The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced late Tuesday some $743,000 in funding for 17 projects to “engage and enrich Akron” through the arts.

Here is a look at a few of them.

ArtsNow

ArtsNow received a $100,000 grant for its Cultural Liaison Program, which will support local artists and help them improve their online presence.

“We are so thrilled to be a recipient of a Knight Arts Challenge grant,” said Nicole Mullet, executive director of ArtsNow, the nonprofit organization that connects arts and culture with the broader Summit County community.

“The Cultural Liaison Project will work to fully leverage the creative sector by making it easy for our local businesses and organizations to connect and engage local artists,” Mullet said. “This work will support our local artists and our business community in identifying meaningful and mutually beneficial opportunities to come together.”

Bechdel Fest

The Bechdel Fest was awarded $48,000 to promote diversity and gender equality in media through a film festival and other programs.

The name is a reference to the Bechdel Test. A movie passes the test if two named female characters have a conversation about something besides a man. (It was derived from a comic strip by graphic novelist Alison Bechdel in 1985. Thousands of films fail the test.)

“The programming will include a variety of films you just won’t see anywhere else,” said organizer Brit Charek. “The idea really stuck with me because I’m a mom with two little boys, and it’s me watching what they’re watching and seeing the gender bias.”

The festival, which will feature female filmmakers and guest speakers, will be housed at the Nightlight Cinema and other downtown venues.

“The other cool thing is that the Nightlight is near the historic marker for Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman speech [from 1851]. We are trying to align the fest with the anniversary of that speech, so we are aiming for around May 29, 2019,” Charek said. “Akron is so diverse, so we’ll be telling the stories of women, and people of color and the LGBTQ community.”

Himalayan Music Fest

Among those who were awarded grants were the Himalayan Music Academy, which received $15,000 to create a music festival in the North Hill neighborhood that has seen an influx of Nepalese and Bhutanese immigrants. The school is led by musician, teacher and Damphu, Bhutan, native Puspa Gajmer.

“I was overwhelmed as I came to know that I won and it came into my mind that I would do something in North Hill through arts and music festivals,” he said. “This is a very valuable asset to HMA because it will help to fulfill, encourage the dream, aims and objectives of the HMA for the North Hill Music Festival to connect the people from different communities.”

The HMA offers lessons in instruments such as guitar and keyboards as well as tabla, bansuri (the bamboo flute) and harmonium.

The academy also offers yoga, Nepali dance and free Nepalese language classes designed to help neighborhood folks communicate with their Nepalese speaking neighbors.

“I want to include most of the arts and music from different communities of the world so people will get to know each other through a musical connection,” he said of the event that will take place in August 2018.

FRONT Triennial

The Akron Art Museum’s Bud and Susie Rogers Garden will sprout a new art installation this summer.

“In July 2018, the Akron Art Museum will join art and cultural sites across Northeast Ohio in debuting FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art,” said Akron Art Museum Chief Curator Ellen Rudolph. “In the lead up to July, the museum’s curatorial team is working closely with FRONT Artistic Directors Michelle Grabner and Jens Hoffmann to develop a group exhibition that presents the theme of ‘An American City’ from the perspectives of artists from around the world.”

The museum along with FRONT International landed a $100,000 grant for the effort.

“The Akron Art Museum is working with several national and international artists on site specific installations throughout the museum — in the Bud and Susie Rogers garden, in the museum’s Karl and Bertl Arnstein Galleries, in the Beatrice Knapp McDowell Grand Lobby and even on the facade of the building,” Rudolph said. “Artists have been visiting the museum and touring our community to learn about its history, culture and geography in preparation for making artworks that connect global and local issues. Installations by artists hailing from China, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Iceland and beyond will occupy the museum.”

Nine lives

When a gunman killed nine African-Americans during a prayer service in 2015 in Charleston, S.C., Akron musician and composer Christopher Coles said he felt called to ignite a conversation about race in cities across the country.

He composed a short jazz piece inspired by the shooting, but Coles said, it felt incomplete and could be something much bigger.

With a $45,000 grant, Coles hopes to expand the Nine Lives piece to include other movements and spoken and multi­media elements and even a panel discussion to make Akron and other cities more inclusive and stop hate.

The goal is to create a DVD and CD of the piece to assist inner-city kids and perform it in 2019 on or about the anniversary of the shooting.

“We need to talk about how we grow from that moment — that’s what this piece will be all about,” he said.

LGBTQ Community

Two Knight Arts Challenge grant winners this year are focusing on theater projects that serve the Akron area’s LGBTQ community.

Rubber City Theatre received $30,000 for Shakesqueer, a project that will adapt two of Shakespeare’s works into a modern musical and a play with themes and characters that reflect the local LGBTQ community.

Artistic Director Dane Leasure said the idea came to him in graduate school, when he thought about how key gender changes for characters in certain Shakespearean works could highlight lesbian and gay relationships. Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example, could be a drag queen.

“This wouldn’t be really hard to do and it would be a story that the LGBTQ community could watch and be like, ‘Oh, it’s Shakespeare but it’s from our perspective. It’s about us,’ ” he said.

The play will be based on The Taming of the Shrew, adapted for the modern day, and the musical will be based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The $30,000 matching grant will allow the theater to hire a playwright, composer, lyricist and book writer to create Akron-centric adaptations of Shakespeare’s works and to pay actors, directors and designers.

“As someone who is gay, it is for me an opportunity to be able to tell stories that inspire young [LGBTQ] members of our community and to know that they have support and can have positive role models on stage,” Leasure said.

In addition, the Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture/New World Performance Lab has received a $50,000 matching grant for QuTheatre Ensemble: Akron’s LGBTQ Youth Take the Stage. The training-based performance ensemble will create and present work based on the experiences of LGBTQ youth and young adults in the region.

A group of actors ages 14 to 22 will be formed and trained by NWPL professionals. About 12 actors will be chosen through a series of open workshop auditions.

The goal is “then hopefully to begin a permanent kind of group that will give LGBTQ artists a safe place to work and to play them also,’’ said co-artistic director James Slowiak.

Slowiak says the local theater landscape has had a void when it comes to serving the LGBTQ community: “This has always been an interest of ours. Certainly as Jairo [Cuesta] and I being married and gay, as the co-artistic directors of the company, I think it just seems like if someone was going to do something like this in Akron, we would be a natural place for it to happen.”

Music and people

Another grant recipient is Urban Troubadour, a collective of area musicians who stage concerts and other events in various and often unusual spaces. The group received $80,000 and wants to bring the music to where the people are.

“Chamber music is meant to be up close and personal,” founder and artistic director Jane Berkner said.

“It should be experienced in spaces where the vibrations of the music can be felt and the musicians can be seen and heard at close range. Big halls are a thing of the past, and concerts in homes and unconventional spaces are the rage,” she said.

Urban Troubadour hopes to breathe “new cultural life to downtown.”

“Let’s go exploring. We’ll hear a concert in a penthouse loft, and then walk next door to the art gallery for dessert,” Berkner said.

“We’ll find a glass of wine or try out a new stout at the local brewery, then put everyone on a trolley and move them to a restored historical building to hear a concert. The social and artistic synergy will be fantastic!,” she said.

For more on the Knights Challenge, visit knightsarts.org.

Staff writers Clint O’Connor and Craig Webb contributed to this report.