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Knight Foundation Names 36 Finalists In 2019 Knight Arts Challenge Akron

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Image Credit: "Detail of Self-Reflective Narcissistic Supernova," by Michelle Segre

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation named 36 Knight Arts Challenge Akron finalists—all vying for a share of $1 million to bring their ideas to life. This is the fourth year for the community-wide initiative that funds projects designed to engage and enrich Akron through the arts.

“Our team continues to be impressed by the caliber and ingenuity of ideas from the Akron community. The finalists embody the Knight Arts Challenge goals of engaging the community through the arts and cultivating high-quality cultural experiences that can be part of the daily lives of residents across the city,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. 

The Knight Arts Challenge aims to help individual artists and arts organizations—across Akron, Miami and Detroit—bring to life authentic works and experiences that capture the spirit of each city. It is part of a strategy that funds arts organizations of all sizes and types as well as talented local artists.

The finalists represent a range of projects that promise to spark connections among communities and encourage constructive dialogue about Akron’s culture and history.

“We believe the arts inspire communities and connect people to each other and to our city. These finalists prove that Akron is rich with collaborative ideas, storytellers from across the community, and creative fuel for the future,” shared Kyle Kutuchief, Knight Foundation’s Akron program director. 

A complete list of the 2019 finalists is below. Winning projects will be announced at a celebration on Wednesday, September 25, at the Akron Art Museum.

The Knight Arts Challenge Akron applicants followed just three rules: 1) the idea must be about the arts; 2) the project must take place in or benefit Akron; and 3) the grant recipient must find funds to match Knight’s commitment. Applicants proposed their idea in a user-friendly, 150-word description.

Knight Arts Challenge Akron 2019 Finalists

In silico et in situ: Chimney Swift Tower Sculptures
To reflect on the theme of discovery and explore the impact of public art on nature through a series of ten large-scale outdoor sculptures in downtown Akron and its vicinity

Amber D. Kempthorn
Ordinary Magic: A Sunday in the Cuyahoga Valley
To create a stop-motion animated artwork that celebrates the landscape of Akron and the Cuyahoga Valley set to Benjamin Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes,” which will be screened with live accompaniment by the Akron Symphony Orchestra

Akron-Summit County Public Library
Lighting feature at the Main Library
To illuminate a symbol of Akron and enhance the streetscape for those who live, work, and play downtown by creating a large lighting feature from energy efficient LED bulbs

Akron Recording Company
Sights and Sounds Akron
To document the unique sights and sounds of Akron in a series of ethnographic field recordings, videos, and photographs of each neighborhood in the city

Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra
MusicAlive! Free Concerts in Akron
To bring free concerts into everyday spaces, celebrating baroque and historical folk music, children’s programming, and music of Akron’s refugee community in partnership with three Akron institutions

Bhutanese Community Associations Of Akron INC
Bhutanese United Multi-Cultural Program
To build inclusive and equitable communities in Akron by providing opportunities for cross-cultural community gatherings in North Hill

Center for Applied Theater and Active Culture
Lost in Translation
To engage the city’s Latinx community in a dialogue about culture, barriers, family, and displacement through a performance based on stories collected from local immigrants

Charisma Community Connection
Maple Valley Art & Culture District
To resurrect and reignite community theater and cultural events in West Akron with facility enhancements that support vibrant opportunities for creative, professional, and personal growth

Cir L’Bert Jr.
Conjure Comics
To highlight and support local marginalized identities in the city’s art sphere by producing socially progressive comic books and graphic novels that center on the experiences of people of color, indigenous communities, LGBTQI individuals, and those of varying abilities

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Art Aboard
To provide arts viewing opportunities for the public by allowing passengers to engage with art aboard a self-propelled rail diesel car in conjunction with talks, workshops, and social media

Diane Taninecz
Scattered - An Ephemeral Sculpture Made of Akron Memories
To encourage residents to reflect on their community and inspire a connection with art via a public ephemeral sculpture constructed from willow branches and handmade paper containing personal memory notes

Druk Fusion Band
Music for Unity and Peace
To bring people from different communities together to experience live instrumental music from different cultural groups in Akron’s North Hill

Dylan Yellowlees/Ryan Humbert/Brad Savage
Akron Songwriters Festival
To help people gain a greater appreciation for the craft of songwriting and to showcase places where songwriters can be seen in Akron by bringing together local and national songwriters

Field of Dreams Collective
A Walk in the Woods
To encourage people to think outside the box when it comes to experiencing arts, by installing an outdoor art gallery along a nature path that will feature permanent pieces and rotating works

Friends of Chestnut Ridge Park/Akron Parks Collaborative
Many Voices, One Akron
To provide a two-week artist residency for Akron African American creatives to discover their ancestral origins, travel to these locations, and integrate the experience into an original creation to be exhibited at the 2020 Chestnut Ridge Park “Many Voices, One Akron” event

FRONT Exhibition Company
FRONT International Exhibitions and Installations in Akron
To present authentic, one-of-a-kind experiences that extend beyond traditional museum exhibitions to attract new audiences

Greater Akron Musical Association
Diversity Residency Program
To provide opportunities for local immigrant families to connect with the orchestra by creating a collaboration between Akron and a children’s circus in the Syrian refugee camp in Mardin, Turkey

GroundWorks DanceTheater
Akron Arts Connect
To connect the creative process across arts disciplines through movement-based activities by bringing together professional and amateur artists in a unique exchange of creativity and connections

Inlet Dance Theatre
Phase 2 of “The ‘Black Card’ Project”
To create conversation about the narrow scope of Black identity and its connection to economic development by supporting movement workshops, the development of educational videos and online platform, and a week of performances of Dominic Moore-Dunson’s dance theatre production, “The ‘Black Card’ Project”

Gum-Dip Theatre
Three Countries, One Mother
To explore the history and culture of the Bhutanese-Nepali by following the journey of three brothers who live in Bhutan, Nepal, and the United States in a multilingual play

Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance
The Big Boulevard Sign Build
To transform Kenmore’s historic business district by leveraging the power of visual art to produce business signage through an artistic sign design competition

Kent State University Foundation, Inc.
Power of Print: Resistance and Revolution in Akron
To position printmaking as an entry point for artists and communities to amplify their voices via a conference featuring exhibitions, technical demonstrations, lectures, and panels

Les Délices
Fables and Fairytales
To provide cutting-edge early music programs to Akron by supporting the development and production of music by Baroque composers with puppets and visuals to animate Aesop’s Fables and a 17th-century feminist fairy tale

North Akron Community Development Corporation
To engage Akron’s North Hill creatives with year-long programming and professional development opportunities that will culminate in a multicultural and interdisciplinary festival

Ohio Prison Arts Connection
Returning Citizens, Restored Dreams
To build momentum around reentry and the arts during a nine-month pilot project partnering professional, socially engaged artists with returning citizens in a range of mediums

Robert Wesner
Akron Ascending, an Identity in Dance
To develop an ongoing, public conversation between artists, dancers, and space by preparing site-specific works on staircases throughout Akron

Roots of American Music
Akron Heritage Music Project
To document, preserve, and build awareness of regional music by recording regional musicians, using direct-to-lacquer technology, in historic locations that have a connection to the genres of music being performed, or in locations inspired by the historic sites

Rubber City Theatre
Rubber City Musical Incubator
To support musical theatre works in all phases of development in an incubator that will showcase works through readings, workshops, and fully-staged productions

Sharon Koelblinger and Julia Staples
House Guests
To bring art directly into people’s homes, by pairing contemporary artists with local residents for a series of in-person dialogues and meals throughout the community

Shane Wynn
To document the stories of LGBTQ young people who have experienced homelessness as a result of their sexual identity through a traveling exhibition of photo essays and doorbell installations

Summit County Probate Court
Curated Courthouse
To give courthouse employees and visitors access to art in an unusual space by curating a series of exhibits with local artists

Synapse Art and Science Series, University of Akron
Synapse: Nature’s Solutions
To highlight Akron’s location in the Cuyahoga Valley and its legacy as a city of invention in a series of exhibitions featuring leading artists and designers focused on learning from nature to address human challenges

The Center for Applied Drama and Autism
Along the Graveyard Path (A History of Disability in our Community)
To connect Akronites with the history of disability in its community through a dramatic performance that offers an example of theatre created and performed by people of all abilities

The University of Akron Foundation/Art Bomb Brigade
Art Bomb Artist Residency and Apprenticeship Project
To redefine public spaces in Akron and foster the next generation of arts leaders by developing more extensive training for practicing artists and professionalizing a local community mural arts program

Wandering Aesthetics
Lil’ Loaves: A Bite-Sized Variety Show
To celebrate young, emerging Akron talent through a one-of-a-kind variety-style showcase that will be open to the community

We Care Collective
What’s Really Good Akron - Creative Edition
To highlight local creatives across artistic disciplines and minority-owned businesses that advocate for the arts in a series of exhibitions, lectures, discussions, and live-podcasting

For additional updates, follow #knightarts and @knightfdn on TwitterInstagramFacebook and LinkedIn.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit

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