Knight Fdn Looks To Fund Technology Connecting People With Art

A heads up to people who have, (or know people with), innovative ideas using technology to connect people with arts and culture, the Knight Foundation is looking for project ideas via the Knight Prototype Fund.

Unlike some of the other projects the Knight Foundation funds, these projects don’t need to be set in the communities it traditionally supports which is why I wanted to bring it to everyone’s attention. As the prototype term suggests, they expect some of the concepts to be in the early stages of development.

Applicants don’t necessarily have to work for an organization. We’re looking for ideas from arts organizations, artists, technologists, designers, educators, researchers and others inside or outside of institutions who are eager to experiment. We’re open to diverse approaches and perspectives on the use of technology to connect people to the arts, and seek to identify projects that have the potential to be replicated by others in the field.

What can we build to help arts organizations expand their use of technology? How can we use the qualities of new mediums to create unparalleled experiences? How can we replicate solutions, so that more in the field benefit? How can we learn more about the people we are trying to reach and design solutions that understand their needs? How can arts institutions provide magic outside of their four walls? How can cultural organizations breathe warmth into technology?


We hope to invest in projects that have provocative questions at their core that can only be answered through the act of making them a reality. Grantees will join together over a nine- month sprint to learn innovation techniques and test ideas.

They anticipate the average grant will be around $50,000. Deadline is March 6. They are hosting an online Q&A from 1 to 2 pm ET on February 21 (connection instructions at bottom of the page)

As an example of the type of thing the Knight Foundation has been doing lately, they partnered with the creators of Pokemon Go to see if similar games or tools could help build community.

It sounds like they would be open to projects that pushed the envelop even further as well as repurposing existing tools in a manner few people have considered.

One of the things I most appreciate about what the Knight Foundation proposes is that they are going to provide applicants with training in innovative methods as well as bringing them together to learn from each other. This acknowledges that innovation isn’t generated in a vacuum or emerge from a lone genius working in a garage, but rather builds on past work in new ways, often in collaboration with others.

But Will A Framed Canvas Fit Through The Book Return Slot?

Thanks to a partnership between the Akron Art Museum and the Akron-Summit County Public Library, not only can you get a book to place on the nightstand beside your bed, you can also get a painting to hang over your bed.

According to a recent article, the museum is creating the Akron Art Library in the Akron-Summit County Public Library Main Library. Patrons can view the art and then use their library card to borrow a work for four weeks and renew it up to five times if no one else places a request for it.

“We want to show we can trust the public with works of art,” said Art Museum Director of Education Alison Caplan. “We want people to have that moment of ‘are you sure we can take this out?'”

Even so, the fine for not returning a borrowed piece is $500 and late fees run 50 cents per day, she said.

All the art available to borrow — paintings, drawings, photos and other two-dimensional work — is created by professional Northeast Ohio artists, many of whom have been featured at the museum.

“We tried to highlight artists that came from Akron and the region and have gone on to do great things,” Caplan said. “It’s a really good mix.”

If this sounds somewhat familiar to you, it might be because four years ago I wrote about how Oberlin College has been lending out priceless works by Dali, Picasso, Chagall, etc to their students since the 1940s.

Oberlin says they haven’t had anything damaged or stolen in all that time so the risk of allowing people to take art works home with them might not be as great as you might imagine. The museum’s focus on circulating works by regional artists can help cultivate an awareness and appreciation that there are well regarded creative people perusing produce at the supermarket and laughing too loudly behind them in the movie theater.

Not to mention the Art Library program reinforces the idea that your home is an appropriate place for art that appears in a museum and that access to such work is within your reach.

I wonder if they have/will start a children’s section so kids can follow the example of their parents and check out something to hang on their walls as well.

Fingerpainting As A Gateway Drug To Better Health

Head over to CityLab and read an interesting piece about how Minneapolis health clinic used pop-up art stations to provide services in their community.

People’s Center Health Services hired 16-17 artists to spend a few hours every Thursday over a summer in an attempt to “…engage with the community about health in a less disease-focused and more organic way.”

Part of the People’s Center’s mission is to engage its community in health education and outreach. But it has found that more traditional mechanisms like classes and workshops had not been well attended.

“If you invite people to a class on health, no one will show up because it’s boring,” said CEO of People’s Center Clinics & Services Sahra Noor.


The People’s Center asked the artists to engage with those who sought treatment at the clinic, as well as staff and passersby. In addition to Hirschmugl’s trailer, pop-ups included a ping pong table, letterpress station, and tented spa offering facials and tea.


”You’re doing the art sitting next to people and you start talking to each other,” Shella said. “It creates community and is therapeutic in the sense that the hospital becomes less sterile—it gives it a sense of beauty and helps people feel more at peace and connected to others.”

Shella said that such activities have emerged from health care providers’ desire to give patients a positive experience. This means seeing them as “whole people,” not just a specific problem or organ that needs fixing. “

The pop-ups did have a health focused element that they tried to get people to respond to, but everything was offered in a low-key manner without much pressure. The goal seemed to be to get people to have positive social and trusting relationships with the clinic so they will feel comfortable coming to discuss physical and mental health questions at a later date versus getting participants to commit to any immediate changes in behavior regarding their health.

Though the pop-ups weren’t just about making people feel more comfortable about approaching the clinic for services. Those with appointments at the clinic had the opportunity wait in a more relaxed environment than the typical waiting room.

Being an old hand at the grant writing game, I was particularly sensitive to the discussion of outcomes and impact in the article. I don’t know what the appropriate organization is going to write in their grant report, but Mimi Kirk, who authored the CityLab piece, seems to feel that the clear quality of the program outweighs an attempt to quantify the value in numbers.

It’s hard to quantify the pop-up’s impact. While more than 500 people participated, and an evaluator reported that as many as 30 people would cluster at a popular station at any given time, Noor said it’s not possible to gauge whether the people will now use the center’s services more or if they feel differently about the space.

But Noor and others felt the pop-ups were a success based on their observations. Laura Zabel, the executive director of Springboard for the Arts, the organization that facilitated the artists’ involvement, noticed that some participants who had brought a child to an appointment would go home afterward, fetch their other children, and bring them back for the fun.

And Noor said that when she would leave work at 7 p.m.—two hours after the clinic closed—kids would still be playing outside, their parents talking to the artists. “The artists needed to leave, but they didn’t, because people were enjoying themselves,” she said. “I had feared we were forcing people to engage, but I realized that people want this.”

By the way, Laura Zabel wrote about this project for Shelterforce in the context of similar work Springboard for the Arts is doing around Minnesota. I wouldn’t have made the connection except both articles used to same image and it drove me crazy trying to figure out where I had seen it before.

Pop Up Virtual Museum Tours

You may be aware that Google offers the opportunity to take virtual tours of museums, world heritage sites and other landmarks. This past summer, Wang Yuhao, the CEO of Aha School, set out to provide 100,000 children in China an opportunity to tour 10 different museums around the world.

All Google owned sites are blocked in China so that option wasn’t available to him, but he also wanted to offer the type of experience that went beyond what the Google tours could offer by having their team members provide commentary. They ended up enlisting 150,000 participants by tapping into social media.

Many people were surprised by our business model. How could we offer our product for 19.9 yuan in a world where the average cost of attracting a new customer online exceeds 100 yuan? … We took advantage of WeChat’s built-in relationship networks to offer group deals for our broadcasts. In this way, we could turn one user into 10, 10 into 100, 100 into 1,000, and so on, with our longstanding customers demonstrating an incredible willingness to introduce the product to their friends on social media. By offering our service at such a low price, we were able to maximize sales volume.

Wang and his team’s process was light on planning on heavy on faith, some things didn’t work out for them but their method provided a degree of authenticity for participants.

“Our greatest challenge”, Wang told me, “was uncertainty. When we launched, we had confirmed nothing. No museums were confirmed, no anchors, we hadn’t decided which exhibits would be discussed, nor the script or how we would deliver”.

The project was very much a living one, an educational practice in itself, from idea to execution. While children were guided virtually through each museum, parents simultaneously wrote reams of commentary, which Aha School then used to improve the broadcast for the following day. “My daughter is transfixed and we adults can enjoy it too!” wrote one parent, “We’d like to see more of the museum itself and the beautiful architecture”.


“Our task was to piece together these fragments of information and to allow children to digest them”, said Wang. “The key to our broadcasts was to enthuse children, to make them interested.”

They did so, not by filming after hours in search of the perfect silent shot, but by filming from bustling museums where ordinary people walked through the screen, sometimes even blocking exhibits, giving viewers a sense that they too are there. In one case, the Guggenheim in New York showed such great support that they offered to film after closure and arranged a curator to explain the artworks through a translator.

The practice of revising as you go pretty much embodies the concept of failing fast and revising. While it does increase the possibility people will find the initial product to be of such low quality that they won’t continue with the program, there is an element of nimbleness that allows you to avoid the cost of the planning phase and offer the product inexpensively.

If they had a large number of people who shared the sentiment of the one commenter who noted they enjoyed the experience and were pleased their daughter was transfixed, they probably retained enough people to support the next iteration which is supposed to happen in February.

Read up a little about what they did, maybe your conscious or subconscious mind will absorb it and spit out some inspiration. There are some real short videos about the project available

Send this to a friend