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Foundation investing nearly $20M in Detroit arts

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 8:16 am

DETROIT — Arts groups in Detroit will share nearly $20 million donated by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, including $9 million to be awarded through a communitywide contest to boost the city's best arts ideas, the foundation announced Tuesday.

The foundation plans to provide $19.25 million through the Knight Arts Challenge, which aims to engage and enrich Detroit. That funding includes $10.25 million to be shared by seven area institutions including the Detroit Institute of Arts, which is getting $2.25 million so it can experiment with ways of highlighting its collection in the broader community.

The foundation will use a communitywide contest in March to track down and fund artists, organizations and businesses with the best ideas for arts projects in Detroit or that benefit the city. It is committing $9 million over three years for those projects.

"We believe Detroit's future will be driven by entrepreneurs, artists and designers, building on an impressive existing infrastructure," Alberto IbargŁen, the president of the Knight Foundation, said in a statement. "That's why we've adopted a two-tier approach to our investment, supporting some of Detroit's most distinguished institutions as well as opening arts funding to everyone."

The foundation said it has already invested $22.5 million in 180 projects in Miami and Philadelphia where earlier Knight Arts Challenges took place.

"The challenge gives the community, the people with the innovative ideas, the opportunity to propose those ideas, and make them a reality. It's an ideas contest, truly open to everybody," said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation's vice president for arts.

The seven institutions that will receive funding up front aim to present art and music in unexpected ways, support literacy efforts and offer training for artists.

The Detroit School of Arts is getting $2.25 million to help bring together professionals from cultural institutions to teach and mentor high school students; the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is getting $2.25 million to expand webcasting and mobile content; and the Michigan Opera Theatre is getting $1 million for community performances.

The Sphinx Organization is getting $1 million for its annual music competition; the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn is getting $750,000 to help support cross-cultural understanding; and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is getting $750,000 to use the arts to foster an interest in reading.