Since 2008, the Knight Arts Challenge has played an instrumental role in transforming the arts and culture scene in Detroit by funding hundreds of ideas from artists and organizations. The challenge returned this month seeking submissions from artists, collectives and art organizations with ideas on how to boost the city’s arts economy and push the arts forward. 

It costs money to make art and so being able to receive funding for these types of nontraditional ideas was just a real catalyst for our organization,” says Ryan Myers-Johnson, founder and executive director of Sidewalk Detroit Festival — an organization that celebrates natural landscapes and builds artistic bridges across Detroit and a 2014 Knight Arts Challenge winner. “When we first started the Sidewalk Festival, we had a little bit of funding but for the most part, everyone volunteered — including myself — for years and so receiving funding to pay artists, explore and experiment with ideas in outdoor space was really pivotal for us.” 

Courtesy of Knight Foundation

After receiving a KnightArt Challenge grant in 2017, D.Cipher, a music collective that centers on advocating for a sustainable arts economy and providing necessary resources for Michigan musicians, has been able to expand their programming and build pathways for musicians to advance their craft and knowledge about the industry. 

We’re able to program limitlessly and continue with our signature identity, which is to program and reactivate spaces that once held a lot of integrity for arts and culture. [We’re] also able to give back when it comes to art preservation and development,” says Sophiyah E, D.Cipher’s director of artist relations. 

The Knight Arts Challenge is now taking applications from Detroit artists and organizations for a chance to win a share of the $2 million on the table. Wayne Ramocan, co-founder & VP/Chief Program Officer of D.Cipher, views the opportunity as a chance to take a foundational leap into ownership. 

Ownership continues to be an important part of our practice as musicians and artists in the community,” he says. “Without ownership our practice and how we scale our practice is limited.” 


Listen: D.Cipher and the Sidewalk Detroit Festival share thoughts on what will take Detroit arts to the next level. 



The deadline to apply for the 2021 Knight Arts Challenge is July 31. For more info head to www.knightfoundation.org. Knights Arts is hosting a virtual town hall to answer questions about the application process on July 23. 

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