Knight Arts Challenge seeks second round of creative proposals

The Opera Company of Philadelphia simulcast a performance of “Carmen” on a jumbo screen set up outdoors on Independence Mall.

Over the summer the African-American Museum of Philadelphia brought R&B and gospel bands to the corner of Seventh and Arch streets every Wednesday evening.

Next week, the Pig Iron Theater Company will launch its School for Advanced Performance Training.

On October 29, the Arab arts organization Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture will begin to present concerts by Arab musicians and composers.

These endeavors might not have been possible without awards from last year’s Knight Arts Challenge. Now, the Knight Foundation is accepting applications for round two.

This arts challenge is unique among major funding initiatives because the pool of applicants is, literally, everybody. While most foundations prefer to distribute money through established cultural organizations, this challenge is open to anyone with an idea–individual artists, nonprofit organizations, or for-profit businesses.

One of the 1,752 applicants last year was Emma Gibson, a theater artist who has only a few Philly Fringe shows under her belt. She had an idea to import an “informal theater” concept from the United Kingdom. Audiences at a pub or lounge can see a short play, and wash a slice of pizza down with a pint of beer, for $15. It’s called “A Play, A Pie, A Pint.”

“It was something I’d always kept an eye on in England,” said the native of Sussex. “I’m always looking for reviews in the British papers if there’s any work I can bring here, and I felt it was something that wasn’t happening in Philadelphia.”

Gibson says she would not have attempted to coordinate the writers, actors, directors, bar owner (Red Room at Society Hill Playhouse) and beer brewers (Yards) had it not been for the initial $25,000 matching grant from the Knight challenge.

Gibson is a one-woman operation, and one of only a handful of recipients whose projects have hitting launched. About half of the grant money has been released to the winning recipients, many of which are still in development.

A Play, A Pie, A Pint is more of the exception than the rule: most of the grant money was awarded to large, well-established cultural organizations.

“This year, we’re going to reach deeper into the community and try and motivate and look for ideas from individual artists and also from the creative community,” said Dennis Scholl, the Knight Foundation vice president of arts. “With the understanding that people can see what we funded last year and can get a feel for what we think is a great idea for the Philadelphia arts community.”

The Knight Foundation will accept applications until the end of the month.

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