Knight Foundation grants draw artists of every stripe

The Knight Foundation dangled money in front of Philadelphia, and a record number of Philadelphians rose up to grab it.

More than 17,000 applications came in from people vying for a piece of the $9 million fund offered by the Knight Arts Challenge.

Most grant-giving foundations are available only to approved nonprofits, but the Knight Arts Challenge was structured to be as open as possible. Anybody — be it a nonprofit, for-proft or individual — was eligible, so long as they could articulate an art project in 150 words.

The list of 63 finalists is filled with the old guard of the city’s arts community: the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Franklin Institute, the Kimmel Center and the Mann Center. There were plenty of  smaller organizations, such as the ArtBlog and the Nichole Canuso Dance Company, and barely a handful of individual artists.

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Darla Jackson, a sculptor in Fishtown, made the final round with her proposal to create a space where sculptors can borrow tools. She thought there would be more artists on the list.

“When I read the list, I have to admit I felt a little more fancy than I felt before,” said a flattered Jackson. “It’s the PMA and the Barnes — almost every arts organization in the city is on that list, and me and a couple of other individuals, which is really amazing to see.”

Should Jackson be awarded the $20,000 she asked for, she will be required to match it with additional fundraising. She said she will lean heavily on fundraising sites such as Kickstarter and ChipIn.

The winners will be announced in the spring. There is not a set number of winners; judges will award grants to as many of the finalists as they see fit.

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