Knight Foundation Announces Inaugural Knight Public Spaces Fellowship Winners

Knight Foundation Announces Inaugural Knight Public Spaces Fellowship Winners

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced the seven outstanding individuals who will share over $1 million as part of a new national Fellowship dedicated to advancing the creation of public spaces that promote civic engagement. As the first Knight Public Spaces Fellows, they will each receive $150,000 in flexible funding to provide them with the freedom to unleash their creativity and build on their ongoing work, while developing new efforts for the field. They will also have access to opportunities to work with and learn from each other, elevate their work to a wider audience, and share lessons across cities.

Fellows include talented leaders with exemplary track records of crafting public spaces - parks, plazas, trails, community spaces and streets - that create opportunities for civic engagement. The fellowship aligns with Knight's support of public spaces as a means to connect communities, drawing people out of their homes and encouraging them to meet, play and discuss important issues, while finding common ground.

"These rare people see something different when they look at streets, parks, and sidewalks -they see a vision of how our communities could look, feel and be different," said Sam Gill, Knight Foundation vice president for communities and impact. "We hope this recognition accelerates their visionary work and invites others to challenge the way we think about and use public space."

Fellows were identified through a national call for nominations that launched in February, which generated more than 2,000 candidates. They were selected by Knight staff in collaboration with experts and leaders in the field. The Fellows were announced at the inaugural Knight Public Spaces Forum in Philadelphia.

Knight Public Spaces Fellows

Anuj Gupta

General manager of Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, one of the largest and oldest public markets, Gupta has brought new and innovative distribution and engagement models to the market. In particular, he has spearheaded engagement initiatives focused on connecting cultures and bringing people of different backgrounds together around food.

Chelina Odbert

Odbert is co-founder and executive director of Kounkuey Design Initiative, a nonprofit design firm (with offices in Los Angeles, the Coachella Valley, Nairobi, and Stockholm) that prioritizes community participation in public space development - designing side-by-side with residents. Odbert emphasizes that public space design must integrate not only environmental but also social and economic strategies to address community inequities. Her recent work in Coachella Valley and Los Angeles showcases this approach.

Eric Klinenberg

The Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science at NYU and a practitioner working on urban public spaces, Klinenberg most recently served as research director of Rebuild by Design, the federal competition focused on generating innovative designs for 21st Century infrastructure in the region affected by Superstorm Sandy. In 2018, Klinenberg published "Palaces for the People," a book about the essential role of social infrastructure (including libraries, playgrounds, and parks) in revitalizing democratic culture and civic life.

Erin Salazar

Founder and Executive Director of Exhibition District, Salazar heads a woman-owned and operated arts nonprofit creating economic opportunities for artists at the intersection of public art and community development in San Jose. Salazar is redefining what "public space" is and what it could be in a city full of large corporations while working to maintain the community's cultural authenticity.

Kathryn Ott Lovell

Commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Lovell oversees one of the largest park systems in the country, bringing a strong focus on innovation to the government sector. Her emphasis on "citizen-centric" service, provides exceptional parks and recreation opportunities to residents and prioritizes community engagement.

Robert Hammond

Co-Founder and Executive Director of the High Line, Robert had the vision and foresight to lead the effort to build an elevated park on an abandoned railway line in New York City 20 years ago. In 2017, he formed the High Line Network, which focuses on the equitable development of underused city infrastructure to develop new urban landscapes.

Walter Hood

Hood is creative director and founder of Hood Design, a firm that practices at the intersection of art, design, landscape, research, and urbanism across the country. He is also a professor at the University of California, Berkeley in landscape architecture and urban design. Hood Design Studio designs public spaces for institutions such as Cooper Hewitt Museum, Broad Museum and Solar Strand at University of Buffalo, as well as neighborhood community spaces such as Splash Pad Park in Oakland, California and Baisley Park in New York City (now Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson Community Garden).

Photo: High Line, Courtesy Friends of the High Line