Knight Foundation pledges US$750,000 to immersive projects

Knight Foundation pledges US$750,000 to immersive projects
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The Knight Foundation said on 27 July that it would award US$750,000 in funding to for “ideas exploring how arts institutions can present immersive experiences to engage audiences”. Recipients will be announced in late fall 2019.

The application window is already open, and US-based cultural organizations, technologists, and others who are working to use immersive technology in the arts are welcome to apply.

Grant recipients will be awarded a share of the funding pool, and receive mixed-reality mentorship and technology support from Microsoft, as well as the opportunity to be featured across the company’s marketing channels.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is a national foundation that invests in journalism, the arts and in the “success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers”. The foundation’s stated goal is to “foster informed and engaged communities, which [it believes] are essential for a healthy democracy”.

The award calls for ideas that demonstrate innovative approaches to this question: In what new ways might arts institutions engage audiences through immersive experiences? The foundation is seeking  ideas from arts institutions — as well as technologists, companies and artists partnering with arts institutions — that demonstrate the ability of immersive technologies to strengthen audience engagement. 

Successful projects will address one of the following areas or related concepts: 

  • Engaging new audiences: How might arts institutions use immersive experiences to better welcome and engage new and diverse audiences?
  • Building new service models: How can institutions design pleasant and efficient audience experiences that avoid clunky interactions with technology?
  • Expanding beyond walls: In what new ways can arts institutions use immersive technology to reach people beyond their physical space?
  • Distribution to multiple institutions: How can immersive experiences become more portable and be presented easily at multiple institutions?

This is part of Knight Foundation’s arts and technology focus, which aims to “help arts institutions better meet changing audience expectations and use digital tools to help people better experience and delight in the arts”.

Last year, Knight made a US$600,000 investment in twelve projects designed to harness the power of technology to engage people with the arts. Most recently, Knight launched the “On View” podcast, which examines how museums and cultural institutions are evolving to keep pace with a changing world.

“We’ve seen how immersive technologies can reach new audiences and engage existing audiences in new ways,” Chris Barr, director for arts and technology innovation at Knight Foundation, said in a statement. “But arts institutions need more knowledge to move beyond just experimenting with these technologies to becoming proficient in leveraging their full potential.”

“When done right, life-changing experiences can happen at the intersection of arts and technology,” Victoria Rogers, Knight Foundation vice president for arts, added. “Our goal through this call is to help cultural institutions develop informed and refined practices for using new technologies, equipping them to better navigate and thrive in the digital age.”

“We’re incredibly excited to support this open call for ways in which technology can help art institutions engage new audiences,” Mira Lane, Partner Director Ethics & Society at Microsoft, said.  “We strongly believe that immersive technology can enhance the ability for richer experiences, deeper storytelling, and broader engagement.”

The opening of the call coincided with the Gray Area Festival in San Francisco, where representatives from Knight and Microsoft shared details with an audience of international thought leaders in the arts and the technology industry. 

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