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Knight Foundation Announces 2019 Arts Challenge Akron Finalists

The Synapse Art and Science Series from the University of Akron is a 2019 Knight Arts Challenge Akron finalist.
The Synapse Art and Science Series from the University of Akron is a 2019 Knight Arts Challenge Akron finalist.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced 36 finalists were chosen in the 2019 Knight Arts Challenge Akron.

The arts challenge seeks out ideas that connect people to each other and to place to ultimately strengthen communities. The winners get a share of $1 million to help them bring their ideas to life.

In three preceding challenges, Knight awarded nearly $3 million for 63 ideas in Akron.

The Knight Foundation’s Priya Sircarsays this year’s response to the challenge was strong.

“We’ve been so excited to see all the different types of things people are working on in Akron,” she said.  “We think of it as our spiritual home for the Knight Foundation.”

The winning projects will be announced Wednesday, Sept. 25 at an event at the Akron Art Museum.

Knight Arts Challenge Akron finalists:


In silico et in situ: Chimney Swift Tower Sculptures

To reflect on the theme of discovery and explore the impact of public art on nature through a series of ten large-scale outdoor sculptures in downtown Akron and its vicinity

Amber D. Kempthorn

Ordinary Magic: A Sunday in the Cuyahoga Valley

To create a stop-motion animated artwork that celebrates the landscape of Akron and the Cuyahoga Valley set to Benjamin Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes,” which will be screened with live accompaniment by the Akron Symphony Orchestra 

Akron-Summit County Public Library

Lighting feature at the Main Library

To illuminate a symbol of Akron and enhance the streetscape for those who live, work, and play downtown by creating a large lighting feature from energy efficient LED bulbs

Akron Recording Company

Sights and Sounds Akron

To document the unique sights and sounds of Akron in a series of ethnographic field recordings, videos, and photographs of each neighborhood in the city

Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra

MusicAlive! Free Concerts in Akron 

To bring free concerts into everyday spaces, celebrating baroque and historical folk music, children’s programming, and music of Akron’s refugee community in partnership with three Akron institutions 

Bhutanese Community Associations Of Akron INC

Bhutanese United Multi-Cultural Program

To build inclusive and equitable communities in Akron by providing opportunities for cross-cultural community gatherings in North Hill

Center for Applied Theater and Active Culture

Lost in Translation

To engage the city’s Latinx community in a dialogue about culture, barriers, family, and displacement through a performance based on stories collected from local immigrants

Charisma Community Connection

Maple Valley Art & Culture District

To resurrect and reignite community theater and cultural events in West Akron with facility enhancements that support vibrant opportunities for creative, professional, and personal growth

Cir L'Bert Jr.

Conjure Comics

To highlight and support local marginalized identities in the city’s art sphere by producing socially progressive comic books and graphic novels that center on the experiences of people of color, indigenous communities, LGBTQI individuals, and those of varying abilities 

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Art Aboard

To provide arts viewing opportunities for the public by allowing passengers to engage with art aboard a self-propelled rail diesel car in conjunction with talks, workshops, and social media

Diane Taninecz

Scattered - An Ephemeral Sculpture Made of Akron Memories

To encourage residents to reflect on their community and inspire a connection with art via a public ephemeral sculpture constructed from willow branches and handmade paper containing personal memory notes

Druk Fusion Band

Music for Unity and Peace

To bring people from different communities together to experience live instrumental music from different cultural groups in Akron’s North Hill 

Dylan Yellowlees/Ryan Humbert/Brad Savage

Akron Songwriters Festival

To help people gain a greater appreciation for the craft of songwriting and to showcase places where songwriters can be seen in Akron by bringing together local and national songwriters

Field of Dreams Collective

A Walk in the Woods

To encourage people to think outside the box when it comes to experiencing arts, by installing an outdoor art gallery along a nature path that will feature permanent pieces and rotating works

Friends of Chestnut Ridge Park/Akron Parks Collaborative

Many Voices, One Akron 

To provide a two-week artist residency for Akron African American creatives to discover their ancestral origins, travel to these locations, and integrate the experience into an original creation to be exhibited at the 2020 Chestnut Ridge Park “Many Voices, One Akron” event

FRONT Exhibition Company

FRONT International Exhibitions and Installations in Akron

FRONT International Exhibitions and Installations in Akron
FRONT International Exhibitions and Installations in Akron

To present authentic, one-of-a-kind experiences that extend beyond traditional museum exhibitions to attract new audiences

Greater Akron Musical Association

Diversity Residency Program 

To provide opportunities for local immigrant families to connect with the orchestra by creating a collaboration between Akron and a children’s circus in the Syrian refugee camp in Mardin, Turkey

GroundWorks DanceTheater

Akron Arts Connect

To connect the creative process across arts disciplines through movement-based activities by bringing together professional and amateur artists in a unique exchange of creativity and connections

Inlet Dance Theatre

Phase 2 of "The 'Black Card' Project"

To create conversation about the narrow scope of Black identity and its connection to economic development by supporting movement workshops, the development of educational videos and online platform, and a week of performances of Dominic Moore-Dunson’s dance theatre production, “The ‘Black Card’ Project”

Gum-Dip Theatre 

Three Countries, One Mother

To explore the history and culture of the Bhutanese-Nepali by following the journey of three brothers who live in Bhutan, Nepal, and the United States in a multilingual play

Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance

The Big Boulevard Sign Build

To transform Kenmore’s historic business district by leveraging the power of visual art to produce business signage through an artistic sign design competition

Kent State University Foundation, Inc.

Power of Print: Resistance and Revolution in Akron

To position printmaking as an entry point for artists and communities to amplify their voices via a conference featuring exhibitions, technical demonstrations, lectures, and panels

Les Délices

Fables and Fairytales 

To provide cutting-edge early music programs to Akron by supporting the development and production of music by Baroque composers with puppets and visuals to animate Aesop’s Fables and a 17th-century feminist fairy tale

North Akron Community Development Corporation


To engage Akron’s North Hill creatives with year-long programming and professional development opportunities that will culminate in a multicultural and interdisciplinary festival

Ohio Prison Arts Connection

Returning Citizens, Restored Dreams

To build momentum around reentry and the arts during a nine-month pilot project partnering professional, socially engaged artists with returning citizens in a range of mediums

Robert Wesner

Akron Ascending, an Identity in Dance

To develop an ongoing, public conversation between artists, dancers, and space by preparing site-specific works on staircases throughout Akron

Roots of American Music

Akron Heritage Music Project

To document, preserve, and build awareness of regional music by recording regional musicians, using direct-to-lacquer technology, in historic locations that have a connection to the genres of music being performed, or in locations inspired by the historic sites 

Rubber City Theatre

Rubber City Musical Incubator 

To support musical theatre works in all phases of development in an incubator that will showcase works through readings, workshops, and fully-staged productions

Sharon Koelblinger and Julia Staples

House Guests

To bring art directly into people’s homes, by pairing contemporary artists with local residents for a series of in-person dialogues and meals throughout the community

Shane Wynn


To document the stories of LGBTQ young people who have experienced homelessness as a result of their sexual identity through a traveling exhibition of photo essays and doorbell installations

Summit County Probate Court

Curated Courthouse

 Summit County Probate Court art exhibition
Credit Summit County Probate Court / Summit County Probate Court
Summit County Probate Court
Summit County Probate Court art exhibition

To give courthouse employees and visitors access to art in an unusual space by curating a series of exhibits with local artists

Synapse Art and Science Series, University of Akron

Synapse: Nature's Solutions

To highlight Akron’s location in the Cuyahoga Valley and its legacy as a city of invention in a series of exhibitions featuring leading artists and designers focused on learning from nature to address human challenges

The Center for Applied Drama and Autism

Along the Graveyard Path (A History of Disability in our Community)

To connect Akronites with the history of disability in its community through a dramatic performance that offers an example of theatre created and performed by people of all abilities

The University of Akron Foundation/Art Bomb Brigade

Art Bomb Artist Residency and Apprenticeship Project

To redefine public spaces in Akron and foster the next generation of arts leaders by developing more extensive training for practicing artists and professionalizing a local community mural arts program 

Wandering Aesthetics

Lil’ Loaves: A Bite-Sized Variety Show

To celebrate young, emerging Akron talent through a one-of-a-kind variety-style showcase that will be open to the community

We Care Collective

What’s Really Good Akron - Creative Edition

To highlight local creatives across artistic disciplines and minority-owned businesses that advocate for the arts in a series of exhibitions, lectures, discussions, and live-podcasting

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

Jennifer Conn joined WKSU in February 2019 as Akron reporter.