Knight Foundation: Grants for College Arts and Humanities


OVERVIEW: The Knight Foundation is looking for "transformational" work to help bolster “informed and engaged” people and communities. Within that context, colleges and universities have received awards for diverse arts and humanities initiatives through Knight's journalism, media, community, and arts programs. Some funding streams are restricted to specific communities throughout the U.S.

IP TAKE: Across the board at Knight, innovation—interpreted very broadly—is key. College and university fundraisers shouldn't be afraid to submit a short LOI for a project that pushes the boundaries of traditional arts funding.

PROFILE: The Knight Foundation’s giving is based in a strong faith in the importance of “informed and engaged” people and communities. To that end, the foundation “supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts.” For higher ed grantseekers in the arts, it's this last program area that should draw your attention; other programs at Knight support various fields in the humanities.

Knight's arts grants are awarded out of its Fostering the Arts program. Recently, the Knight Arts Challenge has taken center stage in the foundation's approach. The Arts Challenge is focused on an evolving short-list of communities located throughout the United States.

Colleges and universities can play an important role in the arts landscape of many communities, and the Knight Foundation supports this contribution. Grants from both the Knight Arts Challenge and the Arts program in general have funded higher ed community-focused initiatives incorporating the use of new media, film, public performances, and afterschool programs to bring university artists together with primary and secondary students.

Once Knight Arts Challenge grants have been awarded in the communities referenced above, it's not exactly clear how the foundation will pivot, so keep a close eye on Knight's arts strategy, which you can do by signing up for its weekly newsletter.

Knight's Communities program is also receptive to higher ed organizations, supporting "civic innovators who help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement." Universities have received awards and collaborated with organizations in this initiative through arts and humanities projects including the creation of outdoor art spaces, civic education projects, and a film festival.

Knight's third programmatic area, Journalism, works to bolster "people and organizations committed to advancing excellence in journalism and informing people in communities of all sizes through experimentation, innovation and leadership." Universities and colleges have benefited from Knight patronage in journalism to support research projects and centers, collaboration with public broadcasting stations, leadership and fellowship programs, and diversity initiatives, just to name a few.

Finally, Knight's Media Innovation interests fund "projects that seek to improve how we create, share and use information essential to communities by providing early-stage funding for experimentation and growth." As centers of knowledge and discovery, higher ed institutions are primed to take advantage of the opportunities present in this program. One major initiative within this program is the Knight News Challenge, which accepted proposals from individuals of any age and institutions of any size to support "breakthrough ideas in news and information." Higher ed grantees in this area have created innovative tools such as searchable databases of political ads and state assembly sessions, as well as the development of a real-time fact checker to help journalists verify politicians' assertions.

One important way to get a clearer sense of what Knight likes to fund is by reviewing its grants database, which can be searched by year, program area, keyword, and other criteria. There is also a page to view previous Knight Arts Challenge winners.

If the strategy and goals of your college or university project fit Knight’s bill, you can start the application process by submitting a letter of inquiry through the foundation’s Apply for Funding page (applying to the Knight Arts Challenge is a separate process).


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