Arts

Nine Miami artists receive Knight funding for ideas conceived during pandemic

Knight New Work winners share $300,000 in additional funding.

MIAMI – June 2, 2021- Nine Miami artists, many of them using multimedia to connect with audiences during the pandemic, will share $300,000 in additional funding for projects conceived as part of Knight New Work 2020. 

One of the areas most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic was the performing arts. As theaters and other venues closed for the unforeseeable future, artists tapped into their creativity to adapt and reinvent themselves. To support their efforts, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation last year launched Knight New Work 2020, a two-part initiative to provide close to $500,000 to Miami-based artists and organizations developing groundbreaking new work. 

Last December, 18 Miami-based artists and arts organizations were selected to each receive $10,000 prizes to develop new works in the performing arts that reflect and respond to these unprecedented times. Additionally, Knight announced the 2020 Knight Arts Champions, a diverse group of 19 community leaders who play vital roles in uplifting and promoting the arts in Miami. They each directed $10,000 to local artists.

Today, Knight announced $300,000 in follow-on funding to be shared by nine Knight New Work artists, enabling them to bring their ideas to fruition by the end of 2021. The nine projects demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity and incorporate innovative ways to engage with audiences through the use of technology and other novel platforms. 

“All of the talented Knight New Work winners have inspired us as they’ve found innovative ways to connect with people during physical distancing,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president of Knight’s arts program. “We’re excited to provide further support to help nine of these artists, who are using innovative ways, including digital technology, to reach audiences where they are and turn their ideas into reality.”

Meet the nine Knight New Work 2020 artists that will receive follow-on support:

Fereshteh Toosi — “Oil Ancestors”: Fereshteh is a critically acclaimed Miami artist who designs experiences that are augmented by audio, video, handmade electronics and other immersive media. “Oil Ancestors” is an immersive, virtual performance that explores the cultural history of oil in Florida. Video spotlight

Maya Billig — “A Lot”: A graduate of New World School of the Arts, Maya uses research-based practices to develop choreographic works for film, stage and site-specific performances. “A Lot” is an interactive drive-in dance performance centered around physicalizing the experience of regaining momentum after being “parked” in one space for an extended period of time. She wanted to create new work that would lift people’s spirits. Video spotlight

Juraj Kojs — “Where Home Is”: Juraj is a self-proclaimed “artphibian,” someone who resides on the borders of various artistic disciplines. As a composer, his work spans from acoustic concert music to sound installations. “Where Home Is” is a multi-movement music composition for voices, instruments and computers, which explores the theme of home, immigration and citizenship from the perspective of a recently naturalized U.S. citizen. He also teaches at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music and is director of the Foundation for Emerging Technologies and Arts. Video spotlight

Natasha Tsakos — “CARABOOM The Carwashow Miami”: Natasha is a conceptual director, interactive designer and performer known for integrating technology with live performances. “CARABOOM” is an immersive, dynamic theatrical experience that aims to bring human connection, fun and awe back into people’s lives from the comfort of their vehicles. Video spotlight

Najja Moon — “The Huddle is a Prayer Circle”: Najja is a former athlete-turned-artist who believes that art is utilitarian. Her work connects two seemingly different worlds — the church and the sports arena — by mediating on the spirit of community that exists within their walls. “The Huddle is a Prayer Circle” is an immersive installation and interactive performance that encompasses sound, visual art, scripture and movement. Video spotlight

Melissa Cobblah Gutierrez — “CuBlack: Invisibilized No Further!”: Melissa Cobblah Gutierrez is a Cuban-born choreographer, performer and educator. She sees dance as a means to understand the many layers of the human experience. Her project is a dance film and performance that analyzes the “invisibilized” oppression of Blackness inside the Cuban community in Miami. Video spotlight

Juggerknot Theatre Co. — “Miami Bus Stop Stories”: Juggerknot Theatre Co. is a theatrical production company best known for producing the popular and critically acclaimed “Miami Motel Stories” theater series. “Miami Bus Stop Stories” is an immersive virtual theater experience where bus passengers meet neighborhood residents in a series of virtual stops throughout Miami neighborhoods. Video spotlight

Octavia Yearwood — “Life’s Interludes”: Octavia was named “Best Author in Miami” by the Miami New Times in 2018. She uses storytelling to strengthen connections, liberate, have fun while exploring heavy topics and empowering communities. “Life’s Interludes” is a mixtape of music and poetry paired with visual components that share the intricate experiences of queer artists in a world where their lives feel like interludes. New Tropic interview

Carlos Miguel Caballero, Inez Barlatier and Lornoar — “Sharing Grandmothers”: Carlos is a Cuban-born actor and theater director. Inez is a Haitian-American musician and educator. And Lornoar is a singer-songwriter based in Cameroon in Africa. Even though the trio does not speak the same language, they found a common ground in art and created “Sharing Grandmothers,” a collaborative theatrical performance that combines original music and dance with themes that highlight the human experience. Video spotlight (Carlos)

“The Knight Foundation’s commitment to support large projects by individual local artists signifies a beginning of a new exciting era for art and music making and presenting in South Florida,” said Juraj Kojs, Knight New Work 2020 winner. “I am honored, grateful and humbled to receive the award. My large music multimedia production Where Home Is aims to become an impactful celebration of immigrant communities in our city.”

“Juggerknot Theatre Company is honored to receive the Knight New Work award for Miami Bus Stop Stories, a live virtual immersive program,” said Tanya Bravo, executive artistic director for Juggerknot Theatre Company, a Knight New Work 2020 winner. “The award has allowed us to expand the work of Miami Motel Stories by providing local Miami history to students across Miami-Dade County and beyond. The program will focus on Black and Latin X local history, highlighting the decisions and events of the past that contributed to the current state and evolution of our neighborhoods. We are thrilled to bring these stories to students and teachers across Miami- Dade.” 

Since 2008, Knight has invested nearly $189 million in establishing strong cultural roots in Miami by supporting projects by local artists. Knight believes the arts are at the core of the community and play a key role in connecting people to place and each other. The Knight New Work 2020 open call and the announcement of the 2020 Knight Arts Champions builds on this vision, while taking into consideration the challenges — and opportunities — brought on by recent events.

In July, Knight will launch the 2021 Knight Arts Challenge, a community-wide open call to find and fund the best ideas by local artists in three cities where Knight operates – Miami, Detroit and Akron. For more details, please sign up for our Knight arts newsletter, follow Knight on social media or check back the Knight website  at www.kf.org

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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 www.kf.org.

Media Contact: Rachel Pinzur, 305-725-2875, [email protected]

Image (top) by Valentina Perez of Maya Billig’s “A Lot.”