The Key to Preserving Miami’s Cultural History
August 16, 2017
Miami is many things. You’ve probably seen obvious metaphors like “melting pot” or “kaleidoscope” thrown around to describe the extent of our city’s vibrancy in culture, but have you ever stopped to wonder how cities like our own with histories so varied and blurred have been able to keep up with it all? How, after so many phases and changes we’ve managed to preserve an overarching cultural identity? Looking under the microscope, the cultures move fast but many of them share the same launchpad from which they’ve grown: Knight Arts Challenge.
No one can argue the extent to which Knight Foundation and its subsequent grant competition has helped support so many of our city’s shining creative outlets, like a beacon of hope for even the most disillusioned. When looking at each neighborhood and what they stand for, and then taking an even broader perspective of our city as a whole, Knight and the Knight Arts Challenge have had their hand in helping many institutions all over the city from the very beginning. We’re not surprised that they’re celebrating the KAC’s 10th anniversary this year with the overwhelming excitement of the community they’ve helped foster.
What makes them a key to preserving our city’s historical and cultural identity is their undying search to protect what Miami stands for and each creative lane in covers, giving the local raw talent a reason to stay. Before many other large organizations, it was one of the first to hold telling Miami’s history through the arts as a necessary component for creating a community, even when it seemed like the very idea was impossible.
And this support has found itself all over the spectrum of what Miami represents. In 2011, Knight Arts Challenge granted Miami-Dade County $100,000 to highlight the rich cultural heritage found in Hispanic music, have funded grants for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Art in Public Spaces, helped keep Miami’s Hip Hop roots alive with the Pablo Malco Foundation in 2012, supported Miami’s only classical radio station, and created a microphone for Liberty City’s local arts history with the Miami Children’s Initiative Inc.
They’ve assisted many of Miami’s true historical landmarks by providing funds for creative campaigns, research, and necessary support in order to ensure that they survived for generations to come. They helped support the Stitsville Trust when the architectural landmark was in danger, awarded the Deering Estate $35,000 for arts programming and artist residency programs, strengthed the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s music program, were among the first to support O Cinema when it was the only independent arthouse theater in the city, and provided funds to commission site-specific art exhibits to magnify the magic of Vizcaya Museum & Gardens.
But where Knight and its Challenge truly shine are in cementing the individual identities of Miami’s neighborhoods. Mural projects by local artists in Overtown with Urgent Inc in the historic Dorsey Park, helping to make Little Havana’s Viernes Culturales as rich as we’ve known them to be, and supported the opening of the Hialeah Cultural Center. In Little Haiti, where much of the culture has been hard-fought for by the residents, Knight Arts Challenge has aided the Saint La Haitian Neighborhood Center, boosted the Laundromat Artspace, kept Sweat Records bumping, and provided much-needed support for the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance.
In other words, with Knight Arts Challenge everyone has a chance to be heard. Everyone’s art has an equal chance to be conserved for Miami’s future.