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On its 10th anniversary, Knight Arts Challenge Miami funds 43 projects with $2.5 million
Each year the awards celebrate Miami's cultural diversity, and 2017 continues the tradition. © Gesi Schilling.

MIAMI, FLA.- Ten years ago, the Knight Arts Challenge was established to enable Miamians to bring their artistic ideas to life. This year, 43 winners from across South Florida will share $2.5 million for projects that show they have taken that creative mission to heart. Winners come from an array of backgrounds and disciplines, with projects that will help make art general in Miami so that it is seen, felt and heard throughout the city’s many neighborhoods.

A project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Knight Arts Challenge funds the best ideas for bringing South Florida together through the arts. The winning ideas were announced at a special event at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, followed by a communitywide celebration including performances in the adjacent Knight Plaza.

Each year the awards celebrate Miami's cultural diversity, and 2017 continues the tradition. One project explores the life of Cuban artist José Aponte, who was executed in 1812 when a book of his drawings was alleged to contain plans for a slave uprising. Another project jumps to the future for a virtual reality experience on the history of Stiltsville, the homes elevated above Biscayne Bay. Yet another will restore and publish the photos of Andy Sweet, whose work documents the history of 1970s South Beach and its Jewish retirees.

Because Miami is so much more than South Beach, this year's winners are activating projects from Doral to Pahokee to the Keys, often in unexpected locations. One will produce a Commuter Biennial, so that suburban neighborhoods can experience the kind of artistic interventions often reserved for the city’s downtown and annual art fairs. Another will fund miniconcerts at Metrorail stations during the morning commute. And don't be alarmed if, on your way home from work, you encounter mermaids discussing the effects of climate change in a park. That's simply the Miami Mermaid Debates.

"The 10th Anniversary Knight Arts Challenge winners celebrate life and arts in Miami," said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president. "They embody what the arts do: they inspire and create common experiences that connect us to each other and to home, Miami.”.

"True to the challenge’s spirit, winners this year challenged themselves to bring unique passions to Miamians," said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. "Miami is a young city. Our challenge winners and our artists are not only telling our stories, they are shaping our city’s identity every day.”

Knight Foundation has invested more than $122 million in South Florida arts since 2005, including support for both large institutions, to more deeply engage the public, and grassroots efforts through the Knight Arts Challenge. Over the past decade, the challenge has helped raise the artistic quality in the city, providing organizations and individual artists the time, resources and infrastructure they need for quality work. In addition, the challenge has helped spur innovation and risk-taking, with 80 percent of projects encouraging or creating innovative arts programming.

There are only three rules for applying to the challenge: 1) The idea must be about the arts; 2) The project must take place in or benefit South Florida; and 3) The grant recipients must find funds to match Knight’s commitment. The best receive Knight Foundation support. More than 10,000 ideas have been submitted over eight years.

Previous funding for large institutions launched a new media program that includes the signature “Wallcasts” at the acclaimed New World Symphony campus, helped present top films at the Miami International Film Festival, brings Miami-Dade students on free field trips to the Pérez Art Museum Miami, and is building a new high-tech recital hall at the University of Miami Frost School of Music among other projects.

Monday night, Knight Foundation also named 25 arts and civic leaders as Knight Arts Champions, honoring them for their vision, courage and tenacity in building Miami’s cultural community. They include painter José Bedia, author Edwidge Danticat and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Each received $10,000 contribution to an artist or arts organization of their choice. The list of Knight Arts Champions is below.

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