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Knight Foundation Champions Bring Art to Life


UM News

Frost School Dean Shelly Berg, at the piano, performed with outstanding Frost School students at the December 4 awards gala.

The University’s MusicReach program, Lowe Art Museum, and Flaming Classics film series are all beneficiaries of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s 2017 challenge grants and arts champions—thanks to Frost School Dean Shelly Berg, Miami-based artist Sebastian Spreng, and the manager of the Bill Cosford Cinema, Trae DeLellis.

Berg and Spreng are among the 25 arts and civic leaders the Knight Foundation honored as Knights Arts Champions this month for their vision, courage and tenacity in building Miami’s cultural community. As part of the recognition, each champion receives $10,000 to contribute to an artist or organization of their choice. Berg chose the Frost School’s Donna E. Shalala MusicReach Program, which pairs underprivileged school children and teens with music mentors, while Spreng chose the Lowe, which is planning to exhibit his Sebastian Spreng: The Dresden Files next year.

DeLellis and Flaming Classics co-creator Juan Barquin, a film critic and co-editor of Dim the House Lights, were awarded a $25,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant for their curated film series that pairs classic films from the queer canon with live performances from local drag artists. Under the requirements of the grant, they must find matching funds to continue building community, entertaining, and educating with their project.

The Knight Foundation established the Knight Arts Challenge Miami 10 years ago to enable Miamians to bring their artistic ideas to life. This year’s 43 winners, who hail from an array of backgrounds and disciplines across South Florida, will share a total of $2.5 million for projects aimed at making art general in Miami—allowing it to be seen, felt and heard throughout the city’s many neighborhoods.

DeLellis, who is a graduate student in the School of Communication, said he and Barquin are ecstatic that such a prestigious organization identified drag as a legitimate art form worthy of its investment.

“Over the last 10 years, the Knight Arts Challenge has palpably changed the cultural landscape of the city, and it’s an immense honor to now be a part of that narrative,” DeLellis said.

Berg, who performed with a combination of outstanding Frost School jazz students at the December 4 event where the awards were announced, called the Knight Foundation the true arts champion. “Over the last decade they have identified, nurtured and helped to sustain the viability of a great many deserving artists and arts organizations in Miami and elsewhere. During that time, the Frost School’s success has been substantially fueled by the generosity of the Knight Foundation,” he said.

A longtime admirer of Spreng’s, Jill Deupi, director of the Lowe, said she looks forward to featuring the Argentine-born visual artist and music journalist’s haunting mediations on the destruction of the iconic German city of Dresden during World War II next year.

“Created using cutting-edge digital technology, these evocative and captivating images bridge the present and past, and remind us of humanity’s power to both create and destroy,” she said.

And building bridges, Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen said, is what the winners of the 10th anniversary Knight Arts Challenge are all about. “They embody what the arts do: they inspire and create common experiences that connect us to each other and to home, Miami,” he said.

View a full list of the winning ideas and the arts champions.

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