Akron’s arts community is a bit richer thanks to a round of grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The foundation announced late Tuesday some $743,000 in funding for 17 ideas from more than 1,000 submittals to “engage and enrich Akron” through the arts.

“I think every year we see artists in our institution really digging deeper into the messages they want to convey,’’ said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts for the Knight Foundation. “You’re designing experiences to ignite conversations, sometimes over really difficult topics.”

The grants were officially handed out during a reception held at the Akron Civic Theatre on Tuesday evening. On stage, Knight Foundation officials praised Akron’s arts community for its wide ranging creativity.

“Each year, we witness these ideas, your projects go deeper,” Rogers told award recipients and others at the gathering. “We’ve seen the level of talent rise, and yet, I get the feeling we’ve only scratched the surface of what you and Knight can do together.”

In addition to the awards dissemination, there were performances by grant winners GroundWorks DanceTheater, which performed a jazz-tinged modern dance, and the Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture/New World Performance Lab, which performed a scene about the rubber strike of 1935 from its Devil’s Milk Trilogy of plays about Akron and its relationship to the rubber industry.

GroundWorks received a $27,000 grant to conduct movement workshops where community members can experience the company’s artistic process. New World is sharing a $50,000 award with the Center for Applied Theatre to form an ensemble that will create and present events based on the experiences of local LGBTQ youths and adults.

With projects such as the Cultural Liaison Program and the Akronstein VR Animation Lab, the Knight Foundation sees a growing understanding of the need to support the Akron arts ecosystem through helping artists gain different skill sets, including those involving technology.

“Akron is always interested in its history but I also think now that it’s looking at it in different ways. So not only [do] you sort of celebrate your history but you’re re-evaluating what that history means, and artists help to shape this community as it moves forward,’’ Rogers said. “So it’s not just artists reflecting what they see, but I think now they’re really starting to build and shape and influence the future direction of Akron.”

Project creators aren’t just looking inside their communities but also looking outside as they commission ambitious new works for Akron, Rogers said. Those include bringing a cutting-edge public art installation through FRONT Triennial at the Akron Art Museum, Tuesday Musical’s commissioning of a new work by composer James Wilding to celebrate its 130th anniversary and None Too Fragile’s world premiere of a play based on the British indie film 44 Inch Chest.

After the program, Kyle Kutu­chief, the foundation’s Akron program director, said he can see and feel the effect that the last three years of grants have had on the city’s arts community, downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

“Look at Kenmore; they’ve got four recording studios going over there and it’s a real renaissance,” he said. “There was [music and theater festival] Nepali Applause that was held in a parking lot in North Hill.

“It’s happening all over the city,” he said, adding, “I think there is a lot more to come in Akron in 2018.”

The Knight Foundation has read thousands of idea submissions over three Akron Knight Arts Challenges, selected a total of 63 winners and awarded more than $2.7 million for the arts challenges alone. Including gifts to Akron’s legacy institutions, the foundation has invested $17 million in the arts in Akron since 2014.

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com. Features writer Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758.