THE BLOG
12/03/2014 02:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Grading the 2014 South Florida Knight Arts Challenge Winners

Love them or hate them, live free of them or feel fettered, since 2006, the Knight Foundation has invested more than $86 million in South Florida's cultural community and that's undoubtedly awesome. Do they sometimes choose "ideas" or "organizations" that seem strange or wasteful or excessive? Meh. Are they maybe a little bit nepotistic and maybe just possibly that's not necessarily fair? Meh. It is what it is, it's their money, sort of, let them do with it what they will. This year the Knight Foundation selected 47 ideas to win $2.29 million in matching grants in the South Florida Knight Arts Challenge.

The following is a score card of the 2014 Knight Arts Challenge Winners.

Pop-up Art Book Store Ignites Conversation

Award: $50,000

To promote the visual arts with a pop-up artist's bookstore that travels around Miami.

Grade: B +

Art books are under-appreciated and important. The more the merrier.

Project Preserves Analog Recordings in a Digital World

Award: $35,000

To celebrate the art of analog recording by improving a studio that allows local musicians to record on vintage equipment or preserve their works currently cataloged on older formats

Grade: B

I guess there's some merit or aesthetic history in analog recordings, but, if you think about it, there's a reason why we're in the digital world. Still, the dude behind this is a mad vinyl scientist and he deserves a laboratory.

Wild Billboards Bring Everglades Into the City

Award: $60,000

To bring a bit of the Everglades into the city by creating billboards emblazoned with large-scale, artful images of the South Florida outdoors

Grade: A

Love it! Promotes our ecology which is so beautiful and often neglected. Also, it brings color and life downtown, a sharp and awesome juxtaposition to all those digital billboards that make us appear like we're the next Las Vegas.

Weird Miami Tours Go National

Award: $150,000

To raise the profile of Miami artists by hosting a global gallery swap in which shows from BFI will be exchanged with galleries around the world

Grade: C+

Not a fan. Seems excessive.

And this is subjective, but Florida is just not that weird. And promoting that stereotype creates an image I argue is somewhat de-humanizing or belittling.

Bookleggers' Mobile Library Expands Outreach

Amount: $30,000

To bring literature to more people by expanding a community mobile library that provides books for free, for trade or by donation

Grade: A-

With the mayor licking his chops at the prospect of gutting the library system, this is good. The only reason this gets a "minus" is because they didn't give enough.

Books & Books Brings Author Events Online

Award: $80,000

To bring more great literature into more homes by streaming and archiving Books & Books' author events featuring noted writers

Grade: A +

Love it. Books and Books attracts the biggest and brightest media elite and creating a streaming network of sorts is a wonderful way to deliver the amazing dialogues that can come from literary readings.

Street Performers Bring Downtown to Life

Award: $10,000
To enhance civic life by cultivating a street performance culture in Miami through an annual festival and ongoing series

Grade: D

Good luck with this one...

Microgrant Program for Experimental Art Expands

Award: $150,000
To support innovative, artist-driven projects in Miami by expanding its microgrants program to visual artists

Grade: A

Cannonball is doing some amazing art education programming in addition to their other engagements. They're a trusted organization committed to flourishing the arts downtown.

Microtheater Expands in Downtown

Award: $50,000

To provide an intimate cultural experience by expanding its Microtheater program, which produces short plays for small audiences in confined spaces

Grade: A

Love it. If you've never been to this live theater, you're missing a cultural gem.

Doral Brings New Arts Programming to West Miami-Dade

Award: $60,000

To enhance artistic offerings in West Miami-Dade by offering classical music, dance, exhibitions, art films and more in Downtown Doral Park

Grade: F

What's Doral?

Festival Explores African Culture Through Music

Amount: $40,000
To celebrate world music by expanding the Afro Roots World Music Festival to three days and host it in a variety of neighborhoods around Miami-Dade County

Grade: B+

Expanding music festivals > anything music festival = yes !

Cultural Exchange Planned for Miami and Havana

Award: $60,000
To launch an artist exchange program that brings together Cuban artists from Havana and Miami to present exhibitions, in partnership with local universities.

Grade: A-

Although Cubans are no longer the dominant Latino ethnicity in Miami, obviously they're a tremendous force in our culture and this is a bridge that really needs to be re-built.

Fort Lauderdale Arts Space Provides Home for Experimental Work

Award: $80,000
To promote cutting-edge contemporary art by expanding the reach of Fort Lauderdale's FATVillage Projects Contemporary Art Space, which provides a home for artists to create and present experimental work

Grade: A +

Love it. The 954 should receive more Knight love and they are doing some really cool stuff up there. If you've never been, check out their art walk on the last Saturday of the month.

Electronic Music and Sound from the Americas Featured in New Series

Award: $15,000
To highlight new music in the Americas through an experimental electronic music and sound art series

Grade: C

Sounds weird and too highbrow. Good luck with this...

Hialeah Collective Engages City in the Arts

Award: $15,000

To support a Hialeah-based collective featuring artists whose works transcend the exhibition space and engage the surrounding city

Grade: B

Sounds like they threw a dog a bone, but nothing wrong with showing Hialeah love.

HistoryMiami Launches Photo Center

Award: $150,000

To showcase Miami through images by creating a photography center at the museum focused on curating exhibitions and engaging the community in documenting life in South Florida.

Grade: A +

Love History Miami. Everything they are doing is right on the money.

Dance Festival Highlights Afro-Cuban Culture

Award: $15,000

To strengthen Afro-Cuban culture in Miami through the company's dance festival, which hosts workshops and performances reflecting the diversity of the African diaspora.

Grade: B

Sounds smallish but definitely with the right intentions.

New inkub8 Lab Helps Artistic Voices Grow

Award: $30,000
To provide professional artists a place to create new works in a lab space at the organization's Wynwood studio

Grade: C

This feels a little reckless. With some grassroots community building, things like this can be done for free and don't really require grant money.

New Miami Publishing House Features Local Works

Award: $40,000

To create an aesthetic voice for Miami by launching a literary publishing house

Grade: A +

Full disclosure. This was the first year I ever applied for a Knights Arts grant and this literally was my exact idea BUT they gave it to someone else they're familiar with. All good. Totally awesome anyway.

Super Bowl of Poetry Coming to Broward

Award: $50,000
To bring the "Super Bowl of poetry" to Broward County through a friendly poetry competition that unites South Florida students through spoken word

Grade: A +

This sounds really, really cool. Bringing poetry to the kids is the right way to deliver poetry. Plus, spoken word poetry is probably the best means of poetry that will engage our community. Plus, it's Jason Taylor's Foundation, and he's an ex-football player, and connecting it to sports will only engage the kids more. This is a winner and should've received more.

Kinetic Sculpture Parade Comes to Key West

Award: $15,000

To unite Key West through a kinetic sculpture parade, in which artists, bike riders and the community co-create a wacky display of art on wheels

Grade: C

Sounds like a normal day in Key West.

Book Series Puts Spotlight on Miami Photographers of the '70s and '80s

Award: $20,000

To recapture South Florida's cultural history by digitizing the work of talented Miami photographers from the 1970s and '80s and publishing it in a book series

Grade: A +

Love it. Capturing that era of Miami is truly historic for a variety of reasons.

Haitian Rara Music Celebrated with New Youth Program

Award: $50,000

To preserve Haitian rara, a form of festival music used in street processions, by creating a youth rara institute where teens can learn to play and make traditional instruments

Grade: A-

Big fan of Haitian culture. The true story of Haiti has yet to be told properly.

Young Students Trained in Urban Dance

Award: $20,000

To further develop South Florida's distinct brand of urban funk dance by training young artists and providing them with opportunities to perform

Grade: B -

Feels like this can be done without grant money. Also, feels a little Step Up Revolution-ish.

Mariachi Academy Comes to South Dade

Award: $60,000

To celebrate Mexican culture by creating a children's mariachi academy in South Miami-Dade

Grade: A

I could see why some would find this wasteful, but I love it. Mariachi is special and its great to see Knight recognizing this part of our culture, the Mexican community of Homestead.

Artists and Architects Meet to Inspire New Ideas

Award: $15,000

To inspire new ideas by bringing artists and architects together through a lecture series

Grade: C +

Again, is grant money needed for this?

Stories of Modern-Day Marines Told in Multimedia Work

Award: $50,000

To share the stories of modern-day veterans and their families through a season-long initiative featuring a multimedia performance, exhibition and veteran arts engagement program.

Grade: A

I ain't saying nothing bad about no Marines.

Teaching Artists to Get New Training at Miami Music Project

Award: $75,000

To enhance music instruction at Miami's only El Sistema-modeled orchestral program by implementing a new Teaching Artists Training Program for professional artists.

Grade: A

Professional development in the arts is important. Sounds like a winner..

Prominent Alums Celebrate African Cultural Arts Center's 40th Anniversary

Award: $75,000

To commemorate the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center's 40th anniversary by presenting events where prominent artist alums share their talents with today's students

Grade: A

It's a celebration!

Fashion As Art Is Focus of New Museum

Award: $25,000
To celebrate the art of fashion by strengthening a new museum collection that highlights vintage couture

Grade: B

We have a fashion museum? Is it called Lincoln Road?

Classic Film Series Expands at the Cosford

Award: $15,000
To preserve the experience of viewing vintage films by expanding the Cosford Classics series at Cosford Cinema

Grade: B

My 86 year old father might leave the house..

New Ensemble Focuses on Music and Multimedia Performances

Award: $75,000

To provide innovative concert experiences by supporting a new ensemble offering a hybrid of music and multimedia performances

Grade: B -

Feels vague and overtly high-brow, which is hard to promote to regular people.

Design District Gallery Focuses on Artistic Values

Award: $15,000
To support Swampspace, an alternative exhibition space for local artists and musicians in Miami's Design District

Grade: A

Swampspace has been doing good things for a really long time. They deserve more.

Olympia Theater Expands Downtown Arts Series

Award: $50,000

To infuse downtown Miami with the arts by expanding an arts series in the lobby of the Olympia Theater

Grade: B

Absolutely love the Olympia Theater, but would rather see more programming inside the theater rather than a curated lobby. Feels a little misguided.

Artistic Transformation Planned for Opa-locka Thoroughfare

Award: $100,000

To re-envision Opa-locka as a cultural destination by engaging the community to transform a street into a large-scale public art project

Grade: A-

Good for Knight. Opa-Locka needs to feel included in this love fest.

Art Meets Science at Frost Science Performance Series

Award: $15,000

To create a performance series that mixes 20th-century science and science fiction films with musical improvisation and multimedia presentations

Grade: A

Sounds like a blast!

Choreographers Bring Dance to Unexpected Locations

Award: $20,000
To engage local choreographers in creating site-specific works in nontraditional spaces that are free to all

Grade: B -

Again, sounds like Step Up Revolution, but like, high-brow.

Cultural Mash-up Mixes Indian Dance with Afro-Caribbean Poetry

Award: $35,000

To celebrate Miami's many cultures by setting traditional Indian dance to the rhythms of Adrian Castro's Afro-Caribbean poetry

Grade: B -

This is one of those pet projects that will likely attract like 20 people to the event. And again, do you really need grant money to make this happen? Just make it happen.

Collective Challenges Artistic Boundaries Through Technology and Performing Arts

Award: $10,000

To foster innovation in the arts by bringing creatives together for weekly meetings to share work, perform material and challenge artistic boundaries through technology

Grade: C +

And yet again, do you really need grant money to make this happen? Just make it happen.

Stiltsville to Host Artist-in-Residence Program

Award: $25,000

To give local artists more access to the seven remaining historic houses of Stiltsville by creating an aquatic-inspired arts incubator and residency program

Grade: D

This sounds scary and a little creepy.

South Dade Children Gain Access to Choral Music Program

Award: $25,000

To enrich the lives of children in South Miami-Dade's migrant farming communities by providing transportation to the Children's Voice Chorus program in Palmetto Bay

Grade: A

My heart just went pitter patter...

The Screening Room Brings Films and Video Installations to Wynwood

Award: $25,000
To bring high-quality video installations and film screenings to more South Floridians by supporting programming at the Screening Room in Wynwood

Grade: B

Never heard of the screening room but hopefully I will soon.

Festival Pushes Caribbean Avant-Garde in Miami

Award: $50,000

To raise the profile of Caribbean artists in Miami by staging showcases featuring the work of cutting-edge filmmakers, musicians and visual artists

Grade: B +

West Indian weirdos, sounds like a hoot!!

Trinity Cathedral to Double as Performance Space

Award: $30,000

To provide a space for up-and-coming musical talent to perform by opening up Downtown Miami's Trinity Episcopal Cathedral for a concert series

Grade: A +

Love this place. Love this idea. God bless you, Knight.

Brazilian Music Institute Heads to Broward

Award; $75,000

To showcase Brazilian culture by supporting the University of Florida's Brazilian Music Institute to be presented in South Florida at Broward College and at the Ralph R. Bailey Concert Hall in Davie

Grade: A

Lots of Brazilians up in Broward and this is illustrative of Knight's commitment to spreading their love all around South Florida. Kudos!!

Local Students Jam With Jazz Greats

Award: $75,000

To enable Miami-Dade County students to learn from jazz greats by expanding Pinecrest Gardens' popular South Motors Jazz Series to include a new mentor program

Grade: A

I'm listening to Coltrane while writing this. Jazz is transformative. Kudos!

Virginia Key Festival Features World Music, Dance

Award: $75,000

To bring South Floridians together at a four-day festival, which strives to provide music, workshops and events that nourish both brain and body

Grade: B +

Not 100% sure why they need grant money, but this is a wonderfully awesome camp-out festival filled with the healing arts and music and great times.

Congratulations to the Knight Foundation and to all Knight Arts winners!

We look forward to you making our community even better than it already is.

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