In what is probably one of the greatest compliments a city can receive, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Vice President Carol Coletta recently said, "Philadelphia seems very good at producing the idea virus that everyone wants to copy."
So when the same foundation doles out $1.48 million to 22 virus creators—that is, Philadelphia-based art organizations whose work will soon be emulated by peers across the country—we should pay attention.
And here we are, paying attention.
This recent give is classic Knight, as recipient organizations represent a mix of established entities like the Kimmel Center and smaller, boundary-pushing groups like Ballet X (who may sound familiar to IP readers). This "more is more" approach is rooted in the simple fact that with enough resources to fund both large and small organizations, Knight can reach a maximum number of people while still cultivating groups operating under the radar.
But don't just take our word for it. Knight's Victoria Rogers notes, "Our arts program has a two-pronged strategy: We fund large institutions—the ones that provide programming to thousands of people every day—to help them open up and engage their audiences in new ways. And we look to the grassroots too, seeking out the smaller organizations known for being nimble and innovative."
Here are some of the 22 organizations—ahem, virus creators—pushing artistic boundaries in the City of Brotherly Love:
The Curtis Institute of Music, which netted a $135,000 grant, is expanding the successful pilot of its ArtistYear program, which puts Curtis graduates in schools not just to teach, but to become what Knight calls "citizen artists." According to Knight, these individuals communicate and engage with people offstage to become part of the fabric of their communities through a year of in-school service.
The Kimmel Center and Opera Philadelphia both scored the highest grant amounts, totalling $150,000. Knight cited the former for "fostering artistic innovation by expanding the center’s 'Underground Residencies' to include a new residency exploring the art of cabaret and jazz." Opera Philadelphia will be presenting, in collaboration with the Bearded Ladies Cabaret, "ANDY: A Popera," a genre-bending, site-specific cabaret opera inspired by the legacy, artistic process and fame of Andy Warhol."
The Koresh Dance Company scored $15,000 for "showcasing Philadelphia’s top and emerging dance companies at the Come Together Dance Festival, which juxtaposes distinct styles by staging modern dance alongside tap, hip-hop, ballet, and others." Meanwhile, Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble netted $40,000 for "celebrating Caribbean culture with 'Danzas de Cuba,' an Afro-Cuban dance showcase and workshop series in celebration of Kulu Mele’s 45th anniversary in 2014."
Click here for the full list of winners.