Knight Foundation names 45 finalists in 2017 Akron Knight Arts Challenge – Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation names 45 finalists in 2017 Akron Knight Arts Challenge

Knight Foundation names 45 finalists in 2017 Akron Knight Arts Challenge
Cindy Michael/Harps and Thistles wants commemorate Sojourner Truth’s Akron speech “Ain’t I A Woman?” in a large-scale, public crochet installation as part of a national project by Polish-American artist Olek. Photo Credit: Olek.

AKRON, Ohio – Aug. 14, 2017 – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today named 45 Akron Knight Arts Challenge finalists, who are all vying for a share of $1 million. This is the third year for the community-wide initiative funding projects that engage and enrich Akron through the arts.

The finalists propose a range of arts projects that focus on the human stories and history of Akron, ideas for using technology and modern mediums to energize places in the city, and sparking connections between cross-cultural communities.

“We asked artists, organizations and businesses for their best ideas to inspire and advance Akron,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. “The quality of the responses, as reflected in these 45 finalists, showcases the incredible creativity in this community.”

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.

A complete list of the 2017 finalists is below and at Knight Foundation will announce winning ideas at a celebration this fall.

“Our team was impressed by the ingenuity and thoughtfulness of the applicants,” said Kyle Kutuchief, Akron program director for Knight Foundation. “These 45 finalists prove that artistic excellence and innovation are alive and well in Akron.”

The Akron Knight Arts Challenge 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 Akron; 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.

2017 Akron Knight Arts Challenge Finalists

ACCESS Shelter

To share the stories of transformation of homeless women in life-size photographic portraits which will be showcased throughout the city

Akron Civic Theatre

To better brand Akron as a vibrant place to live and work, and increase and diversify audiences by jointly marketing the city’s publicly-owned arts and entertainment facilities

Alexander Balogh

To raise awareness about renewable resources and highlight North Hill’s international community with a hydro/solar kinetic sculpture for the neighborhood


To support individual artists in Akron with Akron Artist Concierge, a service that helps them improve their online communications and connects them with learning and exhibition opportunities

Brittany Charek

To highlight films made by female directors, producers and actors with Bechdel Fest, an event that features high-quality films that pass the “Bechdel Test,” which brings attention to gender inequality in film and fiction

Christopher Coles

To ignite conversations on racial inequality and empathy through Nine Lives, a 12-minute interdisciplinary piece that immerses the audiences in the story of nine African-Americans killed in 2015 at an evening prayer service in Charleston, South Carolina

Cindy Michael/Harps and Thistles

To commemorate Sojourner Truth’s Akron speech “Ain’t I A Woman?” in a large-scale, public crochet installation as part of a national project by Polish-American artist Olek on how women have shaped history

Dale Dong

To document the importance of dance in Northeast Ohio by working with the National Center for Choreography to photograph the creation and performance of new work in Akron and the restagings of Heinz Poll’s classic ballets

Daniel Coffield

To bring real-world experiences to high school arts students through an artist residency program at the center

Daniel Mainzer

To tell the story of Akron’s rubber industry in the 1970 and 1980s, exploring themes of work, immigration, integration and loss through a photo collection taken by the former in-house tire company photographer

Department of Pan-African Studies, Kent State University

To promote cultural understanding and explore contemporary Muslim and African societies by creating discussion groups around modern artistic works

Devil Strip

To fill an important need for art criticism by training Akronites in the craft during a workshop through which leading graduates will receive paid assignments for The Devil Strip

Francine Murphy-Terry

To tell the story of this artist’s family migration from Alabama to Akron by creating storytelling workshops based on The Frappe Sipps, a family of funny scarecrows made in soft sculpture that sips tea and frappe punch

FRONT Exhibition Company

To bring a cutting-edge installation of public art to the Akron Art Museum’s garden as part of the inaugural edition of the FRONT contemporary art exhibition in July 2018

Greater Akron Musical Association

To bring the music of the city’s immigrant communities to more neighborhoods with joint performances organized by the Akron Symphony Orchestra at its summer parks series

GroundWorks DanceTheater

To engage in conversations with diverse audiences about dance and creative expression through workshops at which community members experience and react to the dance company’s creative process

Hey Mavis

To bring Akron’s canal stories to a broader audience by turning the songs from a 2016 Challenge-winning project into a full symphony

Himalayan Music Academy

To celebrate the music of Akron’s immigrant communities through a public music festival in North Hill that will be professionally recorded

Inlet Dance Theatre

To further Akron as a center for dance by collaborating with noted choreographer Alison Chase on a new piece

Jennifer Jones

To beautify a county building with stories of hope and change by creating a new mural based on the stories of a range of culturally diverse Akron residents

John Comunale

To welcome visitors to experience the Northside District with a totem-style metal sculpture that celebrates the area’s galleries and entertainment venues and the nearby national park and Towpath Trail

Joseph Zitt

To create a moving portrait of Akron in a half-hour video intended for gallery display that layers dance, landscapes, instruments and the human voice

Kent State University

To shatter negative stereotypes about street art and aging by inviting seniors to learn about and create a graffiti project in an Akron public space

Loren Mayer

To prepare high school students in Akron for careers in theatrical costuming with workshops and a creative space

Ma’Sue Productions

To explore race and identity in Akron by touring a production of “Or Does it Explode?” which uses stories from the city to examine black manhood through dance, poetry and rap

Megan Moreland

To bring more art into neighborhoods with the Imaginarium, a converted vehicle with art-making supplies, gallery space and a performance stage that can be used at public pop-up events

Myers School of Art and the National Center for Choreography at the University of Akron

To promote cross-pollination between performing and visual arts by offering residencies to choreographers to explore alternative working spaces, including university gallery spaces, and create an original, collaborative commissioned work

National Center for Choreography

To explore the intersection of dance and technology with the Dancing Futures Project, a three-year research initiative focused on digitally-enabled dance that will culminate in a public symposium

Neos Dance Theatre

To celebrate the toy industry through a large-scale abstract production that combines puppetry, dance theater and animation that can tour the country as an arts ambassador for Akron

New World Performance Laboratory

To gather young, gifted LGBTQ artists to create and share QuTheatr, an original performance series based on the region’s queer history

New World Performance Laboratory

To share the perspectives of Akron’s Latino culture by creating the Teatro Latino de Akron

none too fragile theatre

To bring to the stage in Akron and internationally an ambitious theater project by turning the indie British film “44 Inch Chest” into a play

Paul Bierman-Lytle

To tell the story of Akron and three other cities’ histories in art, music and dance by simultaneously projecting 3D animations in city parks

Rubber City Shakespeare Company

To adapt two of Shakespeare’s works into a modern musical and play with themes and characters that reflect Akron’s LGBTQ+ community

Sherry Simms

To bring Akronites together through stories around their lives and their jewelry by creating bronze models of residents’ pieces that will be displayed alongside the owner’s personal stories

Sherry Simms

To celebrate the history of Akron in handicrafts through an exhibition of mixed-media sculpture that celebrates the heritage of the artist and the city in rubber, tires and polymers, blending handcrafts and contemporary technology


To showcase innovative visual artists in a new gallery inside the Akron Global Business Accelerator that focuses on the advancement of materials and ideas in the visual arts

Steve Levey

To bring art into everyday lives with Kaleidoscope Akron, which will use downtown building facades as projection screens for imagery recorded through kaleidoscopes and based on issues facing the city

Summit Metro Parks

To inspire people to recycle by challenging residents to create works of art out of old tires and to display the pieces in parks around Akron

Testa Companies

To provide a platform for local artists downtown by turning the facade of the Citi Center hotel, now undergoing redevelopment, into a 20-story canvas for multimedia art

Tuesday Musical

To mark the organization’s 130th anniversary by commissioning a new piece by South Africa-born and University of Akron lecturer and composer James Wilding

University of Akron

To provide educational opportunities for Akron’s present and future animation artists by creating a studio for stop-motion and 3D VR animation

University of Akron Myers School of Art

To bring more art into Akronites’ everyday lives by having the Art Bomb Brigade create the Stroll Series, which will include 20 8’ x 4’ “selfie station” murals where people can walk among them, enjoy art and take photos

Urban Troubadour

To showcase Akron’s hidden gems through a series of concerts that take place in the city’s galleries, office and loft spaces, breweries, bakeries and more


To celebrate the youth arts organization’s local impact and 30th anniversary with a production at Goodyear Theater and an exhibit