Knight Foundation selects 14 winning arts ideas in the 2021 Knight Arts Challenge Detroit – Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation selects 14 winning arts ideas in the 2021 Knight Arts Challenge Detroit

These Detroit artists and arts organizations will share more than $1 million for works that showcase diversity, creativity and new forms of expression across the city.

DETROIT – Dec. 8, 2021 – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation selected 14 artists and arts organizations to share more than $1 million from the 2021 Knight Arts Challenge Detroit to bring their ideas to life and connect people to each other and to their community.

Since its creation in 2008, the Knight Arts Challenge has funded hundreds of ideas from artists and arts organizations that have helped transform the arts and culture scene in cities, including Detroit, where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. The Challenge reflects Knight’s  belief that art is an integral part in building more engaged communities that play an essential role in a healthy democracy.

Now in its eighth year in Detroit, the Challenge — open to anyone with an idea for engaging and enriching Detroit through arts and culture — has previously brought over 300 projects to life, awarding over $14 million in grants for ideas that represent the broad variety of disciplines and artists working in the city. This year’s winning projects, which will share more than $1 million, seek to:

  • Empower Detroiters to tell their own stories 
  • Expand opportunities for groups and individual artists to enhance and grow their practice
  • Elevate and support the arts ecosystem in Detroit at all levels

“One of my favorite things about Detroit is its hustle, the amazing energy it exudes.  You see it all around you, but especially in the creativity of Detroit’s artists and art organizations.  We certainly saw it in these winning ideas.” said Victoria Rogers, Knight Art’s program vice president.  “The arts became a balm during the pandemic, helping us to deal with pain, to laugh, to reflect and to remain engaged.  We were inspired by these winning projects, their ideas and in the ways they used technology and innovative platforms to reach people where they are. Helping to bring these visions to life is exciting” 

This year, the Knight Arts Challenge put its emphasis on artists and art organizations using innovative methods to attract broader audiences, enhance in-person experiences, document creation or amplify reach to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a variety of arts experiences. 

The 2021 grantees are eligible to receive additional funding to implement digital strategies in service of their individual practice or organization. Knight will provide an additional $10,000 to each of the 14 winners, in addition to 13 other Detroit-based artists and arts organizations, for technical support for their projects. The funds, totaling $270,000 for the group of 27 artists and organizations, are designed to assist with technical equipment, software, consultants or other tech-related aspects needed to bring their works to life. 

“Art is a platform that enables Detroiters to tell their own unique stories,” said Nathaniel Wallace, Knight’s Detroit program director. “The Knight Arts Challenge will empower 14 of Detroit’s innovative artists to engage Detroiters and help reach new audiences.” 

The winners of the 2021 challenge are: 


City of Asylum/Detroit

City of Asylum/Detroit Artist-in-Exile Fellowship
A safe haven fellowship for artists and writers who are in exile under threat of persecution in their home countries that allows them to connect with Detroit artists.
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Water of the Dead
A multi-media sound installation housed within a shipping container that traces Black identity through a spectrum of auditory and visual cues centered around water
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Oloman Cafe and Gallery

Microcosmic Entanglement
A series that will explore questions of belonging through seven exhibits at Oloman Cafe and Gallery in Hamtramck.

Fenwood Enterprises, LLC

Reimagining a Legacy through the Arts and Technology
Activation of storefronts in Hope Village neighborhood by providing free, digital arts and technology education for youth taught by local teaching artists.

Norwest Community Collaborative

An inclusive artists residency project to support BIPOC and Non-Binary women artists as part of our Detroit initiative to build neighborhoods.

Sidewalk Detroit

Spacial Equity Interventions in Public Art
A hyper-local public art fund embedded within the Sidewalk Festival that will install major works of permanent and semi-permanent public art within four neighborhoods across Detroit.

Detroit Parks Coalition

Find Your Freedom
A festival that fuses storytelling, music and art to lure people to discover or rediscover Detroit’s parks, history and neighborhoods.

What Pipeline

Demario Dotson at What Pipeline
An immersive, interactive video installation by artist Demario Dotson exploring the intersection of Black femme, queerness and heroism.

Simon Anton / Thing Thing

Transforming Trash
A community plastic recycling lab that teaches local youth the strategies, technologies and potential of creative reuse and upcycling through workshops that will result in installations of functional artwork.

The Ron Allen Project

The Ron Allen Project
A multimedia exhibit reflecting the work and art of poet, playwright, sobriety mentor and Dharma priest Ron (Bodhidharma) Allen during the years he resided in Detroit's Cass Corridor.

American Riad

The American Riad
A combination of public art and creative architecture with fair housing laws to form a model of art-based development that creates beauty while resisting gentrification.

Live Coal Gallery

Detroit rePatched
An arts-infused green space and art hub in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood that connects art with land, art with people, and art with home.


Concert of Colors
A celebration of The Concert of Colors: Detroit Diversity Festival’s 30th anniversary with “return-to-live” programming that brings national and world attention to the region while retaining its dedication to the empowerment of local artists and communities through in-person and live-streamed performances.

Ash Arder

Whoop House Solar Music Sculpture
A completely solar-powered sound sculpture that records and plays back instruments and voices of community members.

Meet the 2021 $10,000 Tech Grant Knight Arts Challenge Winners:

  • CultureSource
  • Simon Anton / Thing Thing
  • Detroit Parks Coalition
  • City of Asylum/Detroit
  • Michigan Opera Theatre
  • Fenwood Enterprises, LLC
  • D.Cipher
  • DAAY
  • Detroit Educational Television FoundationWhat Pipeline
  • Salakastar
  • The Ron Allen Project
  • Live Coal Gallery
  • Edward Salem
  • Arab American National Museum (ACCESS)
  • Detroit Public Theatre
  • Oloman Cafe and Gallery
  • Black Art Library
  • Cherise Morris
  • Ash Arder
  • Bailey Park Project
  • Ronald QWNTYM Ford
  • Stephen McGee
  • Black LGBT+ Plays
  • Detroit Vacant Land CDC
  • Visualizing Women’s Work
  • Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History


About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

We are social investors who support democracy by funding free expression and journalism, arts and culture in community, research in areas of media and democracy, and in the success of American cities and towns where the Knight brothers once had newspapers. Learn more at and follow @knightfdn on social media.