Tens of thousands of dollars for 150 words? Knight Foundation wants Detroit art ideas.


How often can you score tens of thousands of dollars — or more — with just 150 words? Put on your thinking caps, Detroit artists.

This week the Knight Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting communities through art and journalism, announced a grant of more than $19 million to the arts in Detroit.

The first $10.25 million is spoken for. Chunks of money are being doled out to seven major arts institutions: $2.25 million each to the DIA, DSO, and Detroit School of Arts, $1 million each to the Michigan Opera Theater and Sphinx Organization, and $750,000 to the Arab American National Museum and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The second, $9 million component is called the Arts Challenge, a Knight program that’s been running for five years in Miami and three years in Philadelphia.

Dennis Scholl, vice president of arts for Knight, who stopped by MT’s office on Wednesday, explains the contest like this: “We invite every single person in the community to give us their best art idea. There are only three rules, your idea must be about art, your idea must take place in or benefit Detroit, and if we fund you we want the community in with us, you’ve got to go out and find a way to raise some matching money.”

The contest opens in March, anyone at all can apply by submitting a 150 word proposal, and Scholl says the average grant is anywhere from $30- $60,000.

Scholl and his colleagues are so excited and passionate about this idea, it seems contagious. They seem to have utter confidence in the arts community here in Detroit — and the national attention it’s garnering —  which is pretty encouraging.

Rishi S. Jaitly is the Knight Foundation program director for Detroit, and he talks about the work they’ve already been doing for the past couple of years and the arts-community connection.

“All we’re interested in doing is connecting people to information, binding people to one another, and connecting people to action,” said Jaitly. “We think the arts play a huge role in shared experience, connecting people to one another and so what you’ve seen in the past few years is us catching up to where Detroit is.”

If you’re interested in submitting an idea for the Arts Challenge, visit knightarts.org for information.


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