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$1 million up for grabs for best ideas for arts in Akron

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Posted at 6:45 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 19:00:14-04

AKRON, Ohio — Akron resident Dominic Moore-Dunson is a professional dancer who specializes in modern dance.

"My work is very much in the center of Black identity, the Black-centric movement and what that means," Moore-Dunson said.

But when the pandemic invaded Ohio in March of 2020, the touring and the shows suddenly stopped, costing the creative dancer about 75% of his income.

"All of a sudden, I was home with nothing to do, nowhere to perform and no way to make money," he said.

Moore-Dunson, along with several other Akron artists who have struggled during the pandemic, could soon win some financial hep through the Knight Arts Challenge.

The open call for applications begins July 1 and ends on July 31 and asks people to answer one question in 150 words or less: "What is your best idea for the arts in Akron?"

The winners will share $1 million to help fund their projects, according to Kyle Kutuchief, the program director for Knight Foundation.

"We're looking for ideas of all sizes," Kutuchief said. "We don't know exactly what we're going to get. It's an open call."

Recognizing that many artists had to pivot and get creative during the COVID-19 crisis, the Arts Challenge is specifically looking for ideas to engage audiences in different ways.

"One point of emphasis in this year's challenge is we're interested in ideas that do integrate technology," Kutuchief said.

The pandemic forced the Arts Challenge to take an intermission in 2020, but in previous years, the program has awarded more than $3 million in grants.

Moore-Dunson received $17,000 in 2017 and $35,000 in 2019 for the Black Card Project, a dance theater show he created.

He said the support kick-started his career.

"The Knight Arts Challenge is what funded the first phase of it and it's what funded the second phase of it, so without the Knight Arts Challenge, this work that has really been the foundation of my career and how people know me wouldn't exist," he said.

During the application period, the Knight Arts Challenge will host two virtual town hall meetings on July 1 and July 26 to answer questions about the process or to provide feedback on pitching ideas.

Finalists of the challenge will be announced within a few months with the winners named by the fall. Kutuchief estimated about 20 artists will share the $1 million.

Winners will receive access to training resources and materials related to business sustainability, budgeting, revenue generation, marketing and outreach.

To learn more about the program or about applying, click here.