OVERVIEW: The Knight Foundation is a major funder of the arts, with geographic restrictions. It's also a very transparent funder, with a wealth of information on its website.
IP TAKE: One of the keys to gaining backing from Knight in many cases is innovation and community engagement.
PROFILE: The foundation awards a few grants nationally, but its main areas of interest lie within the borders of Knight Communities, which are the 26 cities in the United States where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers. In particular, through the Knight Arts Challenge it supports projects in Akron, Detroit, Miami and St. Paul.
The Knight Arts Challenge is open to individuals, nonprofits, and even businesses. Its only three criteria for applications are that the proposed project relate to the arts in some way, that it benefits one of the four cities mentioned above, and that grantees find matching funds from other sources. Otherwise there are no stipulations. Grants are generally between $5,000 and $75,000; prior grantees are listed here.
It is also possible to apply directly to the Knight Foundation for funding by sending a letter of inquiry here. However, it appears that so far the foundation has only supported visual arts projects through the Knight Arts Challenge.
Knight also has many new project areas it announces on an ongoing basis. It's always good to sign up for the newsletter to keep up with changing information and new announcements.