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Home » Art, Featured, Local and State

Supernova Project tries to help Montrose blow up

Submitted by Commandrea on March 10, 2011 – 5:21 pmNo Comment
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By Alex Wukman

Since South by South West kicks off this week it only seems appropriate to borrow from a famous anecdote about Quentin Tarantino’s first time at the film portion of the week long festival. Raise your hand if you want to make art. Now raise your hand if you want to fund art. The point is something any working artist is intimately familiar with, there are far fewer people willing to fund art projects than there are people who want make art.

Which is why the brains behind Poison Girl, Antidote and Black Hole Coffee decided to start the Supernova Project.  As the project’s Facebook page explais the premise is a community based peer-to-peer microgrant organization. For those who don’t speak non-profit Scott Repass and Casey Fleming, two of the people behind the project, stated that the idea is fairly simple.

“Once a quarter we’re going to hold a soup dinner at Black Hole and anyone who wants to come can pay $20 and listen to proposals for projects from people in the community and then vote on who gets the money,” said Repass. He went on to explain that the idea came from a similar organization in Michigan called Soup that provides microgrants to people in the Detroit area. Fleming and Repass explained that while neither is a tax attorney or an accountant they are fairly confident they won’t run into problems with regulators or authorities.

“It’s just money changing hands, we’re not organizing it as a non-profit,” said Fleming. Repass clarified that the funds are “a grant” and that recipients are not expected to repay the funds. “It’s a gift,” he said. One of the things that has concerned possible applicants is the language the project employs in its guidlines. The organizers state that they are interested in funding  ”anything that will be performed or displayed in the Montrose area or enjoyed by or enhance the life of residents of the Montrose.”

Something that Anna Garza from Girls Rock Camp found frustrating. Garza explained that becuase of the size of the camp the organizers have to hold it at Rice University which led her to ask “is that Montrose?” Other local artists, especially choreographers, have raised concerns about trying to find adequate performance space in, what is essentially, a loosely defined geographic area. Fleming explained that they are using the word Montrose as “a loose definition.”

“If the project is pitched to us in the right way we’ll probably approve it,” said Fleming. Repass said that the desire to limit it to Montrose was born out of a desire for community access. “It’s about people being able to access the work. We don’t want to fund a project out in the suburbs and no one in the community be able to go see it,” said Repass.

Fleming and Repass both acknowledged that letting community members determine what does and doesn’t get funded has some inherent problems. “It’s about what gets the people [in the room] psyched,” said Fleming. Repass said that the organizers are keenly aware that the process could become “a popularity contest,” but they think that the dangers outweigh the benefits.

“If someone wants to bring 20 people in to vote for his or her project, that’s fine. More people means more money,” said Repass. He went on to say that the pre-screening process, which he said will involve consultants for the more technical projects, will help to ensure that the projects presented at the fundraising dinner are those that will “benefit the community in creative ways.” He also said that he and his team “know from experience” that they can make a positive contribution to the community and hope to be able to expand the project very soon.

“Our dream is to have something like this all over the city. We are already planning a dinner in the Heights next because we know we have the space at Antidote,” said Repass. Fleming hinted that the Eastwood area is also on their radar. However, they are in no hurry to move forward.

“We started talking about this in September or October over drinks, basically saying ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone did this,’” said Fleming.

For parties interested in submitting a project send an email to supernovaproject [at] hotmail [dot] com by April 1. Both Repass and Fleming stated that the projects are not necessarily limited to art. “If someone wanted to use the money to repair streets or replace street lamps it would be cool, they just have to convince the crowd,” said Repass.

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