New Models for Arts Journalism Receive Funding

inners of the Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge will participate in live webcast discussion today

SAN FRANCISCO -- Today, five projects that offer innovative models for local arts journalism will receive funding to help make their projects a reality.

Each will be named a finalist of the Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge, founded this summer to find new ways to use technology to inform and engage people in the arts.

The finalists will work with a consultant and receive support of up to $20,000 to develop an Idea to Action plan. In addition, the finalists will be eligible for up to $80,000 to implement their project. Six projects also will be designated as honorable mentions and receive $1,000 each.

Read the full list below, and watch the live webcast announcement and panel discussion today from the Grantmakers in the Arts conference in San Francisco at 10 a.m. PDT, 11 a.m. MDT, noon CDT and 1 p.m. EDT.


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The five finalist projects, emerging from 233 applications submitted from eight pilot communities, are:

  • In Charlotte, N.C., several major media outlets and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte will create the Charlotte Arts News Alliance, a collective of trained arts journalists who will publish across media platforms, including a newly developed app.
  • In Detroit, iCritic Detroit will provide criticism and access to cultural events through a mobile video booth where audience members will record their reviews that are posted on local websites and shared on social media channels.
  • In Miami, ArtSpotMiami will be an online arts journalism marketplace and mobile application where citizen journalists pitch stories about the local arts scene, the public pays for the stories they like and traditional media organizations team with the citizen journalists to produce the stories.
  • In Philadelphia, Drexel University, through the use of staff, student and freelance journalists, will partner with a for-profit newspaper, the Philadelphia Daily News, to expand its arts coverage in Philadelphia.
  • In San Jose, Calif., Silicon Valley Arts Technica is a three-part endeavor lead by The Bay Citizen that features a mapping component that will visually highlight arts events; a mobile app that will allow people to add comments, reviews and images; and a series of investigative reports probing the divide in arts funding between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

As anyone who watches television news or reads a newspaper knows, the world of journalism is changing dramatically. Newspapers are shrinking, television news programs are morphing, and the Internet is exploding. According to the Pew Research Center, newspaper newsrooms have declined by 30 percent since 2000. Arts journalism has been particularly hard hit.

Without feature stories, interviews or reviews about the arts, how are people going to know what is happening in their own communities? What creative and social opportunities will be lost not only for artists and their audiences but for the community as a whole?

"Our goal for the Challenge is to increase high quality local arts journalism," said NEA chairman Rocco Landesman. "To succeed, art requires informed and engaged audiences, and informed and engaged audiences require news, criticism and information on a regular basis. Both the arts and arts journalism are essential for building vibrant and creative communities."

"These winners demonstrate creative thinking in ways to keep local cultural coverage enlightening, engaging and sustainable. They seized the opportunity the digital age offers, and that is to use technology to connect with people in new ways," said Dennis Scholl, vice president/arts at Knight Foundation.

Eight pilot communities -- the communities above, plus runners up Macon, Ga., St. Paul, Minn., and Akron, Ohio -- were selected because of their long history of collaboration with Knight Foundation. Projects had to benefit one of the eight communities, and applicants were encouraged to form partnerships -- especially with traditional media organizations -- and to think broadly and boldly about incorporating new technology.

The Honorable Mentions are:

  • In Akron, the University of Akron and the Akron Art Museum will partner to develop fantasy arts leagues to give people incentives to produce and consume more arts journalism.
  • Also in Akron, 360 Degrees will bring together legacy and new media to cover and critique the arts with many voices, from many angles, in many media.
  • Macon Mobile Arts, a mobile-augmented reality arts journal will overlay digital information (such as computer-generated sound, video, graphics or GPS data) on the real world via users’ mobile device screens and allow users to post their own content with their camera-enabled devices. 
  • In St. Paul, Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media will expand its multimedia arts coverage of the Latino community, including reporting shared with Spanish- and English-language publishing partners.
  • In San Jose, a project by Maggie Pike seeks to facilitate offline appreciation of arts via a YELP-like website to encourage user-suggested and professionally produced art reviews.
  • In St. Paul, the St. Paul Pioneer Press will provide a fresh perspective on the local arts scene by hiring comic book artists to cover arts and culture.

Local arts agencies in each city have been critical to the success of the Challenge, by distributing information and encouraging constituents to apply. They include: the Akron Area Arts Alliance in Ohio; the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, City of San Jose Cultural Affairs/Economic Development; the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan; the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance; the Macon Arts Alliance; Metropolitan Regional Arts Council in St. Paul; and the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs. The agencies will also manage the contracts with the winning recipients in their communities.

Challenge finalists will complete their Idea to Action plans in late 2011. Those plans will be reviewed and up to three of the five will be selected for further development and implementation with an award of up to $80,000. The final winners will be announced in spring 2012.

To see videos of the winning projects and read more about the Challenge, visit Join the conversation on Twitter at #artsjourn

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation 
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

About the National Endowment for the Arts 
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at


Marc Fest Knight Foundation

Victoria Hutter NEA