Miami Tech & Startup News

With $1.25M Knight Foundation grant, Oolite Arts will enable Miami’s creative community with new technology

With $1.25M Knight Foundation grant, Oolite Arts will enable Miami’s creative community with new technology

By Riley Kaminer

If Art Basel events have proven anything, it is that the worlds of art and technology are intimately intertwined. That is especially the case in Miami, a city whose international notoriety on both fronts continues to grow.

Problems remain, however. For one, the skyrocketing cost of living in the Magic City is increasingly prohibitive to our creative community. Equally, as the world of art goes increasingly digital, there is a need to arm artists with the digital ‘pallets’ critical to creating the content collectors crave.

A recent grant from the Knight Foundation aims to help bridge this gap. The Foundation has pledged $1.25 million in funding to help local creative hub Oolite Arts better serve our artistic community.

The funding, which is part of the Knight Foundation’s $40.7 million investment in local arts organizations and initiatives, will enable Oolite Arts to provide new technical tools and a workspace to unlock artists’ digital creativity.

In an interview with Refresh Miami, Oolite president and CEO Dennis Scholl shared his plans for deploying the funds. 

Dennis Scholl

Scholl’s guiding vision? Keeping this question top of mind: “What would it take to create a place where digital tools and digital ideas were made available to the visual artists of our community?”

The first order of business, according to Scholl, is hiring a chief technology officer.

“This CTO will come in and help us assess what needs there are from a tech standpoint in our community,” Scholl explained. He expects the CTO to start by going on a listening tour, speaking to artists about what hardware and software could help them bring their practice to the next level. Scholl signaled that this CTO will likely come from the tech community.

Another key use for this grant will be $1,000-a-month housing stipends for visual artists who are  Miami-Dade residents. This program, which will start in 2024, aims to soften the blow of the city’s affordability crisis.

With these funds, Oolite Arts will also build a Film and Digital Lab in its new facility in the City of Miami, set to open in 2024. “We’ve got to have a physical space to allow some of these things to happen,” said Scholl, noting that this location will house all the technical tools Oolite acquires for local artists.

Scholl, a major art collector and former venture capitalist, is uniquely positioned to spearhead these initiatives at the intersection of technology and art. Despite the recent volatility in crypto markets, Scholl remains broadly optimistic about the role of digital tools in the art world.

“I think that things tend to get a little too noisy sometimes and then they settle back down,” he said of last year’s NFT frenzy. “And when they settle down, that’s when the real work begins.”

What excites Scholl are the artists working to create NFTs that stand the test of time. “I’m just happy now that people can [create digital art] without feeling pressured to pump something out because the market is hot. That’s not what we’re interested in. We’re interested in helping artists build long term careers using these technology elements, including NFTs.”

Rendering of Oolite’s new campus, set to open in 2024.

Photo at top of post: Artist Jen Clay in her studio at Oolite Arts. Photo by World Red Eye


Riley Kaminer