. Paul residents more deeply with the Mississippi River through free performances that highlight the music of the region and are staged in river-connected parks and sites