Community Arts Journalism Challenge Finalists

Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge

Congratulations to the finalists in the Community Arts Journalism Challenge

The challenge seeks the best new models for local arts coverage and criticism that both inform and engage audiences. Each of the finalists will receive up to $20,000 to create an Idea to Action plan. Three winners announced in April 2012 will receive up to $80,000 to make their idea a reality. Six additional projects receive honorable mention awards worth $1,000.

• Read the News Release.
• See Winning Project Descriptions.


Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge Finalists

Jump to: Charlotte | Detroit | Miami | Philly | San Jose

Charlotte, N.C. – Developing the Next Generation of Citizen Arts Journalists

Project Name: Charlotte Arts News Alliance

Lead Organization/Individual: The Charlotte Observer, Editor, Rick Thames

Partners: Charlotte Viewpoint, the city’s online civic and cultural magazine; University of North Carolina at Charlotte; WCNC-TV; University Radio Foundation, Inc./WFAE Public Radio; Qcitymetro.com, a website covering the African American community.

Summary: Major media outlets and the University of North Carolina/Charlotte will create the Charlotte Arts News Alliance, a collective of citizen arts journalists who will publish across media platforms. These aspiring arts journalists – from high school students to adults – will receive training at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the arts and in journalism. The media partners (others may join as the project progresses) will act as directors of the collective and help train the new writers in weekend seminars and semester-long courses.

Once the new journalists have been prepared, they will be paid on a freelance basis by the Alliance. Every piece produced will be shared with the other media partners of the Alliance and on a new app that will also include interactive features.

Several of the media partners already have initiatives underway to enhance the quantity of arts coverage. The Charlotte Observer is in the planning stages of a new, weekly Arts Alive spread and interactive web page. UNC-Charlotte is interested in creating a new course focused exclusively on arts journalism.

We have a thriving arts community in Charlotte but we need more and better cultural conversations. The Arts News Alliance would provide training at a major university for aspiring arts writers along with the means to publish their work, thus nurturing a small army of arts journalists.”
Rick Thames, editor,
The Charlotte Observer


Detroit, Mich. – Empowering the People’s Voice in Arts CriticismProject Name: iCritic Detroit

Lead Organization/Individual: iCritic Detroit is a collaboration between Jennifer Conlin, a long-time contributor to The New York Times Travel and Style sections, and Dan Shaw, a former editor and reporter for The New York Times Style section and co-founder/editor of Rural Intelligence.com, an online arts and lifestyle magazine for the Hudson River Valley and Berkshires.

Partners: Barrington Stage Company of Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Summary: iCritic Detroit will create a mobile video booth where audience members can record their video reviews of cultural events. Those reviews will be posted on local websites and shared on social media channels. Attending the performances of both established and emerging groups, iCritic Detroit will crisscross the city and weave together diverse geographic and ethnographic communities, creating a video tapestry of the city’s cultural life. iCritic Detroit also will provide a much-needed platform for residents to talk about the vibrant art scene growing in their city.

Instructions will be given to iCritic users to aide them in presenting an informative and interesting video and their reviews will be curated by iCritic Detroit. Visitors to the iCritic Detroit web site will be able to follow their favorite citizen reviewers. An app will allow users to track where the iCritic Detroit is located on any given night.

Early reviews will be solicited from local celebrities to generate interest. A high school competition for the most popular high school reviews and a Reviewer’s Slam at the end of the first year will further promote the project.

“Video is the new lingua franca and citizen journalism is an increasingly important element in covering news all over the world. This project will make it possible for conversations about the arts to go viral in a way that has never happened before.”
Jennifer Conlin, co-founder, iCritic Detroit.


Miami, Fla. – Engaging the Public in Creating and Supporting Local Arts JournalismProject Name: ArtSpotMiami

Lead Organization/Individual: Creative ED. Inc., a company providing creative digital media training to professionals. Nicole Martinez, owner and lead trainer of Creative ED. is also an artist, composer and adjunct professor at the University of Miami’s School of Communication.

Partners: WLRN-Miami Herald News; George Fishman, artist, producer, and host of the Internet radio show “The Mosaic of Art.”

Summary: ArtSpotMiami will be an online arts journalism marketplace where citizen journalists pitch news stories about the local arts scene to the public and the public pays for the ideas they like to be produced. ArtSpotMiami will use the software created by the Knight-funded site SPOT.US – a crowd-funded news site for citizens, professional journalists, and news publishers – to create the site’s platform.

Once the financial goal for a story idea is reached, the citizen journalist will team up with local news organizations such as WLRN and The Miami Herald to produce the story. Academic institutions including the University of Miami’s Motion Picture Program at the School of Communication and mentoring programs such as those provided by Creative ED., will provide digital media training to the new journalists. In addition to media training, the citizen journalist will be paired with a member of the media to learn how to produce for major market audiences.

ArtSpotMiami will add to the SPOT.US design with interactive mapping that allows readers to select the stories they support based on selected criteria such as theme, medium and location. By leveraging available technologies for mobile devices, ArtSpot can combine storytelling with locator tools to expand the audience and enhance its experience. ArtSpot will streamline the production process and reduce costs for the journalist through information aggregators and APIs.

“By engaging the community in story selection, South Florida residents will feel a personal stake in both the coverage and the cultural community – increasing arts appreciation and the local audience base.”
Nicole Martinez, Owner and Lead Trainer, Creative ED., Inc.


Philadelphia, Penn. – Combining Forces to Increase Cultural Coverage

Lead Organization/Individual: Jason Wilson, regular contributor with the Philadelphia Daily News and contributing writer to the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle. Wilson is also the editor of Drexel University’s The Smart Set, an online magazine covering culture and ideas, arts and science, global and national affairs, and Cultural Passport, an online guide to art, culture, science and history offerings in Philadelphia.

Partner: Philadelphia Daily News

Summary: Drexel University faculty, students and other contributors from the university’s respected online arts and culture journals will produce stories for the Philadelphia Daily News. The paper has agreed to expand its pages to accommodate the additional coverage. Philly.com will also use the material.

Widening the pool of writers will enable the Daily News to pull from different expertise and voices, expanding the ways in which the arts are covered. Over the long term, the project will train emerging arts writers, providing the city with a larger pool of professional arts journalists.

“The Philadelphia Daily News, like many newspapers, would like to do more arts coverage. Drexel University is already in the business of publishing significant arts coverage online so it’s a perfect partnership.  We can significantly increase Philadelphia’s arts coverage in a matter of weeks.” 
Jason Wilson, Columnist, The Philadelphia Daily News and manager of Drexel University’s The Smart Set and Cultural Passport.


San Jose, Calif. Engaging Patrons in the Local Arts SceneProject Name: Silicon Valley Arts Technica

Lead Organization/Individual: The Bay Citizen, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, member-supported public interest news organization, is dedicated to delivering high-quality and in-depth reporting about the San Francisco Bay area, promoting civic engagement and stimulating innovation in journalism.

Partners: Code for America enlists the talents of the web industry to help solve core problems facing communities. Civic Center, a design studio based in New Orleans, blends art, design, education, research and urban planning to create spaces and tools that help people navigate their cities and improve their neighborhoods.

Summary: The Silicon Valley Arts Technica is a three-part endeavor lead by The Bay Citizen that features a mapping component that visually highlights arts events, a mobile app that will allow people to add reviews, images, and comments, and a series of investigative reports probing the divide in arts funding between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

The mapping initiative will aim to address one of the biggest challenges facing the arts in Silicon Valley/ San Jose: the lack of a flourishing culture district. The Bay Citizen will work with Civic Center to develop maps that by highlighting arts events and venues throughout the city will indicate what areas have potential as arts hubs. In conjunction with mapping existing cultural assets, Civic Center will solicit feedback from San Jose residents about what kinds of art projects and venues they’d like to see in their region.

The Bay Citizen will work with Code for America to create the app that will build on the map by enabling crowdsourcing to add reviews, comments and images to the events and institutions already highlighted. Also, some of the places included in the feature story series will be integrated into the map to further enrich understanding of San Jose’s arts landscape and its future potential.

“Mobile devices, mapping technologies, and social networks have all created new methods for tracking and engaging with cultural events. This project leverages all three channels to promote the great cultural assets of San Jose and the Silicon Valley. Combined with editorial on the differences in arts funding in San Jose and Silicon Valley, we aim to strengthen the arts and cultural programming.”
Jeanne Carstenesen, Managing Editor, The Bay Citizen

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See Honorable Mention Project Descriptions



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