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Front Page » Top Stories » Knight Foundation Making 40 Million In Arts Grants

Knight Foundation Making 40 Million In Arts Grants

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Written by on February 7, 2008

By Risa Polansky
With the arts here at a "tipping point," a $60 million infusion could take South Florida to the next level, say officials of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, who announced this week a $40 million gift designed to propel the community forward.

Combined with $20 million expected in matching funds, the new Knight Arts Partnership is to make a $60 million impact locally.

"This is the single-biggest initiative we’ve attempted in one community," said Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the national foundation, headquartered here.

The program, which is to provide $20 million in endowment grants to the Miami Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the New World Symphony, along with $20 million in "community challenge" grants — which require a match — aims to celebrate Miami’s diversity by offering people of all backgrounds access to art, a medium with "no barriers to entry," Mr. Ibargüen said.

Through the community challenge, South Florida residents are to have the opportunity to vie for a piece of the $20 million pie by proposing to the foundation arts projects they believe will add to South Florida’s quality of life.

The foundation requires only that the project be local, arts-oriented and receive funds to match its grant.

All other rules are out the window, said Lorenzo Lebrija, program director for Miami-Dade and Broward counties, "so people can be as creative as possible with their ideas."

Mr. Ibargüen stressed that "this is open to everybody — this is not open just to Pablo Picassos or the fancy, big organizations."

Any local person or group can submit a project concept by visiting www.knightarts.org, Mr. Lebrija said, beginning this week through April 15.

From there, foundation officials will screen ideas and pass them along to a committee of external players.

The foundation’s board is to choose the winning projects.

No preconceived notions of project sizes, media or costs exist heading into the challenge, he said — the focus now is on zeroing in on the most creative projects with the most impact.

The other arm of the local arts initiative provides $20 million in endowment grants to local arts institutions to support programs unique to each organization, Mr. Ibargüen said.

A $10 million contribution is to support education programs at the Miami Art Museum; $5 million is to fund exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art; and $5 million is to contribute to digital media programs of the New World Symphony.

The "community challenge" idea springs from the success of one of the foundation’s worldwide initiatives, the Knight News Challenge, which has granted awards up to $5 million to digital news projects proposed by individuals and organizations in its first two years, to total a $25 million investment over five years.

The program saw 1,600 submissions its first year and 3,000 during its second.