Knight Foundation Awards Infuse South Florida Arts Scene with $3.7 Million

MIAMI – Emerging from 1,562 applications, 20 winners today received $3.7 million in the 2009 Knight Arts Challenge, a community-wide contest by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to find the best ideas for the South Florida arts. The winners’ projects include:

– Putting an orchestra back in the pit during Miami City Ballet’s 2010-2013 seasons;

– Creating an incubator for arts groups in Wynwood by opening a communal office, performance and gallery space at The LightBox at Goldman Warehouse;

– Launching an online site for selling locally-produced music and expanding community programming at Sweat Records, a store and center for independent music in Little Haiti.

Knight Foundation created the five-year annual contest in 2008 to help bring the South Florida community together through the arts.

“When art hits home, it needs no explanation. Art can move the individual and, when it’s a shared experience, can make the whole community better than it was, together,” Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of Knight Foundation, said. “We don’t prescribe what kind of art we will support. We want artists in South Florida to tell us what moves them and by supporting them, we think we move the soul of the community.”

The 2009 winners include individual artists, small nonprofits, and some of the region’s largest and most venerable arts institutions.

The projects will help increase exposure to contemporary art through exhibits at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens; deepen appreciation for locally-produced classical, opera, gospel and steel band music with new outreach programs and performances; and create a new draw for Miami Beach’s Art Deco district by converting the Wolfsonian/FIU’s museum’s exterior facades into public exhibition spaces by projecting on them images of the collection and new works.

“These projects will help artists provide more opportunities for South Floridians to connect and build a sense of community,” said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation’s Miami program director.

The contest is part of Knight Foundation’s five-year, $40 million Knight Arts initiative, conceived to add to the impact of the arts on South Florida’s community. The first phase, announced in 2008, included $20 million in leadership endowments for the Miami Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the New World Symphony.

The endowments fund an art education program at Miami Art Museum in partnership with Miami-Dade schools that will welcome 40,000 students a year; a series of exhibitions by emerging artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art; and a new media program at New World Symphony that allows performers and audiences to share real-time experiences with other artists around the world through digital technology.

The Knight Arts Challenge will accept applications next year for the third round of its community grants contest. Because it is a matching grant program, winners must find funding to complement Knight Foundation’s investment. To find out more, or sign up for e-mail updates, visit www.knightarts.org.

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