It’s not everyday that one gets to witness a spontaneous gathering of artists, singers, musicians, and dancers performing a perfectly rehearsed mass performance piece. And yet Dennis Scholl, the Vice President of Arts for the Knight Foundation, has overseen approximately 1,000 of these kinds of events around the country.
This past Friday, a man with a briefcase armed with a flute entered the lunchroom of Compuware’s World Headquarters in downtown Detroit and started a massive flash mob rendition of "Ode to Joy." Over 150 people took part in the milestone thousandth performance of "Random Acts of Culture."
For Scholl, the idea began after someone sent him a video of a spontaneous opera performance in Valencia, Spain, which ended with a participant holding up a sign that read, “So you think you don’t like opera?” Inspired, Scholl wanted to know what would happen if he could take the idea to the States and replicate it for an American audience.
He brought his idea to the Knight Foundation’s Arts Program, which strives to “weave the arts into the fabric of Knight resident communities”: Akron, Ohio; Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit, Mich.; Macon, Ga.; Miami, Fla.; Philadelphia, Pa.; San Jose, CA.; and St. Paul, Minn. -- cities where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers. The Foundation provides grants to regional arts organizations in the eight cities to pay the artists as well as organize the spontaneous performances -- ‘popping up’ everywhere from farmer’s markets to airports.
"Random Acts of Culture" focuses on performing classics, from operas to ballets to symphonies. “It’s about the classics because...we want people to hear things that they can relate to. We all grew up with classical music in cartoons, in Fantasia. We know them by simply being around culture in our daily lives,” Scholl told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. “We’ve chosen these things to remind people that they care about the classics.”
With over 50 million views combined on Youtube, the events have happily gone viral.
“Many of the organizations that we’ve gotten going on this have found that it has been really good for them in terms of raising funds and getting performers to be in touch with the audience. Its has gained its own momentum. It has become a worldwide sensation,” Scholl added.
Check out the video from Friday’s Detroit performance as well a slideshow of various reactions to the event. Let us know what you think in the comments section.
October 30, 2010 - The Knight Foundation in association with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, brought together over 650 choristers to perform at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia.
October 18, 2010 - Musicians from the Charlotte Symphony and two Tango dancers perform at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, NC.
March 11, 2011 - 7 performers from Florida Grand Opera perform at the Miami International Airport.