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Knight Foundation to Donate $23 Million to Miami Arts Organizations

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Miami is getting a historic influx of cash for the arts — and it’s not just coming from collectors in town for Art Basel Miami Beach. On Monday, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will officially announce plans to donate $23 million to arts and culture initiatives in South Florida. Grantees range from established institutions like the Wolfsonian Museum at Florida International University to grassroots organizations like the homegrown Borscht Film Festival.

Over the last six years, the Knight Foundation has donated $63 million to support the region’s cultural community. This latest gift will be divided into two parts: $14 million will go to established cultural venues while $9 million will go toward a continuing contest to fund small start-up-style arts projects called the Knight Arts Challenge.

Established organizations receiving a cut of the $14 million donation include the Miami City Ballet ($5 million), the Cleveland Orchestra ($2 million), and the Miami International Film Festival ($500,000). The Design and Architecture High School and the New World School of the Arts will also get $1 million to send students on cultural field trips to New York City and Europe.

The Knight Arts Challenge allows creative Floridians to submit an idea for enhancing the region’s arts offerings. The best ones receive funding as long as they pledge to match Knight’s contribution with their own fundraising. Previously selected initiatives are refreshingly quirky, and include Weird Miami Bus Tours led by artist Naomi Fischer and newly created art-book publishing house [NAME], which promotes the work of Miami artists nationally.

“Miami’s creativity is limitless, Knight Foundation’s arts initiative and its Knight Arts Challenge have acted as its conduit – pulling the best ideas out of the city’s most creative thinkers, and helping them flourish,” Dennis Scholl, the foundation’s vice president for the arts (and a prominent local collector), said in a statement. “In a truly creative town like Miami, everybody should be able to participate, to dream and to ultimately see their passions through to reality.”

Curious if your community could benefit from Knight’s largesse? The foundation concentrates its grant-giving activities in communities that had Knight-Ridder newspapers in 1991, the year founder James L. Knight died. Other major recipients include Detroit, which won a $19.25 million gift in October, and Philadelphia, which received $9 million in 2010. The foundation has been headquartered in Miami since 1990.

Julia Halperin

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