Knight Arts Challenge Raises Almost $ 400,000 for Akron Art Projects

Art workshops in the theater, poetry presentations and more, arts and performance are back to more places in town, and plans are underway to help creators bring their talent to the city in the months to come.

After a one-year hiatus due to a pandemic, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2021 Knight Arts Challenge Akron Awards. The foundation said six artists and arts organizations in the region will share nearly $ 400,000 to bring their work to life.

Following: Knight Arts Challenge returns to Akron with focus on technology

This year’s challenge focused on those who use innovative methods to attract a larger audience, enhance in-person experiences, document creation, or reach people who would otherwise not have access to a variety of experiences. arts in the city.

Victoria Rogers, Knight’s vice president of artistic program, said the recipients were remarkable in that they “adapted and used technology during the pandemic to reach audiences wherever they were. The ability to inform, engage and connect people through their art is a gift for all. of us, and we’re proud to help bring these ideas to life.

“The arts are an essential part of Akron’s community life,” said Kyle Kutuchief, Knight’s Akron Program Director. Whether it’s a dance performance, a concert or an immersive experience, Akron artists help connect Akronites to their city and to each other, helping to build community. more engaged. We’re excited to see the ideas of these Knight Arts Challenge winners come to life.

This is the fifth year of awards at Akron. The foundation also offered challenges this year in Miami and Detroit.

Following: 27 Knight Arts Challenge winners to share $ 1 million for Akron projects

Dara Harper, of the Akron Black Artist Guild, said her group will ask artists to come up with proposals to bring their work to parks in the region.

The first recipient will focus on parks

The biggest grant went to the Akron Black Artist Guild, an organization founded in February. Co-founder Dara Harper said the guild will use $ 128,000 to bring a variety of projects to life through a two-year partnership with Summit Metro Parks.

Harper said the project is called Art in the Park Collective and will involve multiple works, some by artists who have already made submissions; the group is also preparing a call for artists to submit more proposals.

“We just finished our planning,” she said, adding that work on specific programs would begin in earnest in January.

“The idea is to have a collection of different opportunities, because different people come to the park for different reasons,” she said. “The idea is to promote parks and give people the opportunity to see these kinds of activities or have these kinds of activities – to go out and do a workshop, for example. “

She said art programs are the first things to cut and suffer during hard times, adding that the pandemic has really made people see what is important.

“If you can’t get to a space to relax, create, see something visually stimulating, or feel like you’ve accomplished things outside of your usual 9 to 5, it gets depressing,” a- she declared.

She referred to the museums and theaters that have been closed and added: “It was a loss of jobs for artists … We are trying to be that organization that is trying to help artists to get there. create a portfolio in whatever genre they practice. “

She noted that the technical aspect of the program will allow artists such as dancers and other performers to document their work online.

“Some people cannot go to these places in person,” she said.

Pop-up poetry

Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center received the second-largest prize of $ 125,000. His project is called “Mapping Akron: A Poetic Exploration of Home”.

The center plans to create an “interactive poetic map” of Akron displayed in pop-up exhibits around the city. Work is expected to begin in January with partners such as Akron Public Schools, Akron-Summit County Public Library, Akron International Institute and Akron Art Museum, among others.

David Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center

Wick director David Hassler said the two-year project builds on previous work, where the center collaborated with immigrant communities to tell their stories through poetry in a project called Writing Without Borders . The project used digital expressive writing tools and platforms that Wick had previously developed with support from the Knight Foundation.

“We have conducted writing workshops with refugees, immigrants and children from the Akron area, in partnership with the Akron International Institute, using poetry with English language learners practicing the use of this new language by making simple poems and giving meaning to their own life, ”he said. . “We came back with some videographers and shot short videos of them recounting their journey, going to Akron, where they are from, and reciting their poem.”

He said the resulting project was shown at Summit Artspace as part of an exhibition where people could add their own voices to the project.

The current project will engage residents across the city to create an interactive ‘growing poetic map’ of the city that will include short videos of Akronites talking about particular places and neighborhoods in the city.

“We will build interactive and pop-up exhibits”, which are planned to be installed in libraries and other places.

“What we’re looking at are tear-off banners surrounding a kiosk with an iPad… but everything will be available online,” he said. “We will be running intergenerational focus groups and workshops across the city. We invite both Akron public schools, adults, seniors, refugees and immigrants to participate.

“We are convinced that we all have the ability to participate in the joy and the creation of meaning by writing poetry. It is not something you have to be certified for. We all play with language and we have all have a story to tell and we will guide people through the process of finding their own authentic voice and making sense of their sense of belonging and belonging to the city. ”

Other projects

Other Knight Arts Challenge 2021 winners include:

Gum-Dip Theater ($ 60,000) Brokers Without Borders – A cross-cultural play created by a former ensemble of multi-ethnic refugees that demonstrates the experience of navigating an entirely new world and the celebrations of success in a globalized community.

Natalie Warren ($ 46,000) – The Onyx Club Exhibits: Hidden Gems. A series of exhibitions to make Black history and culture more accessible to Akron residents throughout the year.

Radio on the lake theater ($ 18,000) – Listening to History: An Akron Radio Reading Tour for the Visually Impaired. A portable audio tour using the art of radio to illuminate five historic Akron landmarks for the visually impaired.

“Working with the visually impaired community has always been at the heart of Radio on the Lake’s mission,” said Executive Director Caroline Breder-Watts. “We look forward to working with the Akron Blind Center, as well as Akron-based playwrights and actors, to create this tour.”

QuTheater ($ 16,000) – Pride 365A community performance in the summer of 2022 based on stories collected at monthly gay rallies across town.

New focus on digital

The six 2021 fellows, along with eight additional recipients, will each receive $ 10,000 to implement digital strategies in service of their individual practice or organization.

The funds, totaling $ 140,000 for the group of 14 artists and arts organizations, are intended to provide technical equipment, software, consultants or other technological aspects necessary to bring their works to life.

Winners will also have access to training resources and materials related to business sustainability, budgeting, income generation, marketing and awareness.

The 2021 Tech Grant Knight Arts Challenge winners of $ 10,000:

Gum-Dip Theater

Akron Black Artists Guild

Nathalie Warren

Radio on the lake theater

The Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University


Kent State University Foundation

Tyron hoisten

Dominic moore dunson

Sarah kabot

Ebrahim Poustinchi

Vince Giles – 4 edutainment pillars

Akron Soul Train

Megan Young

Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MarottaEric.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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