What to know about the Knight Foundation’s $5M art-tech initiative and other grants

The Knight Foundation on Monday announced $19 million worth of new grants for programs around Philadelphia, including a $5 million art-tech program intended to “help institutions develop and implement strong digital strategies that meaningfully engage visitors in the arts.”

The Knight Foundation is a national charitable foundation that invests particularly in some 26 communities where John and James Knight previously published newspapers under the Knight-Ridder Newspapers organization – including Philadelphia. But the funds will go toward a variety of programs and projects all intended to help build organic community solidarity.

“Strong communities move with the times — creating new ways to engage citizens and connect people to place. There is no secret sauce,” Knight Foundation president Alberto Ibargüen said in a statement. “But our research and experience show that providing people with the information they need to make good decisions, spaces where they can gather and feel ownership, and art that inspires and meets people where and how they live, are key elements of sustainable engagement.”

The $5 million art-tech initiative — known as the Philadelphia Art and Technology Fund — will go toward tech innovation at two local museums.

The Barnes Foundation will be funded to develop a “digital engagement center,” according to the Knight Foundation, which projects including a collections database searchable by visual criteria and a GPS-enabled gallery-touring tool.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will be funded as it improves its “digital roadmap” by expanding its award-winning “A is for Art Museum” children-targeted app, enhancing its website and creating new digital publications. The museum also plans to hold a “Hacking is Art” hackathon, inviting the creative community to explore its digital assets and collection resources during a tech-focused event.

Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supporting Philadelphia

The foundation’s other target recipients for the $14 million announced Monday include:

-$10 million to the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, matching $10 million already invested by the Lenfest Institute (the non-profit which technically owns Philadelphia Media Network, publishers of the Inquirer and Daily News), to launch a Philly-based “local news accelerator” that, Knight says, “will help strengthen local journalism around the country.”

The locally-based program is intended to use “Philadelphia as a testing ground for journalism innovation by supporting new business models and new digital acumen throughout the Philadelphia news marketplace,” Knight said, while new grants will focus on diverse communities’ information needs and “the region’s multicultural news media.”

-$4 million to Penn’s Landing/the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation to get citizen input in designing and maintaing a planned new 11-acre public space on top of I-95 that is intended to ” reconnect residents to the waterfront,” Knight says. ” This standout public space will serve as a new destination for residents and visitors to connect, while fostering vibrant activity along the river,” they added.

Since 2005, the Knight Foundation has invested more than $80 million into various Philadelphia projects.

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