A Moveable FEAST

A new movement is spreading across the nation that combines grassroots arts funding with sustainable agriculture. It’s called “FEAST,” or “Funding Emerging Art with Sustainable Tactics.” And this Saturday it’s making its debut in Minneapolis.

Jeff Hnilicka is a founder of FEAST in Brooklyn, which first started hosting dinners to raise funds for artists in February.

The basic set up is we have two hundred to five hundred people that come out for a big dinner. We locally source it working with a farm. We cook a big vegetarian organic meal. Everyone gets supper and a ballot and we charge a small door fee – we ask ten to 20 dollars and then there’s about 15 artists projects around the room, and whoever gets the most votes gets the money that we collect at the door. And then the artist comes back the next month and shows what they’ve been working on.

Hnilicka compares the artist presentations to highschool science fairs. They stand next to a table with some images of their work, and a brief description, and answer questions. It’s a lot less time consuming than preparing a grant application. In addition, the artist knows whether or not they got funding in about four hours times.

Hnilicka says he was inspired by a similar program in Chicago called InCUBATE which holds a weekly Sunday soup dinner to raise money for artists (that program appears to be ending this month). But Hnilicka’s monthly events are more of a blow-out affair, which often raise upwards of $1000 in an evening. That’s not chump change to an artist who’s trying to both make art and pay the rent.

The project came out of wanting to explore sustainable means of funding art. We all felt really vulnerable in our career paths and at the same time that was happening, we were engaging in sustainable food practices. So we wanted to see how we could take those systems and apply them to art-making.

Hnilicka says he knows of similar programs now underway in Portland (Oregon), Baltimore, Buffalo (New York), and Milwaukee. And he thinks the Twin Cities would make a good home to such a program, too.

I think there’s a unique sense of philanthropy in the Twin Cities and also for its size a really strong local arts community, but also one I think that needs a lot more support than it’s necessarily already getting.

Hnilicka is in town this week to talk to artists and community members about the FEAST program (he’s speaking this afternoon at Springboard for the Arts), and to attend the first ever Minneapolis FEAST. The dinner takes place Saturday from 6 – 10pm at Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art.

  • Thank you for blogging about FEAST. As someone who both works with local artists and is an art collector, I am very pleased to see Minneapolis as the second site for this type of patronage to artists. I certainly plan to attend the FEAST on Saturday evening.

    Minnesotans may be surprised to know that despite the tough economy, some local art patrons are quietly providing private financial support to outstanding local artists. Their generosity and enthusiasm for art are amazing. Patrick Kemal Pryor is one talented and very productive Minnesota artist with whom I work. He has received support from patrons for several of his projects, including a three-month sabbatical in New Zealand to reassess where his art has been and where it is going. I would be interested in hearing about other such examples.

  • This is such a great idea! Wonderful feedback and support for the artists and a learning experience for attendees. How would people connect to a FEAST if they wanted to attend?

  • Marianne Combs

    Hi Sheila – you should find links to Mpls FEAST in the body of the story. I believe there are plans to hold a second FEAST in February.