Meet the Winner of the Knight Foundation's South Florida Arts Challenge “People's Choice" Award

The people of South Florida have spoken.

The Knight Foundation recently announced 47 winners of its South Florida Knights Art Challenge, doling out $2.29 million in total. But the big winner, to the tune of $20,000, went to the Key West Art and Historical Society.

Let's set it up for you. Earlier this year, the foundation announced its People's Choice award. The logic was simple. The general public, not the foundation, would vote on and award the prize among five competing finalists.

Certain outlets wondered if the prize could be construed as a kind of gimmick. After all, if the award was a popularity contest, certain nonprofits would instantly be at a disadvantage due to a relative lack of social-media savvy or marketing resources.

Certain outlets, however, ultimately concluded that the good outweighed the bad. Knight's approach incentivized finalists to spread the word, thereby creating even more awareness around the prize and the South Florida arts scene.

When the votes were tallied, the Key West Art and Historical Society came out on top. (Better yet, there were no hanging chads, this being South Florida after all.)

The $20,000 prize will fund the society's arts and history programs in Monroe County schools. The society also won a second prize as well — $15,000 from the foundation to create a “kinetic art-on-bicycles parade."

Despite what our civics classes may have taught us, our founding fathers were suspicious of the opinions of the general public — the 'masses," if you will. We have a representative democracy and not a direct democracy for this very reason. At the expense of conflating the meaning of this award, there was the possibility that the general public would have selected a winner that was, relatively speaking, inferior to its competitors. That didn't happen.

South Floridians, acutely aware of the precarious state of arts education in public schools, picked an organization that teaches kids about the region's rich heritage and reintegrates the arts into the county curriculum.

Then again, the possibility of the general public selecting a "dud" was nil. The Knight Foundation pre-selected the finalists, ensuring that the winner, no matter who it was, would be a high-quality organization.

And that, dear readers, is "checks and balances" at its finest.