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84 Finalists Named in Knight Arts Challenge Detroit


Grassroots ideas advance to next round in Knight Foundation contest

DETROIT – – Emerging from more than 1,400 submissions, 84 projects were named finalists today in the Knight Arts Challenge, a community-wide contest funding cultural projects that engage and enrich Detroit.

The projects represent a wide range of ideas that would enliven public spaces, use vacant buildings as artistic canvases and celebrate local traditions, including puppetry, Armenian folk music and the Detroit Jit. Most of the finalists are grassroots efforts proposed by individual artists and small organizations.

A full list is below and at Winners of the challenge, a project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will be announced in September.

“These finalists reflect the city’s growing community of artists creating new narratives for Detroit and a promising momentum for the city’s future,” said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation’s vice president for arts.

At their core, the finalists have one thing in common, Scholl added: “In addition to reaching for artistic excellence, they each keep the community at the heart of their efforts.”

In addition, the public will have a say in who receives funding with the Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice Award. Later this summer, Detroiters will be invited to vote via text message for one of several up and coming cultural organizations. The winner will receive $20,000 in support.

Launched in early 2013, the challenge, which is open to anyone, offers matching grant money to the best ideas for the arts. Applicants must follow only three rules: 1) The idea must be about the arts; 2) The project must take place in or benefit Detroit; 3) The grant recipient must find funds to match Knight’s commitment.

The challenge is part of a $19.25 million investment in the Detroit arts that Knight Foundation announced last fall. It includes support for the three-year challenge, which provides funding, exposure and momentum to smaller arts efforts, and $10.25 million to some of the region’s premiere cultural institutions: the Arab American National Museum, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit School of Arts, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Opera Theatre and the Sphinx Organization.

For more information, visit

2013 Detroit Knight Arts Challenge finalists

A Host of People

To reinvent the theater experience by making it “radically inviting” through original performances that feel more like neighborhood potluck dinners

Adrienne Maree Brown

To help Detroiters generate new ideas and narratives about the city’s future through a series of sci-fi writing workshops that bring together a cross-section of residents


To build on the city’s musical legacy by having this band invite international and national musicians as “house guests” to live together and collaborate on music

Allied Media Projects

To help fuel new ideas for the classroom by providing digital media teachers with a week-long artists’ retreat

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Project

To celebrate the exhibition of an international book project commemorating the 2007 bombing of the famed street of Baghdad booksellers through a book arts festival

Alonso del Arte

To introduce classical music to new audiences by driving an ice cream truck through the city playing Anton Bruckner’s March in E-flat major and other works

Ara Topouzian

To preserve the heritage of Armenian-American Detroiters by producing a documentary that highlights their history through traditional folk music

Arts League of Michigan

To help inspire local artists by creating a community hub that offers multidisciplinary workspaces, including studios and rehearsal spaces

Audrey Allison

To showcase the family of thumb piano instruments, which originated in Africa and have variations worldwide, by creating an ensemble that will present original works

Biba Bell

To honor Detroit’s legacy as the birthplace of the assembly line through a performance that explores the relationship between two forms of movement: modern dance and factory labor

Brightmoor Alliance

To revitalize open spaces in the Brightmoor community by commissioning artwork for neighborhood projects

Carrie Morris Arts Production

To expose Detroiters to experimental art forms – think Shakespeare told through Lego action figures – via an intimate “Living Room” performance series staged in an abandoned house

Center of Music & Performing Arts Southwest

To preserve and expand the reach of traditional Mexican music by creating a mariachi youth ensemble that would celebrate the popular format while incorporating the music of other Latin American countries

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

To illuminate some of Detroit’s dark neighborhood streets through an outdoor video art installation showcasing the faces and wisdom of the city’s elders

Christa Grix

To honor iconic jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby through a Hip Harp Happening consisting of community lectures and recitals

Clinton Snider

To help redefine and inspire Detroit’s neighborhoods by turning billboards into works of art

Collaboration of Marsha Music and Juanita Anderson

To explore the resilience and vitality of Detroit’s mid-century, African-American community through a documentary on Joe Von Battle and his seminal record shop

Complex Movements

To explore the relationship between art, science and social justice movements through a multimedia performance installation inspired by community-led efforts in Detroit

Corktown Cinema

To expand the region’s cinematic offerings by creating a community-oriented art house cinema in Hamtramck that presents films in addition to music and performance art

Cosmic Slop Festival

To celebrate rock music’s multicultural roots through a festival that showcases rock musicians of color

CutTime Productions

To inspire a love of the classics by having classical music performers play at neighborhood bars, clubs and eateries

Detroit Chamber Winds

To expand the audience for classical music through a program where the city’s architecturally and historically significant locations are transformed into musical performance spaces

Detroit Educational Television Foundation

To show the possibilities for art making in communities by having artists solicit project ideas from residents, work together to produce works, and document the process on video

Detroit SOUP

To engage more Detroiters in giving to creative projects by converting a bread truck into a portable space where people can meet to microfund ideas

Detroit Techno Foundation

To provide exposure for Detroit visual artists by showcasing large-scale projects that reflect the city’s future at the annual Movement Electronic Music Festival

East Side Riders

To foster a community of urban bike design by helping the East Side Riders – artists who build bikes as a means of expression – open a shop and expand

Frank Pahl

To experiment with the musical experience by filling a home in Detroit with instruments that play when guests enter, flip a light switch, or do a variety of other activities

Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation

To promote creative expression in local youth through a free summer art program for teens

Gunstar Productions

To explore Detroit’s neighborhoods through the arts by distilling the essence of 30 communities into 30 short plays that will be performed back to back in the order chosen by the audience

Hardcore Detroit

To preserve the legacy of the 1970s dance craze, the Detroit Jit, through a video featuring the original Jitterbugs and an instructional video on how it’s performed

Hatch: A Hamtramck Art Collective

To foster a community of art collectors through an art library, where they can borrow a Detroiter’s work to display for two months

Heritage Works

To explore cultural understanding through the arts by having a trio of choreographers engage the community in creating new works that explore cultural identities and stereotypes

Holladay Brothers

To create a musical map of Detroit where residents and visitors can access a smartphone app to listen to a composition that matches their location

HYPE Teen Center Makerspace

To help Detroit teens discover their inner artist and inventor through a Makermobile that will bring computers, 3D printers, paint, robotics kits and more to libraries and community events

InsideOut Literary Arts Project

To help teens develop their artistic and entrepreneurial skills by producing and marketing an online literary journal

Jazz Network Foundation

To strengthen Jazz in Detroit by creating a competition for musicians where the winners will form a performance band

Jeff Karoub

To create an intimate yet profoundly engaging musical experience through a series of small concerts rotating through Detroit homes

Jon Brumit

To create a drive-through audio collage of the city’s 143 square miles through a series of community radio stations playing from the frequency 143FM

Leander Johnson

To engage Detroiters in the city’s history by creating a series of ’zines that explore the city’s people and places


To engage the community in a conversation on the creative process through screenings of a documentary on Chinese-American philosopher and activist Grace Lee Boggs

Leni Sinclair

To preserve the history of Detroit musicians by archiving a photography collection that dates to the 1960s

Living Arts

To weave the arts into neighborhoods by creating a performance series with local youth and adult artists at a theater at the Mexicantown Mercado

LO & BEHOLD! Records & Books

To present and document traditional music in Detroit by preserving and making available the traditionally produced recordings of the store’s Folk Blues Night performances

Maison LaFleur

To spur interest in contemporary art from Africa and the Diaspora through a series of art exhibitions, Afrofuturist lectures and events

Mark Wallace

To turn abandoned homes into a source of creativity by using reclaimed lumber to create guitars

Megan Heeres

To engage Detroiters in papermaking projects through traveling workshops that use invasive plants as pulp

Michigan Arab Orchestra

To help bridge cultural gaps in Detroit through an education program centered on the performance of classical Arab music

Michigan Equity Theatre Alliance

To strengthen local theater management by creating a network that matches administrators and performers with boards of directors that need their expertise

Michigan Philharmonic

To bring together Detroit’s diverse cultures and communities by producing a fusion event featuring the Michigan Philharmonic and the Michigan Arab Orchestra playing Middle Eastern music

Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion

To produce writing and filmmaking workshops that will explore the city’s rich history through recording Detroiters’ personal involvement in the civil rights movement

Michigan Theater

To inspire Detroit through film by creating a signature film festival for the city

Midtown Detroit

To bring Detroiters together by expanding the light-based outdoor art festival DLECTRICITY to include, among other things, a permanent installation on Woodward Avenue


To use the power of design to produce vibrant civic spaces by bringing together architects and creatives with community advocates

Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit

To inspire the city’s youngest minds through a new program that integrates the arts into every element of an elementary school’s curriculum

Motor City Brass Band

To help build community through the arts by creating a series of events that use brass band music and the movies to celebrate the people of Detroit

Mt Elliott Makerspace

To celebrate Detroit’s vibrancy by creating a Hyper Interactive Hip Hop Mardi Gras Parade that combines the unique traditions of the city’s Caribbean Mardi Gras Festival, local Hip Hop artists and the DIY innovators at the Mt Elliott Makerspace

Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)

To give teens a stake in the arts by creating a teen council at MOCAD that will produce programs, events and materials for both their peers and adults

Thomas Kloc

To bring Detroit kids together around creative projects by installing sandboxes around the city where children can build their creations, share them online and come together for a culminating event on Belle Isle Beach

NKSK Events + Productions

To engage the community in creating art through workshops at the Charles Wright Museum’s African World Festival where visitors participate in craft and performance projects alongside professional artists

N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art

To strengthen the city’s galleries by creating a training program where workers learn skills in installing, shipping and archiving art

North American Residency

To showcase Detroit to the city’s neighbors by creating a residency for Canadian visual artists in the city

Notes for Notes

To promote free and creative expression by Detroit’s youth through an afterschool music program where children can explore, produce and record music

Omowale Entertainment

To bring Detroit residents together through a series of West African drumming and dancing workshops that teach the form’s historical and cultural significance

Plowshares Theatre Company

To help high schoolers discover their artistic talents through theater workshops in partnership with Michigan State University

Popps Packing

To create a venue for fostering creativity across artistic disciplines by bringing together artists with architects, tradesmen and craftsmen to transform a storefront and attached home

Power House Productions

To bring art to the public by creating a sculpture park that combines a large-scale, skateable artwork and space for meditation

Public Art Workz

To provide an artful space by placing handcrafted, whimsical porch swings – equipped with LED lights and cellphone charging stations – at bus stops and in parks around the city

Public Pool

To cultivate interest in the written word by expanding a neighborhood art space’s literary series to include authors from outside the city

PuppetART Theater

To challenge modern perceptions of puppetry by bringing together four Detroit organizations for puppet theater productions

Re(Fab) Creating Consulting

To use art to help revitalize the Livernois Corridor by creating pop-up fashion, art and design galleries in three vacant storefronts

Rowe Niodior African Dance Company

To illustrate how African groups use music and dance to create community through four days of workshops and performances

Scott Hocking

To turn Detroit’s aging and vacant cast concrete structures into artworks by creating and photographing site-specific sculptural installations

Secret Society Of Twisted Storytellers

To bring Detroiters together through spoken word by expanding a monthly show where Detroiters share a true, personal story

The Alexandrine Street Seminars

To document the emerging movement of artists and social entrepreneurs in Detroit through a journal of contemporary culture

The Heidelberg Project

To infuse the city with photography by launching Detroit Photo Day, where each resident is invited to take a picture and submit it for the chance of appearing on billboards, on public transit and in an exhibition

The Hinterlands

To help unite Hamtramck and Detroit by creating a 24-hour festival along the municipalities’ border

The Woodward Line Poetry Series

To expand the local audience for poetry by broadening the poetry series to include more prominent national writers and a session where guest authors discuss Detroiters’ unpublished works

Theatre Bizarre

To inspire performers and audiences alike through a large scale, immersive art installation that brings together local artists, including acrobats and circus and sideshow artists


To shine a spotlight on Detroit’s contributions to soul, R&B and jazz by transforming a Gratiot Avenue storefront into a small music museum with a community-run radio station

uRban Detail

To increase Detroit’s awareness of the built environment by spreading knowledge of architecture and design through a series of panel discussions, competitions and a mobile design unit

Wayne State University Press and Signal-Return

To create uniquely Detroit narratives by holding writing workshops where residents create limited-edition letterpress printings of their work that will be showcased at community events

Wayne Writers Forum

To engage the city in literature by expanding a literary walk in Midtown where national and local writers read at a series of stops a short walking distance from each other

Young Nation

To spread art into neighborhoods by commissioning local artists to create a series of skateboard and bicycle designs that will be sold out of a local shop

Zimbabwe Cultural Centre in Detroit

To unite artists in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Detroit by transforming two living spaces into cultural consulates

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit


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