Knights Arts Challenge funds local percussion arts series

Knights Arts Challenge funds local percussion arts series

Brandon Cruz

For the past few years, arts groups in South Florida have been able to apply for arts grants from the Knight Foundation. This year, the Knight Foundation is in the middle of a three-year initiative to give out $9 million to arts groups.

According to Tatiana Hernandez, program officer for arts at the Knight Foundation, each year they give out approximately $3 million. This is a re-up of the original five-year, $40 million program which was split evenly between the Knight Arts Challenge and institutional grants.

The application period for the Knight Arts Challenge runs through Feb. 24. It is open to big and small arts groups. Hernandez said applying is easy.

“You don’t need grant experience to participate,” she said. “It’s 150 words. From those pitches we pick finalists who are asked to make more detailed proposals. Then we pick winners.”

The smallest grant awarded was $2,500. The biggest was $1 million. A secondary contest, the People’s Choice, gives five of the winners the chance to win an additional $20,000 via text votes.

One of last year’s winners, the Florida Center for Percussive Arts, 12600 SW 130 St. in West Kendall, won $50,000. Founded by Brandon Cruz, who now is the director of marching percussion at FIU, the center fulfilled his dream for a place in South Florida for all things percussion.

“We are a complete resource for the community related to drums and percussion,” Cruz said.

That includes rehearsal space, a recording studio, lessons, instrument rental and sales of drums not available locally.

“We are non-profit. If it’s related to drums and percussion, this is the place to go. I’m trying to be the central home base for everything related to drums,” he said. “If we don’t have it, we will get it.”

The $50,000 winning idea for the percussion center was “Friday Nights of Rhythm,” a weekly series of master classes.

“We will be bringing in an artist every Friday for a free master class,” Cruz said. “They could be local or well known. The master class is presented by the artist, then there is a reception where the class can meet the artist. I want this to be an intimate situation.”

He said most of the well-known artists in the percussion world don’t come to South Florida but this program will change that.

“One week it might be a famous rock guy and the next week a conga player,” he said.

Cruz said the goal is to have everyone in the percussion community come to realize that they need to be at the center Friday nights.

“I’m still in shock that all of this has been happening,” he said, adding that the first Friday night will happen in late February or early March.

He was laying the groundwork at the largest percussion convention in November. “I got to speak to a ton of artists. Every one of them was thrilled,” he said.

“I’m thrilled that Knight is supporting this. It’s going to make a huge impact in the community.”

Cruz is particularly happy because the program will bring together students, teachers and players in South Florida, something that wasn’t possible before because everything is so spread out.

“I spent the last nearly four years to get to where now we’re open and make all this happen,” he said. For information on the Knight Arts Challenge go to

For more information on the center, go to

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