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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Knight Foundation grants help Charlotte creatives community
Gifts to arts and culture institutions
Published Friday, January 1, 2021
by Ashley Mahoney

Grants from the Knight Foundation helped local arts and cultural institutions make the shift to digital programs, including JazzArts Charlotte.

Knight Foundation funding offers hope to local cultural organizations.

COVID-19 forced arts organizations and cultural institutions to make an aggressive digital shift during 2020 in order to continue to serve people in a physically distanced manner. Five organizations will receive $2.1 million from the Knight Foundation in order to continue to make the most of digital opportunities to engage and build on their audience.
The organizations are the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, JazzArts Charlotte, Levine Museum of the New South, the Queen City New Play Initiative and Que-OS.

“It offers us hope for a better future for our organization,” JazzArts Co-founder, CEO and President Lonnie Davis said. “We are very lucky that we have not had to lay off any of our staff up to this point. The Knight Foundation grant provides hope for us to get closer to our long term goals.”

JazzArts Charlotte received $250,000 of the $2.1 million investment. The funding will go toward expanding the JazzArts Charlotte staff, with a focus on a tech and digital media producer position—the title of the role is subject to change.

It will allow the organization to increase its digital strategy, while also exploring new digital programming opportunities. The organization employs a combination of five staff members who are both full and part-time.

“It is certainly technology based, but it is also capacity building,” Davis said “That is something many other organizations would love to have at this time, especially in a time of uncertainty with all the new challenges.”

The ultimate goal is to become a key arts organization in the region, not only in terms of entertainment, but with regards to education, which is a key pillar in JazzArts Charlotte. The JazzArts Charlotte Academy has provided jazz training to over 50,000 K-12 students since 2011, with 38% of them coming from low income communities. They have also partnered with over 60 schools in the area.

“We want to broadly expand our academy and the number of students served, the number of performances—we have very audacious goals for the organization over the long term,” Davis said.

While the infusion from the Knight Foundation helps, the organization continues to rely on individual donors. They held a free virtual benefit concert on Dec. 18 entitled the “Jazz Room: Holiday Edition,” with a fundraising goal of $15,000. They raised $13,695 as of Dec. 21.

“This is our big fundraising event,” Davis said. “It is important that all of our donors and supporters realize that their previous support put us in a position to be able to receive a grant like what we received from the Knight Foundation. We certainly need their continued support, because although the Knight Foundation grant will do a lot for us in building and enhancing the work we are doing, there are other needs of the organization.”


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