Five Ways the Knight Foundation is Integrating the Arts into Everyday Life

What's wrong with the following scenario? 

A couple goes out for dinner, catches a dance performance, comes home, and goes to bed.

The short answer is that there is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with a couple seeing a dance performance. But this anecdote illustrates a receptive model of arts appreciation. In other words, people make time for the arts, but at the end of the day, the arts are not interwoven into their daily lives. The Knight Foundation wants to change this.

It may sound like a vague concept, but if you take a closer look at some of the foundation's recent moves, you can start to see a slight paradigm shift in how people perceive and (for a lack of better term) "consume" the arts. In fact, here are five ways the Knight Foundation is working to integrate the arts into peoples' everyday lives.

Creating a neighborhood hub for artists. If you're looking to incorporate the arts into people's lives, why not transform an entire neighborhood to that end? The Knight Foundation had the very same idea. It's a major backer of Miami's Wynwood Business Improvement, a plan to transform an underserved neighborhood into a "hub for artists and entrepreneurs." Work was supposed to start on the project in 2014 once the city collected property taxes. The Foundation couldn't wait that long, though. They recently gave a $43,500 gift to planners to allow them to begin work immediately.

Creating the conditions necessary to foster the arts. Artistic revitalization occurs more easily if the neighboorhood's municipal services are functioning properly. The aforementioned gift aims to improve security, sanitation, and lighting to create a more welcoming incubator for artists.

Diversifying their funding. The Business Improvement District follows a long line of foundation-led efforts to promote the arts in Wynwood. For example, it supported the creation of the Lab Miami, a multi-use arts space, and the Lightbox at Golden Warheouse, a performance gallery.

Making arts revitalization contagious. Wynwood planners will hold workshops and educational videos so other neighborhoods can replicate their strategy and execution.

Rewarding nonprofits who collaborate locally. Knight recently awarded over $750,000 in grants to 14 nonprofit organizations— most of which are arts-related— in Akron, Ohio. Most recipients foster collaboration across the community. For example, the Greater Akron Musican Association will present a Shakespeare performance that features local actors, ballet dancers, and a children's choir.

Ultimately, the foundation wants—in their own words— to "weave the arts" into people's everyday lives such that art appreciation isn't relegated to a two-hour block that occurs on Saturday night. A laudable goal, and certainly not a knock on folks who attend two-hour dance performances on Saturday nights. (In fact, some of my best friends attend two-hour dance performances on Saturday nights.)