Winners of 2014 Knight Arts Challenge revealed

The wait that began five months ago for nearly 1,000 Knight Arts Challenge applicants is finally over.

It started when each one answered a simple question: what’s your best idea for the arts in Detroit? In June, the pool of 1,000 applicants was trimmed to 89 finalists. On Oct. 6, 58 winners that will share $2.48 million were announced.  

A program of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Knight Arts Challenge awards funds for the best ideas for moving Detroit forward through the arts. All grant recipients must find funds to match Knight’s commitment.

The 58 winners, mainly small arts organizations, collectives and individual artists, are from nearly every corner of the city. 

The winning ideas include creating and renovating an exhibition and programming space for the African Bead Museum, which won a $100,000 grant; transforming an abandoned property near the Untitled Bottega, a North End hip hop art space, into an outdoor theater and cultural hub meant to strengthen a neighborhood through the arts (also $100,000); and finding a new permanent home for neighborhood blues jam sessions at John's Carpet House ($40,000 awarded to urban agriculture jobs program RecoveryPark), which ran afoul with city official this summer after years of uninterrupted programming in an urban prairie on the edge of old Poletown.

Other notable awards include a $35,000 grant to Sidewalk Festival for the Perfoming Arts to expand an outdoor performance and installation art to neighborhoods across the city; a $60,000 grant to the N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art to create Quarter Pop on Grand River, an arts incubator that provides access to new skills and storefront spaces; $75,000 to Young Nation to engage local artists, youth and residents in Southwest Detroit in designing and building an art-filled public plaza.

A cluster of projects in Hamtramck and in adjacent Banglatown and Northwest Territories neighborhoods also stood out on the list of Knight Arts Challenge winners.

Popps Packing was awarded $23,000 to support its expansion of a unique artist residency program that caters to national and international artists with children, providing a holistic space in which artists can live in Detroit/Hamtramck while sharing the creative experience with their families; the Hinterlands was awarded $30,000 to explore Detroit’s 20th century history of radical art and politics through the Radicalization Process, a yearlong performance series built on interviews, artifacts and historic footage; CMAP (Carrie Morris Arts Production) was awarded $35,000 to present the Living Room Series, contemporary puppet performances that challenge the perception that art exists only for specific spaces; Write a House was awarded $100,000 for its attempt to bring new vitality to the literary arts in Detroit by expanding its project, which awards renovated homes to writers based on the quality of their work; Lo & Behold was awarded $7,000 to explore the array of cultures and music in Hamtramck by conducting field recordings of local music -- i.e. a Bangladeshi street fair or a gospel trio -- presented with minimal editing; and Power House Productions was awarded $250,000 to celebrate the role of art in developing and inspiring neighborhoods through a series of programs leading up to a community-wide block party in Banglatown.

This is the second year the Knight Foundation has award challenge grants. Dennis Scholl, vice president of arts for Knight had this say about the 2014 winners: "For the second time, Detroit has shown the depth of the city’s creative community and exceeded our expectations with their ideas. We are thrilled by the quality and engagement opportunities presented by this year's winners."

The full list of winners and their project ideas is available here.

Walter Wasacz is a former managing editor of Model D. Follow him on Twitter @nospectacle
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Walter Wasacz.

Walter Wasacz is a writer and the former managing editor of Model D. You can find more of his writings here.