Knight Arts Challenge Awards

Knight Arts Challenge grant awarded to create digital cinema theater at Metropolitan State University

Metropolitan State University will create a digital theater—the only one of its kind in Saint Paul—to serve the arts community and independent film lovers. This will be funded in part through a $30,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to the Metropolitan State University Screenwriting Program through the university’s Foundation.

The grant supports “Film Space,” a digital cinema theater at Metropolitan State’s Saint Paul Campus. The heart of the project is fostering film arts and enriching the community through film and film events. By serving academics, the arts community, and all those interested in independent film the project will bring new film festivals to Saint Paul and provide new screening opportunities for film artists.

Metropolitan State annually hosts the Qhia Dab Neeg Film Festival, the only Hmong film festival in the United States, which will be the theater’s first event. Other events will include the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival and the Twin Cities Black Film Festival.

“We hope to open “Film Space,” our new cinema theater, sometime early spring 2016. It will be the only one of its kind in St. Paul and we hope to usher in a new era of filmmaking, film exhibition, and audience engagement for Saint Paul. Several important film festivals will be coming to our campus in the future. Our doors are open for students, filmmakers, campus organizations, and community groups,” says James Byrne, screenwriting professor in Metropolitan State’s Communication, Writing & Arts Department, College of Arts & Science, who was instrumental in securing the grant with the support of the Metropolitan State University Foundation.

Knight Arts Challenge Awards
James Byrne receives the Knight Arts Challenge Grant on behalf of Metropolitan State University at an awards event, Oct. 6, 2015 in St. Paul. Also pictured are Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts, Knight Foundation, left, and Bahia Ramos​, arts program director.

“At Knight we believe in the power of great film to bring people together and build community,” said Victoria Rogers, VP/arts for Knight Foundation. “We’re excited that Metropolitan State will be able to provide Saint Paul with a state-of-the-art facility.”

Byrne, who will manage the theater project, also plans a screening series called “Open Screen,” to let individual filmmakers view their work in a state-of-the-art theater. The intent is to be as inclusive as possible and give filmmakers the opportunity to engage audiences with program notes and post-screening conversations.

“We want to serve the artistic community and all those interested in independent film by bringing new film festivals to Saint Paul and providing new screening opportunities for film artists,” Byrne says.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge funds ideas that engage and enrich Saint Paul through the arts.

Since 1977, Knight has provided more than $64 million in support to the Saint Paul community. In January 2014, Knight Foundation announced it would invest $8 million in Saint Paul arts efforts. The challenge is part of that investment.

From more than 400 submissions to the Knight Arts Challenge, 40 ideas were chosen, bringing about $1.29 million in funding to Saint Paul. Winners range from individual artists and art collectives to large arts organizations. Applicants answered the question, “What’s your best idea for the arts in St. Paul?”

Metropolitan State University, a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, is America’s premier university for lifelong learning, providing unsurpassed, competitive academic and professional degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels while maintaining affordability.

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