14 projects that aim to connect Detroiters through art announced as winners of Knight Arts Challenge

What’s happening: A hyper-local public art fund; a solar-powered sound sculpture; storytelling, music, and art festivals. All these and more have been named as recipients of 2021 Knight Arts Challenge Detroit, with 14 artists and arts organizations being awarded more than $1 million for projects that utilize the arts to connect Detroiters with their communities.

Those 14 artists and organizations, as well as another 13 other Detroit-based projects, will each receive an additional $10,000 in technical support.

What it is: The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation created the Knight Arts Challenge series in 2008, launching its Detroit iteration in 2013. More than $14 million has been awarded to over 300 community-centric art projects and programs since then. Akron and Miami are the other two cities at the benefit of the program.

Why it is: “Art is a platform that enables Detroiters to tell their own unique stories,” says Nathaniel Wallace, Knight’s Detroit program director. “The Knight Arts Challenge will empower 14 of Detroit’s innovative artists to engage Detroiters and help reach new audiences.”

The winners: The 14 winning artists and arts organizations vary in scope and size. They include City of Asylum/Detroit, awarded $50,000 for an artist-in-exile fellowship;

Daay, awarded $10,000 for a multimedia sound installation tracing Black identity;

Hamtramck’s Oloman Cafe and Gallery, awarded $11,592 for a series of seven art exhibits exploring questions of belonging;

Fenwood Enterprises, awarded $50,000 to activate Hope Village storefronts with free digital arts and technology education programming for area children;

Norwest Community Collaborative, awarded $150,000 for an inclusive artists residency project to support BIPOC and Non-Binary women artists;

Sidewalk Detroit, awarded $250,000 for a hyper-local public art fund embedded within four Detroit neighborhoods;

Detroit Parks Coalition, awarded $80,000 for the Find Your Freedom festival;

What Pipeline, awarded $25,000 for a video installation exploring topics of Black femme, queerness, and heroism;

Simon Anton/Thing Thing, awarded $35,000 for a community plastic recycling lab;

The Ron Allen Project, awarded $25,000 for a multimedia exhibit showcasing the namesake’s work;

American Riad, awarded $171,000 for a public art-and-architecture project that creates beauty while resisting gentrification;

Live Coal Gallery, awarded $125,169 for an arts-infused green space and art hub in the Brightmoor neighborhood;

CultureSource, awarded $150,000 for the 30th anniversary of the Concert of Colors festival;

and Ash Arder, awarded $64,200 for a solar-powered sound sculpture that records and plays back voices of the community.

More information about the winners can be found online.

What they’re saying: “One of my favorite things about Detroit is its hustle, the amazing energy it exudes. You see it all around you, but especially in the creativity of Detroit’s artists and art organizations. We certainly saw it in these winning ideas,” says Victoria Rogers, Knight Art’s program vice president.

“The arts became a balm during the pandemic, helping us to deal with pain, to laugh, to reflect and to remain engaged. We were inspired by these winning projects, their ideas and in the ways they used technology and innovative platforms to reach people where they are. Helping to bring these visions to life is exciting.”

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.