Building Community Through Innovation in the Arts

By Dennis Scholl

Six years ago, Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen asked me to develop a national arts program for the foundation focused on building community through the arts. Today, I’m excited to share a new report that chronicles our progress and introduces you to the many people and projects that have surprised us with their ideas for engaging audiences through arts and culture.

In it, I hope you find both inspiration and practical examples that can help inform your work.

The report focuses on projects that live the ideal of making art an integral part of people’s lives. For example, the report explores larger institutions that are literally changing the way their community interacts with art – whether it’s Opera Philadelphia surprising an entire city with its Random Acts of Culture, or the Akron Art Museum’s goal of bringing residents closer to the artistic experience. You can also read about smaller, grassroots efforts, like a poetry festival in Miami that has experimented with ways to bring a poem to each one of the area’s 2.6 million residents, and a St. Paul group that has sparked a national movement to make buying art as easy as participating in a local farm share program.

If you believe, like me, that the future of the arts depends on how well we engage our ever-changing audiences, I know you will enjoy this report.

As you may know, I step down as Knight Foundation’s vice president of arts on May 1. Developing this program under Alberto’s leadership has been an honor and a privilege. It has been both the longest job I’ve ever held and the hardest to leave. The work has only been possible because of our inspiring and inventive partners in Knight communities, for whom I am forever thankful.

Dennis Scholl is Knight Foundations vice president for arts.