Local groups win Knight Arts grants

Ty Barnett and Shannon Forney, WORKHORSE COFFEE BAR co-owners,  and the future home of the Smallest Museum in St. Paul. (Photo courtesty of Pavlica Photography)

Ty Barnett and Shannon Forney, WORKHORSE COFFEE BAR co-owners, and the future home of the Smallest Museum in St. Paul. (Photo courtesty of Pavlica Photography)

The vintage fire-hose cabinet recessed into the exterior wall of the vacant storefront at 2399 University Ave. W. caught Shannon Forney’s eye when she and Ty Barnett toured the building while looking for a home for WORKHORSE COFFEE BAR.

The coffee shop (which is spelled in all caps for aesthetic reasons, Forney said) is slated to open in the former Edge Coffee House space in January. And the 2-by-3-foot cabinet will host its first exhibit as the “Smallest Museum in St. Paul” in June, thanks to a $5,000 Knight Foundation grant.

The museum project is one of 42 winners in the Knight Foundation $1.4 million arts challenge that drew 868 entrants. Winners were announced in late September. Founded in 1950 by newspaper executives John S. and James L. Knight, the foundation is focusing on the 26 communities—including St. Paul—where the brothers owned papers.

The Knights once owned the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The foundation began its $8 million investment into the city in January by giving $3.5 million to five major arts organizations: TU Dance on University Avenue, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Penumbra Theatre, the Ordway Center’s Arts Partnership and the nonprofit Springboard for the Arts.

The application for the latest challenge was simple: pitch a good idea in 150 words or less. Forney’s idea is to create a streetscape gallery in the old fire-hose cabinet with monthly rotating exhibits curated by local artists, customers and residents.

A call for museum proposals will begin in January. The first exhibit will open in June with a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony, “where we plan to invite the mayor and other Smallest Museum of St. Paul dignitaries,” she said.

The grant proposal said Forney and Barnett would encourage submissions that celebrate the local industrial history of the area and history of St. Paul in general. The call for proposals will be announced at www.WORKHORSECOFFEE.com, to customers and through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as through posters and postcards sent out in the 55114 ZIP code.

Several projects submitted by organizations or artists in the St. Anthony Park area won Knight grants. They include:

  • Photographer Alec Soth and Little Brown Mushroom, 856 Raymond Ave.: $35,000 to create “The Winnebago Workshop,” a mobile classroom where teens are paired with artists to create multimedia stories.
  • Independent Filmmaker Project Minnesota, 2446 University Ave. W., Suite 100: $60,000 to help develop local screenwriters through a fellowship competition where all finalists receive mentoring and classes to improve their work.
  • Mizna, a forum for Arab American film, literature and art, 2446 University Ave. W., Suite 115: $40,000 to introduce new audiences to Arab American artistic expression by bringing local and national Arab writers and filmmakers to the city’s parks, art spaces and cafés.
  • The Bindery Projects, 708 Vandalia Ave.: $50,000 to ensure the city is part of the national discourse on contemporary art by showcasing prominent artists at this artist-run exhibition space.

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