Art projects that uplift transgender singers, connect live theater with people in cars, offer virtual reality experiences along the Green Line and highlight stories of resilience among Somalis who lived through that country’s civil war are among those that won grants Wednesday from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The foundation awarded $1.29 million to 29 projects for its annual Knight Arts Challenge, which is designed to help energize and tell stories about St. Paul.

“Knight funds the arts because we truly believe they bring people together and they connect us more deeply to the communities where we live,” said Victoria Rogers, the Knight Foundation’s vice president for arts. “The ones that were selected really tell the stories of the people of St. Paul through the arts.”

The winning projects were announced Wednesday evening at a celebration event at the James J. Hill Library.

The projects include:

• $145,000 for artist Rosy Simas Danse with St. Catherine University to create a performance piece that connects diverse audiences through storytelling and dance;

• $125,000 to Motionpoems to bring a poem and virtual reality experience to the Green Line light-rail train;

• $50,000 to Mizna’s Art and Arab America to showcase Arab culture through a retrospective exhibition and guided tours at the Minnesota Museum of American Art;

• $40,000 to One Voice Mixed Chorus to launch a two-day festival that will bring together transgender singers across Minnesota.

This is the fourth year of the Knight Arts Challenge and so far it has awarded $5 million to 139 projects in St. Paul.

Mixed Blood Theatre garnered $85,000 for a drive-through theater production. Jack Reuler, the theater’s artistic director, said his team is putting together a performance the audience can view from their cars.

“We hope to merge two new populations together in one experience,” Reuler said.

The Knight Foundation is a private national foundation that invests in journalism, arts, technology and communities in 26 cities where the Knight brothers once published newspapers.

To see a list of all the grant winners go to