Seven influential leaders, experts, and practitioners have been selected for the inaugural class of Knight Public Spaces Fellows. Launched this year by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a non-profit committed to fostering community in service of democratic ideals, the program will grant each individual $150,000 to put towards building effective public space initiatives around the United States.
Selected from an open call that drew of over 2,000 candidates, the Knight Fellows stood out for their track records of influencing or creating spaces that advance community engagement and connection in cities. Sam Gill, the Knight Foundation vice president for communities and impact, describes the individuals recognized in this inaugural class, saying in a statement, “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.”
Knight has expressed a desire for their chosen nominees to incorporate and build upon their existing and former projects, while also using the fellowship to break ground on new projects and ideas for the field. Check out the list of seven recipients below:
Anuj Gupta (Philadelphia)
As general manager of Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia‘s famous 125-year-old food and retail hub, Gupta has helped bring a record number of visitors to the space in his tenure. He’s integrated innovation distribution models for service, selected new and trendy vendors, and figured out special ways to keep people coming back to the market. He’s widely recognized for his initiatives that connect people of different cultures through food.
Robert Hammond (New York)
Hammond is the cofounder and executive director of the High Line on Manhattan’s West Side. A vision that began 20 years ago, it’s now one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city and has spurred a wave of development in the Chelsea neighborhood. In 2017, he established the High Line Network, which assists communities in the infrastructure reuse projects.
Walter Hood (Berkeley, California)
Widely known for designing award-winning urban spaces for cultural institutions such as the Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Broad Museum, and the Solar Strand at the University of Buffalo, Hood creates projects that intersect with art, fabrication, landscape, research, and urbanism. He’s a professor at the University of California, Berkley where he teaches landscape architecture and urban design, and is the founder and creative director of Hood Design Studio.
Eric Klinenberg (New York)
As the Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science at New York University, Klinenberg thinks and teaches on urban public spaces. He most recently served as research director of Rebuild by Design, the federal competition that sought innovative ideas for rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Last year, he published “Palaces for the People”, a book about how social infrastructure such as libraries, parks, and playgrounds can revitalize democratic culture and civic life.
Chelina Odbert (Los Angeles)
Odbert is co-founder and executive director of Kounkuey Design Initiative, a nonprofit design firm based out of Los Angeles, the Coachella Valley, Nairobi, and Stockholm. Her studio heavily focuses on community participation and its role in public development, as well as how design can integrate the strongest environmental, social, and economic strategies to help solve inequity.
Kathryn Ott Lovell (Philadelphia)
Lovel currently serves as the commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, one of the nation’s largest parks systems. Appointed in 2016, she established the first strategic plan for the agency, “Our Path to 2020,” which emphasizes citizen-centric service, a commitment to the city’s well-maintained assets, and creating relevant and accessible programming such as the Parks on Tap mobile beer garden, and the Philadelphia International Unity Cup soccer tournament, among others.
Erin Salazar (San Jose, California)
Salazar is the founder and executive director of Exhibition District in San Jose, a woman-owned and operated arts nonprofit that’s helping create economic opportunities for artists to do work in downtown San Jose. A muralist herself, she is committed to city beautification and redefining the concept of public space while also drawing out the cultural authenticity of a city that’s rapidly urbanizing and full of large corporations. Most recently, Exhibition District started Local Color, an incubator project that reactivates neglected buildings.