O, Miami. Borscht Film Festival. Nu Deco Ensemble. Organizations such as those have embedded themselves so deeply into Miami life they seem like they've always been a part of this city. But a decade ago, those projects — and many others like them that have expanded and evolved the cultural landscape of South Florida — were largely unknown; some were still just ideas brewing in the minds of local creatives. The Knight Foundation, with its annual Knight Arts Challenge grants, helped give them the funding they needed to launch and thrive.
The Foundation announced its 2017 Knight Arts Challenge finalists today, marking ten years of funding cultural projects in and around Miami. This year's finalists number more than 100, all vying for a share of $2.5 million in funding. As in years past, the finalists span the geography of South Florida, from Hollywood to Liberty City to South Miami-Dade, and include every artistic genre you can think of: visual art, film, dance, theater, poetry, satire, criticism, and beyond.
“The arts inspire and challenge us, but they are also one of the things that bring this wonderfully diverse community together. After ten years, we continue to be delighted by the high-quality arts ideas from neighborhoods around South Florida,” Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at the Knight Foundation, says in a statement.
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You could say the Knight Foundation has also brought Miami's diverse art community together in the decade since it began the Knight Arts Challenge. Its grants, along with the influence of the Art Basel spotlight each December, the proliferation of murals in Wynwood pioneered by Primary Flight and continued by developers, and other factors have expanded arts experiences for locals and helped boost Miami's cultural cred.
Of course, there's a lot more work to be done. Too many Miami stories are still untold, and too many communities haven't fully benefitted from the explosion of the arts in more affluent areas such as Wynwood and the Design District. This year's Arts Challenge finalists aim to change that fact. A project by Arts 4 Learning will guide Liberty City students as they create a memorial at the remains of the segregation wall at NW 12th Avenue. Miami New Drama will adapt Rakontur's epic Miami documentary Cocaine Cowboys for the stage. And the Miami Rail will launch a residency for Haitian authors to translate and publish their work.
The Knight Foundation will announce the winning ideas at a celebration this December 4. See the full list of winners at knightfoundation.org.