New $2.76M stimulus for Philly’s arts scene

When developing her arts grant program, Erica Hawthorne was thinking small. She knew she wouldn’t be able to single-handedly raise the next Roots, but maybe she could come up with $75 to help a band promote their demo release party. She couldn’t fund a residency for a young Zoe Strauss, but $100 goes a long way for a budding photographer hanging her first show.

It was an idea so obviously missing in Philadelphia — where grants tend to be large, highly competitive and handed out to established organizations — that Hawthorne almost didn’t pitch it to the Knight Arts Challenge. Fortunately, she followed through, and her Small But Mighty Arts Grant is one of 35 projects to benefit from $2.76 million in funding from the Knight Foundation, which seeks to support and develop local arts scenes.

“I would like to see more Philadelphia artists, more best-kept-secrets, advancing their career,” says Hawthorne, a spoken word artist and vocalist. “When I look at success, I see a bunch of small steps.”

Other Knight winners include ColorWheels, a mobile studio specializing in neighborhood art drive-bys, and gallery Little Berlin, which will turn an abandoned Kensington lot into a performance space.

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