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Urgent Inc. hopes for win in People’s Choice Challenge

For five years now the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has put on the Knight Arts Challenge. This year it has added a twist — the People’s Choice Challenge. Five groups that submitted applications to the Arts Challenge were chosen to compete for an additional $20,000. Matt Haggman, the Knight Foundation Miami program director, said the aim of the Knight Arts Challenge, is to have a way to seed emerging artists.

“To provide a vehicle for emerging artists and organizations to get funding,” he said. “This takes it a little further.”

The five nominees include Urgent Inc., a group that will use the money from the challenge to continue to paint murals on the walls of Dorsey Park. The project started early this year as part of the events put on by Urgent Inc. in conjunction with the “We Are The Ship” exhibition by artist/illustrator Kadir Nelson at the Freedom Tower.

Emily Gunter, Urgent Inc. training manager, said the $20,000 will enable her to hire more student interns and move the project forward.

“We have the opportunity to do 33 murals dedicated to the Negro League. Kadir started this off.” Nelson did a workshop with the children who painted the initial murals. Gunter said he gave them great advice and homework.

“He says do not copy my work. Your genius needs to be on this wall,” Gunter said. “You need to do this research. I want you to read about your players.”

The way the City of Miami park is set up there is the possibility of up to 33 different murals, although Gunter said some panels may be combined for larger paintings.

“They gave permission to use the entire park as a canvas,” Gunter says. “The kids and I did a focus group to decide how we wanted to do it.”

They’ve already done three and have started a fourth and fifth. Gunter said she has hired local artists to mentor the children and help move the project forward.

“The Kennedy Foundation gave me money to keep it going for the summer,” she said

The Knight Foundation funds would help her continue to pay the teen student interns.

“Once I get this money and have an artist in resident, the children who go to the Dorsey Park after school program and the Urgent Inc. after school program, they get to paint,” Gunter said. Gunter added that whenever she goes to the park the children ask if they are painting that day. “We’ve had them as young as 3. Anyone who is passing, we invite them [to paint].”

The five arts groups that are part of the challenge were chosen from the applications turned in for the regular arts challenge. They can still receive the funding requested from the Arts Challenge.

Haggman said they have been delighted at the response to the People’s Choice Award portion of the challenge.

“We were going through the responses, it was ahead of where we thought we would be,” he said. “This is an effort to engage the public in a different way and we’re really happy to see the response. There will be one winner.”

Voting closes Oct. 22. The winners will be announced for both the People’s Challenge and the Knight Arts Challenge on Dec. 3.

The five groups are the 6th Street Dance Studio, Arts Garage, FUNDarte, LAB Miami, and Urgent Inc.

For information on the group, go to www.KnightsArt.org/PeoplesChoice. To vote for one of the five groups text to 305-767-2200.

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