Knight offers share of $750,000 for innovative ideas to engage arts audiences through immersive technology

With support from Microsoft, the call seeks applications from arts institutions, technologists, companies and artists partnering with arts institutions, now through August 12.

Contact: Lauren Dickinson, Communications Officer, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305.908.2694, [email protected]

July 27, 2019 — The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today opened a call for ideas that demonstrate innovative approaches to this question: In what new ways might arts institutions engage audiences through immersive experiences? 

The call, which is open for applications through August 12, offers recipients a share of $750,000 in funding, as well as optional technical support from Microsoft, including mixed-reality mentorship and technology access and training. 

“We’ve seen how immersive technologies can reach new audiences and engage existing audiences in new ways,” said Chris Barr, director for arts and technology innovation at Knight Foundation. “But arts institutions need more knowledge to move beyond just experimenting with these technologies to becoming proficient in leveraging their full potential.” 

Knight seeks ideas from arts institutions — as well as technologists, companies and artists partnering with arts institutions — that demonstrate the ability of immersive technologies, such as virtual and mixed reality, to strengthen audience engagement. 

Successful projects will address one of the following areas or related concepts: 

  • Engaging new audiences: How might arts institutions use immersive experiences to better welcome and engage new and diverse audiences? 

  • Building new service models: How can institutions design pleasant and efficient audience experiences that avoid clunky interactions with technology? 

  • Expanding beyond walls: In what new ways can arts institutions use immersive immersive technology to reach people beyond their physical space?

  • Distribution to multiple institutions: How can immersive experiences become more portable and be presented easily at multiple institutions?

“When done right, life-changing experiences can happen at the intersection of arts and technology,” said Victoria Rogers, Knight Foundation vice president for arts. “Our goal through this call is to help cultural institutions develop informed and refined practices for using new technologies, equipping them to better navigate and thrive in the digital age.”

The opening of the call coincides with the Gray Area Festival in San Francisco, where representatives from Knight and Microsoft are sharing details with an audience of international thought leaders at the leading-edge of arts and technology. 

Read: Knight’s Chris Barr writes about the new call for ideas

Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to empowering leading artists and institutions to push boundaries with technology.  In addition to funding from Knight, recipients will receive optional coaching from Microsoft’s mixed reality team, access to Microsoft and partner technology, and the opportunity to be featured across Microsoft marketing channels.

“We’re incredibly excited to support this open call for ways in which technology can help art institutions engage new audiences,” says Mira Lane, Partner Director Ethics & Society at Microsoft.  “We strongly believe that immersive technology can enhance the ability for richer experiences, deeper storytelling, and broader engagement.”

The new call for ideas is part of Knight Foundation’s arts and technology focus, which aims to help arts institutions better meet changing audience expectations and use digital tools to help people better experience and delight in the arts. Last year, Knight made a $600,000 investment in twelve projects designed to harness the power of technology to engage people with the arts. Most recently, Knight launched the “On View” podcast, which examines how museums and cultural institutions are evolving to keep pace with a changing world.

To apply or learn more, visit Interested applicants can also register for a virtual information webinar on August 5 at

Recipients will be announced in late fall 2019.

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