Knight Foundation celebrates South Florida’s Arts Community

Written By Jean Blackwell Font
December 13, 2019 at 2:45 PM

Above image: 2019 Knight Arts Challenge Winners; photo by Gesi Schilling for Knight Foundation.

The Knight Arts Challenge Grant Awards is one of the most anticipated events of the season, and not just for those who applied for the award. South Florida’s arts community – across all disciplines and genres – gather on one night of the year to celebrate the winners of the Knight Arts Challenge Grant and (another word for celebrate) the rich and vibrant arts in our city.

On December 2, 2019, The Knight Foundation hosted their Art Week Miami Kick Off at Perez Art Museum Miami by announcing the winners of the 2019 Knight Arts Challenge. The event is a jubilant celebration, with artists and leaders gathered in one inspired location. The night buzzed with the creative energy and excitement as, one by one, the announced winners stepped up to the stage to receive their award – a small cube with the Knight Foundation logo emblazoned and gleaming.

2019 Knight Arts Champions; photo by Gesi Schilling for Knight Foundation.

The ceremony moved along smoothly, and lasted just an hour. Guests that arrived late were accommodated with a large screen livestreaming of the event and as each winner was announced, the applause from outside echoed the applause from inside. By the end of the ceremony, more than $1.8 million was awarded to 44 artists and arts; in addition, 21 local leaders, recognized as Knight Arts Champions, each awarded $10,000 to additional local artists and organizations.

Creative conversations sparked throughout the evening. Photo by Gesi Schilling for Knight Foundation.

Miami is a small town, and everyone knows everyone –especially in the arts! There were hugs and smiles for all of the winners as they exited the ceremony, led by a drum procession, out onto the terrace overlooking Biscayne Bay. The reception that followed was a wonderful celebration. O, Miami Poetry Festival set up a table of poets to create poems on demand, and The French Horn Collective provided music for the evening.

The multidisciplinary collaborative Barba-Marcotulli was awarded $18,000 for their project, “Kanay,” to create “Live performances and video installations that draw on Pre-Columbian iconography, myths and legends to explore and re-present a decolonized Latinx identity in times of negative portrayal of Latino immigration.” (Knight Foundation)

Recipient Roxana Barba explains, “Our project Kanay (to burn in Quechua, a native Andean language) means a few things to us. We both have lived the later half of our lives [in Miami] and the first half in our native countries.” (Claudio was born and raised in Venezuela and Roxana is from Peru). She goes on to say, “We also share a strong sense of who we are because of where we come from. In Miami, we have found more people like us, meaning Latinx folks who unequivocally represent where they come from but who also have had to rebuild and reshape themselves to settle into new homes and lives.”

Barba says that the process of leaving behind a native country to adopt a new one brings loss. Drawing from previous collaborations, Barba-Marcotulli will use performance, installation and video to create a cross-disciplinary experience “to look for pieces of history left behind, to help re-identify ourselves… to deconstruct to then construct an interrelation between contemporary Latinx identity, Andean Cosmovision, migration and decolonization.”

“It is a great honor to have received funding support from the Knight Foundation. We are both grateful to be among an amazing group of artists and organizations who inspire us to continue creating work,” says Barba.

Over the course of the evening, the conversation often turned to the great diversity of the winners this year, more directly reflecting the many facets of South Florida’s population. The representation of diversity manifested in the recognition of queer culture, Caribbean artists, female artists of color, dance-theater with performers of diverse ages, ethnicities, abilities, and sexual orientations – and even a Yiddish silent cinema festival.

Many of the projects to receive funding look at environmental preservation and sustainability. Some explore community and spirituality, while others explore histories that “share the experiences of Miami pioneers, immigrants, and women.” (Knight Foundation)

Knight Foundation Vice President of the Arts Victoria Rogers expressed her delight by saying, “This celebration of artists and arts organizations that make South Florida such a hub for the arts, is the perfect way to kick-off Miami Art Week. The Knight Art Challenge winners represent the very best ideas for the arts, reflect the rich diversity of our community, and remind us of the important role art and culture has in our lives. Hearing the cheers and applause for each winner as their name is announced, is such a thrill.”

Artburst Miami wishes to congratulate all of this year’s recipients. The array of winners and projects help to make Miami a vibrant, diverse, challenging, and invigorating city of culture. The Knight Foundation has invested $165 million in South Florida’s arts and culture, and they continue to inspire the creative community, across all disciplines, to create works that strengthen communities.

For a full list of the 2019 winners and their projects, visit is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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