Knight Foundation pledges millions in grants for art in Detroit

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is making a big investment into Detroit's creative class, a move the nonprofit hopes will help enrich both the local economy and help raise the quality of life in the Motor City.

The Knight Foundation is pledging $19.25 million to its Knight Arts Challenge. Of that money, $10.25 million will go toward seven of Detroit's premiere institutions to make both museum pieces and performance art more accessible, along with providing training for the next generation of artists. The remaining $9 million will be going toward a community-wide contest to fund the best ideas for the arts through grants.

"The arts play a very special role in binding people together," says Rishi Jaitly, Detroit program director for the Knight Foundation. He adds, "it cultivates what we call attachment in the community."

To help push that attachment along, major local arts organizations will find ways to make some of their signature pieces or performances appear in the community. The pop-up art will be similar to the Detroit Institute of Arts' Inside|Out program, which currently has 80 reproductions of masterpieces from its collection strategically placed on the streets and parks of Metro Detroit. Some of the Detroit-based organizations that will be participating in this sort of activity include the DIA, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit School of Arts, Michigan Opera Theatre and the Sphinx Organization.

Joining that effort is the Knight Arts Challenge, which will give seed capital grants to innovative ideas based around the arts. The ideas must be about the arts, take place or benefit Detroit and the recipients must find matching funds. The program, expected to take place over at least the next three years, aims to support Detroit's growing creative class.

"We're responding to the current momentum in the city," Jaitly says. "We have been sharpening our focus to help young creatives."

Source: Rishi Jaitly, Detroit program director for the Knight Foundation
Writer: Jon Zemke

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