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New $2.76M stimulus for Philly’s arts scene

When developing her arts grant program, Erica Hawthorne was thinking small.

When developing her arts grant program, Erica Hawthorne was thinking small. She knew she wouldn't be able to single-handedly raise the next Roots, but maybe she could come up with $75 to help a band promote their demo release party. She couldn't fund a residency for a young Zoe Strauss, but $100 goes a long way for a budding photographer hanging her first show.

It was an idea so obviously missing in Philadelphia -- where grants tend to be large, highly competitive and handed out to established organizations -- that Hawthorne almost didn't pitch it to the Knight Arts Challenge. Fortunately, she followed through, and her Small But Mighty Arts Grant is one of 35 projects to benefit from $2.76 million in funding from the Knight Foundation, which seeks to support and develop local arts scenes.

"I would like to see more Philadelphia artists, more best-kept-secrets, advancing their career," says Hawthorne, a spoken word artist and vocalist. "When I look at success, I see a bunch of small steps."

Other Knight winners include ColorWheels, a mobile studio specializing in neighborhood art drive-bys, and gallery Little Berlin, which will turn an abandoned Kensington lot into a performance space.