Palm Beach Opera, Puppet Network get Knight grants

The Palm Beach Opera and the Fort Lauderdale-based Puppet Network were among the big winners Monday night when the Knight Foundation named recipients of the  2013 Miami Knight Arts Challenge grants.

More than $2.7 million was awarded to 49 South Florida arts organizations and individuals in ceremonies at the New World Center on Miami Beach.  

The Palm Beach Opera was awarded an $80,000 grant to help fund the inaugural season of Opera @ The Waterfront, a free community concert with full orchestra and chorus set to launch 2 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Meyer Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach. The opening concert will feature conductor Greg Ritchey and tenor James Valenti, who has performed at the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala, singing some of opera’s most recognizable arias, with an online simulcast available. Info: PBOpera.org.

For four years, Jim Hammond’s Puppet Network has organized the popular Day of the Dead parade in downtown Fort Lauderdale,  including mask  workshops and sessions in which artists help families create ofrendas, memorials to loved ones. The Puppet Network will receive a $40,000 Knight grant to “expand its ofrendas, exhibitions and community arts workshops to additional locations beyond downtown Fort Lauderdale.” Info: Puppet-Network.com

Hammond also was a finalist for a $20,000 people’s choice award, with balloting conducted by text message. The winner was writer-actor-director Teo Castellanos’ D Projects production of a solo show, “Third Trinity.”

Also in Fort Lauderdale, Upper Room Art Gallery will get $30,000 for a  celebration of the art form of dugout canoes, with a seasonal “Paddle Up” featuring Seminole and Miccosukee creativity.

The big winners Monday night were the Grammy-nominated choral ensemble Seraphic Fire, which received $180,000 to present regular masterworks concerts at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center; ArtCenter/South Florida ($120,000) to fund fellowships for emerging artists; Cannonball Miami ($120,000) to launch an alternative school encouraging experimental thinking in art production and education;   Miami Book Fair International ($120,000) for the Swamp,  its pop-up lounge for local and regional writers; and Pérez Art Museum Miami ($120,000) to fund free public programming on the first Thursday of the month.

On a smaller scale, Miami-based indie band Awesome New Republic, a k a Michael John Hancock and Brian Robertson, will get $40,000 to create their multimedia dissection of South Florida called “The Humid Body.” Florida Atlantic University professor Joey Bargsten will explore some of the same territory in his multimedia opera “MelanchoLalaLand,” which received a $2,500 grant.  

The Miami-based Knight Foundation also looked north to give $60,000 to the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami to create a Nigerian film festival. The Miramar Cultural Trust  was awarded $12,000 for Art Speaks, a conversation series hosted by  singer-actress Jo Marie Payton.

For a complete list of winners, go to KnightFoundation.org.

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