Have a Meal and Support Your Local Artists

Marc Herbst, Christina Ulke, and a helpful assistant explain the benefits of an artists' pension fund

Wall Street got their bailout, why shouldn’t we get ours? Only we’re going to do it in a much nicer and more sustainable way, using a dynamic model founded on mutual, community-based support and shared resources.

As NPR reported last month, the continuing drain on arts funding has inspired local groups to get creative with their fundraising, giving rise to the dinner/soup community art fundraiser. Guests pay a mere $10 to gather for a meal and review proposals for art projects of all kinds. At the end of the meal, guests vote on which proposal they like the best, and the money collected at the door is awarded to the artist with the most votes. It’s an easy and friendly way to share resources and nurture a creative community. There are dinner/soup events happening all over the country and the world, with names like FEAST (Funding Emerging Artists with Sustainable Tactics) in Brooklyn, Sloup in St. Louis, Stock in Portland, Soup Seminars at RISD, Sunday Borscht in Kiev, Saturday Soup in Newcastle, etc.

Now Los Angeles is getting in on the game too, thanks to a few of our entrepreneurial local artists. Elana Mann and Autumn Rooney collaborated to organize Artist Bailout: Renegade Bounty Exchange, which happened at Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro this past Sunday, May 16, 2010. About 50 or so guests dined on a generous vegetarian buffet lunch, served in a large tent on the grounds of Angels Gate, and listened to presentations from 11 artists and artist collectives. In the end you could vote for two proposals, and the two with the most votes would split the money pot between them.

I was really impressed with the breadth and quality of the artists and their presentations, which included Juliana Snapper’s voice lessons for visual artists; the new literary magazine Amor Fati; the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest’s artists’ pension fund; Younger Than Jesus artist Liz Glynn’s construction of a pyramid to explore irrational behavior; NOMAD LAB’s Valle del Oro community dialogue project; Llano Del Rio’s alternative maps of Los Angeles; Laura Bouza’s documentary film on two sound healers (including a live performance by the healers); Anna Mayer’s workshops on how to build your own disaster-proof structures; and Owen Driggs’ curated performance projects.

Two of the more performative presentations stood out for me. With an American flag wrapped around her head, Nancy Popp blindly groped her way to the stage and cut out a pair of eyeholes in order to read some prepared words about Arizona’s recently-passed immigration law. This performance was an example of a script that would be included in a series of politically motivated exchanges between herself and Igor Grubic, an artist based in Zagreb, Croatia. Edith Abeyta entered the tent wearing a wild, handcrafted, futuristic, kimono-clad Marie Antoinette-style costume. She silently used cue cards to get audience members to cut gift bags from her dress, which contained random objects loosely related to her upcoming project, a collaborative art exhibition at El Camino College Art Gallery.

In the end, almost $900 was raised and the money was split between NOMAD LAB and Edith Abeyta. The concept is also showing signs of gaining steam in our local communities. Long Beach–based artist Jocelyn Foye is planning to launch an as-yet-unnamed series of dinner/soup events. She hopes to produce four a year, and is already planning one in collaboration with Kristi Engle Gallery. I also hear there are events being planned for downtown LA and CalArts. If you are inspired to organize your own event, here is a very handy guide for how to do so.

Anna Mayer and Liz Glynn

Nancy Popp (right) in performance

Robby Herbst of Llano Del Rio

Filmmaker Laura Bouza (left) with sound healers Gaia Mama (Florence Riggs and Kabbalah Bach)

Edith Abeyta

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3 Responses to “Have a Meal and Support Your Local Artists”

  1. […] Review by Carol Cheh   « My Business is Circumference No. 2 |   […]

  2. Edith Abeyta’s appearance and costume is at once poignant, and eletrifying . its original, it references classic “children’s ” mythicl iterature, and the truth of creative feminine practical skill. With her scissors crest she could start a sewing revolution or calmly turn to say “Off with her head” . Well I probably digress, but Edith’s costume is incredible,she is such an artist.

  3. I agree, it was amazing, and others agreed too, since she won half the pot of money at the end!

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