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.