Miami's art scene has exploded in recent years, to the point where Art Basel is a must-see stop on any serious art collector's annual rounds. Part of this is due to the fact Miami has spawned and attracted many amazing, seriously sick artists whose talents cannot be denied. Another prominent factor responsible for our art cred is the Knight Arts Challenge.
The contest provides matching grant funds to local artists, to the tune of millions of dollars in funding per year. Now in its fourth year, the Knight Foundation has already invested over $37.5 million in our local art community.
Unlike other programs that have stringent and therefore exclusive
restrictions, the Knight Arts Challenge encourages all types of artists
to apply. There are only three rules: "The idea is about the arts; the
project takes place in or benefits South Florida; and applicants must
find other funding to match the Knight Foundation grant."
had the opportunity to interview Dennis Scholl, a man who plays a vital
role in the Knight Arts Challenge and who has helped make it possible
for local artists, such as
, to continue making Miami a cultural force to be reckoned with.
Dennis Scholl: My current role at Knight Foundation is Vice President/Arts. I oversee the National Arts
program which lends cultural programming in the eight Knight communities of Akron, Charlotte,
Detroit, Macon, Miami, Philadelphia, Saint Paul and San Jose. This includes the Knight Arts
Challenge in Miami and Philadelphia and the Random Acts of Culture program.
I also serve as Miami Program Director overseeing grant making, primarily in the arts and
education, in Miami.
Why are the arts important in a city like Miami?
In a place as diverse as Miami, the arts have low barriers to entry and reach across racial
and economic boundaries to bring us together as a community. In a recent Gallup poll
commissioned by Knight Foundation called the "Soul of the Community," social offerings were
the number one factor that local Miamians said "attached' them to their community. Most
important of all, the arts nourish our soul.
Are there any groups, mediums, or subject areas, you feel are still underrepresented?
Miami is an artistic adolescent when compared to communities like Philadelphia and Detroit.
Our cultural assets are growing in leaps and bounds, but those cities have a 250 year head
start! So it's going to take us a while to catch up.
We've seen the visual arts in Miami rise to international prominence in the last decade. If I had
to predict what might achieve the same level of excellence in the next decade I'd point to our
up-and-coming music scene.
Why the stipulation for matching funds and do you have any suggestions for artists having
difficulty locating them?
We know that the matching funds component of the Knight Arts Challenge can be intimidating
for individual artists and small collectives. However, all the individuals and small groups
selected as KAC winners have found a way to match. Look at Gean Moreno's Name
Publications artist's book project. He reached out to ten artist friends who contributed work in
editions of ten which he then sold at an event for $250 each and raised $25,000.
Our goal with the match is twofold: first to encourage the community to join us in making these
ideas a reality and they have stepped up and generously matched our commitment to the arts.
Second, when the Challenge funding is spent, the winning arts groups will have had the added
benefit of learning how to raise their match from the community. That is an experience they
can use to reach out and continue to fundraise for years to come.
One thing that I truly respect about the Challenge is that there are no limits or boundaries in
respect to the contestants' submissions. The Knight Foundation seems to seek truly original
ideas to help fund. How do you think censorship hurts communities and individuals?
As the largest journalism funders in the world, Knight Foundation invests considerable resources
in fighting censorship and encouraging free speech. A true democracy such as ours can only
survive if communities and individuals have access to all the information necessary for them
to live their lives and self-govern. The arts are the ultimate self-expression mechanism and
therefore are an area where we need to be the most diligent in protecting free speech.
In regards to submissions, is there anything you'd like to see more or less of?
We'd like to see more proposals celebrating diversity; more applications that bring to the
community the many different cultures that live and make all kinds of art here.
I don't think we are looking for less of anything. This contest is open to everyone and the more
ideas the merrier. The number of applications this year was up 25% over last year. In the first
4 years of the contest we've received 5,500 ideas. Trust me, I know - I've read every single one
Who chooses the winners and how?
The winners are ultimately chosen by the Knight Foundation Trustees. The process starts with
a group of readers comprised of community leaders, many who are immersed in our cultural
scene. They each read all of the ideas and recommend a set of finalists who are considered by
Knight. The finalists are invited to submit proposals which are again reviewed by the readers.
The proposed winners are presented to the Knight Trustees for approval. The winners are
announced on the Monday of Art Basel week on the stage of the Knight Concert Hall.
What's your opinion on the current pool of artistic talent in Miami?
Miami currently has a wealth of artistic talent in almost all disciplines. Look at your New Times
Creatives. Each and every one of them is creating some of the country's most edgy, forward
Think of all the world class art in Miami that has arisen over the last decade.
All those visual artists launching international careers, like Hernan Bas
, Bert Rodriguez
and Naomi Fisher. An internationally renowned ballet corps at Miami City Ballet. New World Symphony's talented orchestra and their willingness to lead the way at the
intersection of classical music and new media.
A cadre of international architects like Chad Oppenheim and Rene Gonzalez, and new
buildings like the Gehry building for New World Symphony and Herzog and de Meuron's
1111 Alton and Miami Art Museum buildings. Modern dance is starting to break out - led by Rosie Herrera. Our community's growing relationship with the world class Cleveland Orchestra serves
as a new business model for the future of classical music in communities.
These are just a few examples of Miami's world class art scene that is causing us to
be thought of as a cultural destination. For tourists, it isn't just about Mansion and Liv
Where would you like to see the Miami art, music, theater, and film scenes in ten years?
In ten years the rest of the world will have discovered Miami's cultural ascendency. So if
you're a classical music fan you will need to come to see NWS play in their new home. If
you are part of the ballet cognoscenti, you will need to see MCB perform.
In ten years, our Florida Grand Opera's stature will continue to grow, especially due to their
aggressive outreach programs and Random Acts of Culture. The efforts are making opera
available and approachable to our entire community, not just a select few.
Playwright Tarell McCraney
is coming home to make more work for and about our
community, and hopefully we can keep him here for the next decade.
We suddenly have 5, count 'em, 5 independent cinemas showing both the best films from
across the globe and community driven local programming. This is supported by festivals
like Borscht, MIFF, GLBT, American Black Film Fest and many others.
I think what really excites me the most is I can't tell yet which of the artistic disciplines will
emerge as world class, although I'm sure there will be a few. I can't wait to watch it all
happen. Throughout the next ten years the Knight Foundation will be committed to provide
fuel to support this artistic momentum and to encourage audience engagement and artistic
excellence in our community.Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.