Knight Arts Challenge To Find Best Ideas For the Arts in Philadelphia

Now in its third year, the Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia will call for the best ideas for the arts in Philadelphia Sept. 17 – Oct. 15. The $9 million initiative from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation seeks the most innovative cultural ideas to engage and enrich Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.

Launched in 2010, the challenge has awarded $5.4 million to 71 ideas to date. Winners, selected from more than 3,000 applications, represent a broad spectrum of the community — from individual artists and artist-driven organizations to some of the city’s premier cultural institutions.

Anyone can enter the Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia — independent artists of all types, businesses, established arts institutions, service organizations and any individual who has a great idea for the arts. The initial two-question application — available Sept. 17 at — is designed to encourage applicants who aren’t traditional grant seekers.

There are only three rules for the challenge:
1) The idea must be about the arts.
2) The project must take place in or benefit Philadelphia.
3) The grant recipients must find funds to match Knight’s commitment, within a year.

“We’ve received an overwhelming response from the city’s creative community over the past two years,” says Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Philadelphia program director for Knight Foundation. “We’re looking for arts ideas that inspire the community to build a better future together and make Philadelphia a more vibrant place to live.”

Winners from the challenge’s first two years have included:

  • Darla Jackson’s Philadelphia Sculpture Gym – to help Philadelphia sculptors create their works safely by creating a “sculpture gym” where artists can use heavy-duty tools, have storage space and get one-on-one help with projects;
  • Asian Arts Initiative’s Neighborhood Spotlight Series – to provide everyday artistic experiences by creating site-specific works for nontraditional places like restaurants, storefronts and public plazas;
  • Franklin’s Paine Skatepark Fund’s Skateable City – to help transform West Philadelphia neighborhoods by turning blacktop lots into art-laden skate parks;
  • Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra’s iConduct! – to engage audiences in classical music by creating a free summer series where participants take part in fun, mini-conducting lessons in front of professional musicians and a live audience.

Finalists for the challenge will be announced in early 2013, and those projects will be asked to submit a more detailed proposal. Winners will be announced in the spring.

The Knight Arts Challenge began in 2008 in Miami, where the initiative is now in its fifth year.

For more on Knight Foundation’s arts initiative and to view a full list of Knight Arts Challenge winners, visit Connect on the Knight Arts Challenge Facebook page here and via @KnightArts on Twitter.

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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