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By Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Knight Foundation Program Director/Philadelphia

Today we’re proud to share a group of new and innovative ideas to enrich Philadelphia’s cultural scene. Sixty-nine innovative ideas have been chosen as finalists in the 2013 Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia.

Arising from more than 1,200 applicants, the finalists below represent the rich cultural and artistic diversity of the city. From public art to jazz to film, printmaking and more they are born from the minds of people and organizations that seek to transform the experience of art in Philadelphia.

We started the Knight Arts Challenge in Philadelphia three years ago because we believe the arts can engage and enrich communities. We recognize great ideas can start from anywhere — with individuals, artist-driven organizations or at the city’s premier cultural institutions. That’s why the $9 million challenge is open to the entire community.

We asked a bold, original question: “What’s your best idea for the arts in Philadelphia?” And we’re delighted to share your responses.

Read on below for the full list of finalists and their ideas. And stay tuned, winners will be announced in the spring!

We congratulate the finalists and thank everyone who submitted an idea!

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Photo Credit: BalletX

Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia Finalists:

  •  836 Writers Residence. To provide new resources for writers by establishing a reading and performance venue that also offers temporary residences for selected authors
  • Ars Nova Workshop. To honor Philadelphia’s rich jazz legacy by producing a month-long festival in venues across the city during Jazz History Month
  • Art Sphere, Inc. To improve arts education by creating a database of art lesson plans and projects to be used by organizations with few resources
  •  Artists U. To increase professional development opportunities for local performance artists by expanding a pilot project that allows artists to seek targeted advice and counsel
  •  Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia. To strengthen the next generation by establishing an institute where emerging arts leaders can gain a deeper understanding of management and leadership
  •  Asian Arts Initiative. To transform Pearl Street – a rundown alleyway in an emerging cultural district – by turning it into a park and outdoor gallery that connects four city blocks
  •  BAJ Design. To explore how art shapes a city and vice versa by producing a biannual book series and an accompanying website to document Philadelphia’s grassroots arts movement
  •  BalletX. To further the careers of young dancers by teaching them how to be dance instructors through a mentorship program
  • Beth Heinly. To promote self publishing and the art of zines by renovating an elevator shaft at Little Berlin into a two-floor library, offering low cost printing and a zine archive
  • Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. To create more public art and enliven city streets by hosting a competition for artists to design new bike racks
  • Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra. To deepen amateur musicians’ engagement with classical music by offering adults opportunities to perform alongside the orchestra’s professionals
  • BlackStar Film Festival. To support African Diaspora cinema through a film festival that will also feature a short screenplay contest
  •  Brandywine Workshop. To give more exposure to the diverse and local printmaking community by creating a marketplace for artists to sell their work through the first Made in Philly Print Fair
  • Brat Productions. To strengthen the theater community by providing additional rehearsal space to be shared among seven small professional theater companies
  • Breadboard at the Science Center. To bring the city’s art and tech communities together through a new alliance and facility that will provide hands-on programming plus a civic prototyping lab addressing community issues
  • Come Kleen Productions. To promote the city’s best in music, spoken word, comedy and more by bringing back the monthly Blue Funk! event
  • Commonwealth Youthchoirs/Pennsylvania Girlchoir. To empower girls through music by launching a large-scale choral event for seventh- to 12th-grade girls, featuring female conductors and composers
  • CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia. To offer holistic support for artistic projects by launching a nonprofit arts trust that will provide project management, fiscal sponsorship, legal consulting and more.
  •  Dance/USA Philadelphia. To raise the visibility of live dance by creating a pop-up studio in a highly visible public space where local companies will perform for passersby
  • Data Garden. To introduce local talent to new markets and audiences by launching an international tour of installations and musical performances by Philadelphia artists
  • David Guinn. To engage neighborhoods in art by bringing temporary outdoor wall installations created by artists to Center City
  • Dolce Suono Ensemble. To bring more music to communities by working with organizations to develop a new outreach initiative bridging classical and Latin music
  • Drexel College of Nursing and Health Professions. To engage and inspire Philadelphians through a series of outdoor portraits on 11th Street that feature residents’ stories
  • Drexel ExCITe Center. To facilitate more interaction across musical genres and engage new audiences with a series of live concerts enhanced with visual technologies
  • Erik Ransom. To offer more opportunities for emerging literary artists by working with writers to produce readings and productions of new musicals
  • Ernest Stuart. To increase audiences for jazz by expanding the Center City Jazz Festival to include additional events and venues
  • First Person Arts. To bring more diverse theater audiences together through storytelling by producing a series of performances in partnership with the African American Museum of Philadelphia
  • Geoffrey Thompson. To breathe creative life into some of the city’s most mundane structures by working with local artists to design unique coverings for a dozen steam vent diversion pipes
  • Germantown Presbyterian Community Church. To help revitalize a unique neighborhood and celebrate its musical history by creating a chamber music concert series to host up-and-coming classical musicians
  •  idiosynCrazy productions. To build community around contemporary dance in Philadelphia through free professional dance training offered by a diverse group of local, national and international teachers
  • InLiquid. To engage audiences in the arts by creating a mobile rewards program where residents can earn fun prizes for attending events
  • Inta, Inc. To bring bold, highly theatrical performances to a unique venue by having two well-known dancer/choreographers, Eiko & Koma, produce an event at the Reading Viaduct and participate in a year-long residency program
  • Jackson School Music Program. To strengthen musical training and performances for Jackson School students and the surrounding neighborhood by renovating the school’s music space
  • Jacob Winterstein. To bring poetry to a wider audience and create a leadership pipeline for young writers by expanding The Pigeon Presents: The Philadelphia Poetry Slam to include theatrical works and storytelling
  • Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble. To enable audience members to become performers by inviting them to participate in master classes, rehearse and perform a new work blending traditional African dance with hip-hop, funk and soul
  • Lee Ann Etzold. To foster a greater sense of community between two geographically close, but culturally diverse, neighborhoods by producing a theatrical performance written and performed by its residents
  • Mann Center for the Performing Arts. To bring orchestral music to new audiences by pairing local professional orchestras with legendary performers in a new concert series
  • Mascher Space Cooperative. To offer support for local dance artists by providing space and funding to help them deepen technical skills and relationships
  • Network for New Music. To celebrate the unveiling of Dilworth plaza and its new interactive steam sculptures by offering a free outdoor choral and dance performance
  • Opera Company of Philadelphia. To offer a more immersive opera experience by launching a series of 50-minute operas, the first of which, about a Serbian wedding, will be followed by an authentic Balkan wedding feast
  • Pasión y Arte. To celebrate the contributions of Flamenco dance by producing a two-week festival including an educational symposium and performance by groundbreaking Flamenco artist Israel Galvan
  • Philadelphia Film Society. To provide students and local filmmakers the opportunity to share their cinematic work by holding monthly community screenings at the Roxy Theater
  • Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe. To ignite imaginations around the future of environmental conservation by creating a large and visually stunning art installation along the Delaware River complete with solar panels, gardens and more
  • Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates. To re-interpret a selected group of beloved city murals by collaborating with four performing arts organizations to create original performances around them
  • Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s Performing Arts Office. To offer after-school art programming for children by placing teachers in each of the eight city districts to give instruction in singing, acting and dancing
  • Philadelphia Photo Arts Center. To cultivate new audiences for contemporary photography by organizing innovative exhibitions featuring digitally printed photographic murals, nontraditional approaches to portraiture and auxiliary programming
  • Philadelphia Sculptors. To integrate public art with historic preservation by placing temporary, nautical-related sculptures in outdoor locations along the Independence Seaport Museum’s grounds, the wharf and the river
  • Philadelphia Theatre Company. To create a conversation around important issues of youth in the criminal justice system by supporting the two-year residency of actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith
  • Philadelphia Woodworks. To help Philadelphians reconnect with the city’s rich woodworking tradition by expanding the organization’s facility to include a dedicated, fully-equipped workshop
  • Philadelphia Young Playwrights. To help students gain a deeper understanding of how to leverage theater for social change by expanding a festival, in collaboration with InterAct Theatre Company, featuring professional productions of high school students’ monologues
  • Pig Iron Theatre Company, with Dr. Dog. To merge two indie arts genres by translating the music of rock band Dr. Dog into a multi-media opera, integrating environmental sound design
  • Play On, Philly! To cultivate students’ music skills by coordinating a multifaceted production and technology initiative that will teach composition, songwriting and more
  • PlayPenn. To attract theatrical talent to Philadelphia by creating a yearlong weekend residency program in which emerging, non-local playwrights engage with local talent and the city’s cultural offerings
  • Reading Terminal Market Corp. To curate a formalized performing arts series at Reading Terminal Market by organizing popups and scheduled performances of artists from diverse communities
  • Shakespeare in Clark Park. To engage audiences in new ways with an interactive event around Shakespeare’s Henry IV, offering attendees multiple ways to participate
  • South Street Headhouse District. To bring cultural vibrancy to the South Street neighborhood by organizing a series of popup and street events featuring music, theater and visual arts
  • Sruti, The India Music and Dance Society. To celebrate Indian music and introduce it to a young and urban audience by offering a concert series with rotating ensembles of professional musicians
  • Stacey Wilson. To explore the connection between music and art by offering an aural experience for patrons that pairs individual works of visual art with a unique music mix
  • Swim Pony Performing Arts. To foster collaboration across genres by curating a series of cross-disciplinary events combining the strengths of two or more art mediums
  • Taller Puertorriqueño. To engage more audiences in the city’s Latino arts scene by organizing gallery exhibits, including mixed-media installations and music performances
  • Team Sunshine Performance Corp. To bridge the audience and performer relationship by producing a series of interactive events in a humorous “preparation of our citizenry,” including physical training and zombie combat workshops, “undead” movie screenings and more
  • The Rotunda. To challenge musicians to turn a rarely used rotunda into a musical instrument by bringing in improv vocalists to create a public performance that artfully uses the historic sanctuary’s acoustics
  • The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. To address the city’s environmental issues by hosting four unique artists whose projects will include public engagement and educational outreach
  • The Village of Art and Humanities. To offer a home to emerging and mid-career artists seeking an urban environment by turning row homes into a permanent artist residency program
  • Theresa Rose. To create connections between neighborhood restaurateurs and artists by commissioning dinners featuring art projects from across neighborhoods
  • Tyler School of Art, Temple University. To celebrate one of the community’s most beloved African-American artists, Charles Searles, by inviting art students from three universities to collaborate on an exhibition, accompanied by art-driven events inspired by the artist’s legacy
  •  VIADUCTgreene. To advocate for a linear green space along a stretch of the city’s former railroad branch by making a temporary site installation and sponsoring an international ideas competition
  • Vox and Grizzly. To promote visual arts collaboration and capture the energy of the city’s arts district by enabling many collectives to produce a multivenue, one-month exhibit
  • WRTI. To share the talents of established and emerging musicians with the community by recording individual and ensemble performances in a state-of-the-art studio

3 Responses to “Finalists named in Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia”

  1. Paul Mick says:

    Congratulations to all 69 of the 1200 entrants! Perhaps my proposal might be resubmitted, reconsidered & approved for the 2014 Knight Arts Challenge to utilizize existing Philadelphia art & entertainment & other regional resources to increase food & housing for the disadvantaged. Best success in all current & ongoing efforts to the 94% who seem most certainly poised to make a significant cultural impact. Kudos.

  2. Asha says:

    Little disappointing to see the list include so many established organizations, and so few individuals who are trying to emerge with their ideas. Seems somewhat counterproductive to give to those who already have.

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