St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge winners named

The Knight Foundation has announced the winners of the St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge, which will distribute more than $1.3 million in funding to 42 community-based proposals.

Winning proposals include a Latino radio show and the restoration of historic company signs on Lowertown buildings, among others.

Dennis Scholl, Vice President of Art at the Knight Foundation, said the winning proposals were chosen from 868 responses to the question “What’s your best idea for the arts in St. Paul?”

“The criteria were really to give us something that is your dream idea that will compel the community, that will be woven into the fabric of the community so that culture is really a part of your every day life,” Scholl explained. “It’s not a special event.”

The recipients, whose grants range from $4,000 (for theater in a tent) to $125,000, (to expand the Twin Cities Jazz Festival) must all come up with matching funds.

“One of the great things about the contest results is that when St. Paul answered, it was the largest per capita response we had received to date for our contest,” Scholl said.

For a community of about 300,000 to produce 866 proposals, he said, “that’s a lot of people sharing their best art idea.”

This is the first year of a three-year, $8 million commitment by the Knight Foundation to invest in St. Paul’s arts and culture. Of that amount, $4.5 million will go toward the challenge, while $3.5 million has been promised to The Arts Partnership, Penumbra Theatre, Springboard for the Arts, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and TU Dance.

Although the St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge is scheduled to last three years, Scholl said the Knight Foundation is open to possible extending the challenge.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “If the community responds and we feel like we’re getting the best art ideas and we’re improving how the community thinks about culture… if we think the arts are helping people to be more attached to St. Paul, well then we’ve been known to keep going.”

The foundation has launched similar projects in a number of cities, including Detroit, Miami and Philadelphia, where brothers John S. and James L. Knight owned newspapers.

Other St. Paul proposals funded include a light show projected on steam from the downtown power plant, an expansion of the annual Hmong fashion show and a public art sculpture that doubles as a bike rack.