Knight Foundation gives $2.24M to 45 arts proposals

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Forty-five creative proposals tied to Detroit, from the wacky to the historically profound, will split $2.24 million in this year’s Knight Arts Challenge.

The winners, chosen out of over 1,000 submissions, were announced Thursday evening at a gala event at The Fillmore in Detroit.

“The Knight Arts Challenge provides the fuel, but the talent is all Detroit,” said Knight Foundation Vice-President of Arts Victoria Rogers. “There are amazing ideas here.”

Among proposals getting the nod are a “12-and-Under Super Cool Poetry Open Mic and Workshop” to be hosted by a 10-year-old; the “CAN Art Wind Turbine Project” that will erect wind-turbine sculptures in Eastern Market; and an intriguing plan to project images and video onto the historic Michigan Bell building downtown titled “How Ma Bell Got Her Groove Back.”

The Arts Challenge, sponsored by the Miami-based Knight Foundation, has committed to giving away $29 million in artistic grants in Detroit over six years. This is the year four. Winners must raise matching funds to collect their grant.

Seven cultural organizations won grants for projects commemorating the 1967 disturbances that shook Detroit and the country at large.

They are Big City Films, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Historical Society, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan State University’s Residential College, the Detroit Public Theatre and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

MOCAD won $67,000 to create a large-scale exhibition titled “Sonic Rebellion: Music as Resistance” that will examine the connections between Detroit music and the visual arts, with an eye toward explaining how music can be an agent for social change.

“Education is a core component of MOCAD, and we have a younger demographic coming through our door than many institutions,” said Elysia Borowy-Reeder, museum executive director.

“I know 1967 means a lot to people who lived through it,” she added, “but we get kids in here who didn’t even live through 9/11. So it’s our job to make the history present and bring it alive.”

Borowy-Reeder says she pictures a large exhibition involving both visual and audio components, as well as musical performances. She’s reached out to about a dozen national and international artists but doesn’t yet have firm commitments.

One local creative she definitely wants is Leni Sinclair, celebrated photographer of the 1960s counter-culture and rock scene.

“I mean, how can you talk about Detroit music without Leni Sinclair?” Borowy-Reeder asked. “Her photographs are the bomb. They’re amazing.”

(313) 222-6021