On Sunday, the Knight Foundation announced the 2011 finalists for the Knight Arts Challenge, which has funded seemingly every instance of arts and/or culture in Miami since it began in 2008, including the O, Miami poetry festival, the Borscht Film Festival, Sweatstock, Big Night in Little Haiti, and scores more.
There are 56 finalists this year (whittled down from 1,300 idea submissions) and, if tradition holds, between 20 and 30 of them will get a piece of the $20 million Challenge pie. I’ve looked over the finalists’ project descriptions on knightarts.org and, honestly, there’s hardly a dud in the bunch. In fact, to read all 56 project ideas is to get a glimpse of a future Miami known as well for its creative radiance as for its radiant beaches. It’s difficult to single any one idea out and say, “Fund this!” but here are ten I’d like to see still standing when Knight announces the winners in November. (My brief explanations are in italics.)
Ceramic League of Miami: To fill a growing need in Miami by providing ceramic artists with access to kilns and studio facilities in an idyllic setting on the Deering Estate grounds
Too many ceramic artists can do little more than watch Ghost to satisfy their yearning for burning clay because the bare necessities of pottery are damn hard to come by. This project addresses that need and gives potters a paradise to get their hands dirty in.
Coral Morphologic/Miami Science Museum: To build excitement for downtown’s Museum Park by creating a multimedia art project displaying video of a living coral reef aquarium juxtaposed with time-lapsed documentation of the park’s construction
This project appeals to me less for its “build excitement for downtown’s Museum Park” component than for what Coral Morphologic brings to the table. I’m behind anything that funds that duo’s aquatic wizardry.
Friends of Gusman and Sweat Records: To foster indie music through an annual Battle of the oBands that brings local acts out of the clubs and onto the stage of Miami’s original concert venue
I support creative blood sport, especially now that Miami has enough musical muscle to make the warfare worth listening to.
GableStage: To introduce a new audience to an old master by launching a Winter Shakespeare Festival, which will blend classic techniques with contemporary references in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company and acclaimed Miami-native playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney
I’m a sucker for the Bard, and I’ve always felt Tybalt exhibited a distinctly Miami brand of rage.
Joey Daoud: To provide a new way to experience local architecture by creating an iPhone app that allows people to simply point their phone at a building and have a rich visual experience, complete with interviews, historical photos, and short videos
Despite Art Deco, MiMo, and the “Old Florida” residences, Miami architecture is unsung by locals and outsiders alike. Opening people’s eyes to the vital structures around them with some newfangled technology might make the Steve-Jobs’-ego-sized Mac ad on the Herald building tolerable. Plus, I just got an iPhone.
Jillian Mayer: To create a conceptual variety show — a nod to similar shows in 1970s New York — that will feature artists filmed in front of a live audience, broadcast live, and later released as short videos
Entertaining, performative, video-centric, this project promises to draw on Mayer’s better artistic angels.
Karen Peterson and Dancers: To provide dance instruction to the 3,000 children with disabilities in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, who will perform their work at a gala performance
No explanation needed. This project has “Feel Good Movie of the Summer” written all over it.
Nereida Garcia Ferraz: To inspire a female-led art revolution in Liberty City by working with teens to create interdisciplinary works of art that transform parking lots, street corners, storefronts, and parks
I’ve had my fill of male-led art revolutions. Liberty City needs transformation and, judging from the work on her website, Nereida Garcia Ferraz is up to the task.
Roofless Records: To support Miami’s experimental music scene by helping the local label Roofless Records launch seasonal catalogs and a publishing house in addition to acquiring a sound system for events
Good to see Knight encouraging Miami musical misadventure via Roofless Records, the label behind the Cinema Sounds series.
Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre: To bring attention to Miami’s distinctive cultural voice by having the innovative Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre employ a full-time ensemble to create a repertoire
I am one of the benighted few who have yet to see the roundly praised work of Rosie Herrera. That’ll change if this project gets funded.
You can read all 56 finalist project descriptions at knightarts.org.