Meet Some of the Winners of the Knight Foundation's Philadelphia Arts Challenge

Christmas came early in Philadelphia, thanks to the Knight Foundation, which allocated a whopping $780,000 in grants to 19 local artists and arts organizations who "turn everyday moments into artistic experiences."  

The foundation has been in a generous mood as of late. It recently awarded a staggering $8 million to St. Paul, Minn. and has remained a stalwart supporter of Detroit's arts scene. The foundation has also provided tremendous financial assistance to arts organizations in Miami and, from our vantage point, it seems as if the foundation is just getting warmed up.

In each of the cities, the foundation adheres to one overarching goal: to democratize participation in the arts and galvanize a philosophical shift in the collective consciousness of the general public. "Art," according to the Knight Foundation, needn't be a painting on a wall or a two-hour musical performance in an auditorium (not that that there's anything wrong with either of these things). But this perception of the "arts" is closed-minded and myopic. The arts can do more. The arts can seamlessly blend into daily life, providing enriching and memorable experiences and engaging new communities. 

This brings us to the City of Brotherly Love. The foundation is firmly committed to Philadelphia, having funded 114 arts ideas and projects around the city from 2011 to 2013. A cursory look at the 19 winners reveals some common themes:

They embrace and celebrate their respective communities. The African American Museum, for example, was awarded $50,000 to explore connections between African-American culture and the culinary arts in "Beyond Sustenance," a series of programs in conjunction with the art exhibits, "Distant Echoes: Black Farmers in America" and "Syd Carpenter: More Places of Our Own." 

They develop unique and compelling programming. The Bearded Ladies Cabaret secured a $75,000 grant to develop and produce Andy: A Popera, an interactive, pop-up opera inspired by the life and legacy of Andy Warhol. As the piece is designed over the coming year, the cabaret will stage a series of pop-up performances in everyday places such as stores and parks to engage more Philadelphians in the arts. 

They support exciting and unique artistic collaborations. Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture was awarded $10,000 for its efforts to bring together the city's Spanish and Arab-speaking communities by presenting an evening of poetry and music inspired by Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca.

Ultimately, the Knight Foundation is committed to redefining how we, the general public, consume and experience the arts. It's this simple yet powerful principle that guides the foundation's funding decisions. For a more thorough analysis on how the Knight Foundation is methodically working to integrate the arts into communities across the country, we encourage you to check out IP's take here.