Knight Arts Challenge Kick-Off Happy Hour Brings Out Creative Crowd

Written By Josie Gulliksen
February 5, 2015 at 1:47 PM

Knight Arts Challenge Kick-Off Happy Hour Brings Out Creative Crowd

What better spot than hipster bar Gramps in Wynwood to host the Knight Arts Challenge’s kick-off Happy Hour. After all, this local hang out is where plenty of creative events happen.

Milling around the venue that night were past winners vying for funding for new projects, newbies giving it a go for the first time, and past applicants trying again and hoping this is their year.

It’s commendable how the Knight Foundation has made it their mission to dispel the myth that applying is difficult, hoping to quell the intimidation that their name carries.

“I still think people are intimidated by the Knight Foundation, but it’s so easy to apply and you have nothing to lose,” says Tatiana Hernandez, program officer/arts for the Knight Foundation.

With close to 250 people in the community who have won grants, they figured by bringing them together they could spark collaborations among people and it worked. Lots of people huddled in booths engrossed in deep conversations. You could feel the ideas percolating.

“At the happy hour we met new people. Grantees brought people they thought we should know and that could potentially collaborate,” says Hernandez.

The arts challenge is something new every year and depending on what ideas are out in the community it takes a very different shape. It’s also a great way to see ideas eminating from the neighborhoods of Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe.

“We’ve even had winners from Palm Beach and we’d like to see more from them,” says Hernandez.

They’re seeing a lot more individual artists and they’re from deeper in the neighborhoods like Kendall, Key West, Opa-locka, North Miami and even Doral. Last year there was a finalist from Hialeah, the project called Hiccup.

“We want people to know that they should definitely apply. This is the eighth year and applicants, finalists, and winners all look very different. We hope to let the challenge evolve each year,” says Hernandez.

And evolve it has with the first year seeing much larger grants go to fewer organizations and now grants are being given to more groups but in smaller amounts. “We think it’s hard to narrow it down to a smaller subset and people have gotten smarter about what they ask for because there’s a match component,” she says.

The process has also gotten easier because they are more flexible with the grantees, and the grantees themselves have gotten smarter about their matching ideas.

For the Knight Foundation, the process is the same. From the initial applicants they whittle down to finalists, which are announced in late spring. Those finalists then submit proposals. Last year they had 1,200 applicants. Reviewing everything are 10 people from the local community along with three Knight Foundation staff.

One of last year’s winners, Pioneer Winter, who was granted $20,000 for his Grass Stains project, found that the third try was the charm. His first time he didn’t make it to the follow up round, then in 2013 he submitted four individual ideas as well as one jointly with conductor/composer Sam Hyken.

“Sam and I made it to the finals with our idea, a cool project involving choreographers working hand in hand with a conductor. However, the budget may have been a little too big,” says Winter.

In 2014 he and Sam submitted separately and both won and were awarded their amounts.

“I told Tatiana when I won that this time I was ready. I realized that in the past, I may not have had the infrastructure or the wherewith all to meet the match,” says Winter.

He’s excited about this project. It’s a commissioning for site-specific performances in Miami. They will choose six local performers and choreographers to do six premieres, free and open to the public.

The winners will work for a week with Winter’s mentor Stephen Koplowitz, an award-winning choreographer at Cal Arts. He cold-called Koplowitz, who immediately said yes and has been a great mentor for him in planning this event two years in advance.

“The Knight Arts Challenge grant is great because it’s a two-year grant, first for planning and the second half for commissioning. It makes it easier to reach out to folks for space and for having a lecture,” he says.

Plus, just to have the Knight name attached to his work, he says, adds a sense of legitimacy and vouching for the quality of the work.

Winter knows now that it really comes down to the year and the committee because that’s always cycling. He definitely recommends to anyone out there to just apply.

“They ask for such a small investment. It’s really not that much effort especially if it’s a really good idea and you’re passionate about it. You’ll most likely have to edit yourself down,” he says.

Most of all though, it’s really about “trying to figure out for yourself how this is going to push Miami forward artistically, help the community and heighten the level of community engagement in the arts.”

The application deadline is Feb. 23. 

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