- The Knight Foundation will invest $2.15 million in programs to foster development in downtown St. Paul, MN, with a focus on the arts scene.
- More than half of the money — $1.5 million — will be used to establish a permanent home for the Minnesota Museum of American Arts in the Pioneer Endicott building downtown. Another $200,000 will go to the city’s Creative Enterprise Zone to fund the Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival, and $100,000 will go to the Minnesota Opera.
- In a blog post, the Knight Foundation said St. Paul was taking its place "as a vibrant urban hub," writing a "new narrative" around its downtown. The national foundation invests in journalism, the arts and technology in cities where John S. and James L. Knight published newspapers.
The Knight Foundation has focused on fostering community and development in cities across the country, including investments in public spaces, startups and technology like autonomous vehicles. Arts funding may seem extraneous to the development of a smart city, but Knight Foundation Vice President for the Arts Victoria Rogers said a robust arts ecosystem is "essential for the development and success of vibrant cities."
"Arts and culture make cities more dynamic, attractive places to live and visit, and they make residents feel more connected to each other," Rogers said in an email. "Just like our community investments – whether in public spaces, entrepreneurship, or otherwise – the arts have impact."
Cities have increasingly looked to public art and cultural institutions in conjunction with economic development to keep citizens engaged and active, like an initiative in Boston to put public art around transit stops. A survey by the Knight Foundation's Soul of the Community Initiative found that across 26 communities, "social offerings, openness and welcome-ness" and "aesthetics" of a city were more important to residents than education and safety as a "driver of attachment."
St. Paul also received $200,000 for the development of a sustainable Business Improvement District and $50,000 for the "Tech for All" initiative, which seeks to bring youth of color and girls into the workforce. Since 2000, the Knight Foundation has invested more than $40 million in St. Paul.