Knight Foundation Funding Several New Art Projects in San Jose

Symphony Silicon Valley during its movie score series last year. The symphony received $20,000 from the Knight Foundation this year (Photo: Courtesy of the Knight Foundation)

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced Friday that it awarded 16 organizations in San Jose grants for a range of projects, including a play about Frankenstein that uses virtual reality and a new mobile radio station.

For the past six years, the foundation has awarded arts organizations in San Jose and seven other cities millions of dollars in grants for community projects.

"We work with grantees and discuss a number projects that we can narrow down to what they're excited about and what best fits our strategy," Amanda Thompson, the Knight Foundation's officer of the arts, said.

Thompson says the foundation focuses on cities where they  have offices, so they can choose organizations they feel can be most helpful to their local communities. Thompson adds Knight does not accept grant applications, choosing to reach out to local groups instead.

This year, the Knight Foundation is providing a total of $400,000 to arts organizations in San Jose, with many of the grants going to projects focused on San Jose's diverse communities. For example, the Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra got $10,000 to provide master classes on traditional Chinese music and instruments, with the goal producing more teachers to work with children interested in the tradition.

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But the main goal of the Knight Foundation, Thompson says, is to support local art, because "if you care about art, it makes you care about your community."

"We're not importing anything," Thompson said. "There's already a lot of great art that reflects the community."

Below are the 2016 grant recipients and a summary of their grants, as provided by the Knight Foundation:

Symphony Silicon Valley
($20,000): To experiment with new ways to draw younger audiences by launching a digital marketing campaign for the symphony’s major film score series, including its first performance of the Harry Potter film score this month.

San Jose State University School of Music and Dance
($10,000): To engage audiences with a semi-staged version of Mendelssohn’s great oratorio "Elijah,” remaining faithful to the composer’s music and updated with live action and digitally generated media that challenge the audience to experience the biblical story in the context of some of the pressing issues of modern life.

Firebird Chamber Orchestra ($10,000): To improve instruction of traditional Chinese music and instruments through master classes for teachers, so that in particular young Chinese-American musicians born in the United States, many of whom participate in local youth orchestras, can gain knowledge of traditional instruments such as the ehru, pipa or ruan.

School of Visual Philosophy
($30,000) To help artists expand their practice and spark new ideas by bringing in artists and experts in science, technology and the humanities to teach collaborative courses. These classes will allow instructors to view their own field with a new perspective and introduce students to an interdisciplinary practice.

School of Arts and Culture
($25,000): To strengthen the capacity of arts leaders of color through the year-long Multicultural Arts Leadership Initiative Change Makers fellowship.

School of Arts and Culture ($20,000): To enhance cultural offerings in East San Jose by enabling local artists and arts agencies to use the production facilities at the Mexican Heritage Plaza at a reduced cost, and to receive technical assistance to operate the facilities and reach out to local audiences.

Exhibition District ($40,000): To transform a central alleyway from a blighted, unused space into a place-based landmark by orchestrating 100 artists to paint 100 murals arranged into a mosaic.

San Jose Taiko Group ($30,000): To plan for and produce a series of immersive events that convey the rich history and vibrant present of San Jose Japantown through a blending of San Jose Taiko’s drumming with Epic Immersive’s theatrical and production expertise.

Naatak ($10,000): To engage audiences in a new main-stage production in 2017 that combines ideas from India's past and America's present, with an emphasis on how the two come together for the local Indian-American community.

Teatro Vision de San Jose ($25,000): To develop a bilingual play – in concert with the local residents - that combines source material from classic Mexican and Chicano literature in addition to personal stories and objects from the local Latino community.

San Jose Jazz ($25,000): To bring more local, cultural programming to neighborhoods through the KSJZ Low Power FM "pirate radio" project – a mobile radio broadcasting station that travels to neighborhoods and highlights local musicians from the SJZ Boom Box mobile stage.

City Lights Performance Group of San Jose
($75,000): To experiment with technological innovation in the theater by supporting an immersive adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, using projection mapping and first-person video tools to visually surround the audience with Frankenstein's point of view.

Backwater Arts | Anne & Marks Art Party
($25,000): To promote San Jose as a hub for innovative visual and performance art by expanding the art and cultural festival - Anne and Mark’s Art Party- to include a juried competition and full week of programming.

San Jose Museum of Art Association ($20,000): To engage new audiences by tapping into mindfulness with a new exhibition that presents contemporary works of art as objects of meditation, within an innovative exhibition design and accompanied by guided meditations, tea ceremonies on the museum’s sky bridge, and related programs that encourage restorative quietude and the practice of attention.

San Jose Stage Company
($30,000): To raise San Jose’s artistic profile internationally with a new co-production and co-commission of a play titled The Memory Stick, which commemorates Ireland’s centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. The play will be presented jointly with Dublin’s City Arts Office, Irish Theatre Institute and Dublin Theatre Festival.

San Jose Poetry Festival ($5,000): To bring local and national literary talent together during the second annual San José Poetry Festival in September, 2016 through readings by poet laureates, writer workshops and literary reviews.

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