Sloup’s Humble Beginnings

On the first Sloup event, there were a few proposals submitted.

Jordan Hicks together with a couple of art photographers and an art historian friends, proposed for a project that creates a set of postcards about population decline and urban decay in St. Louis. He planned to use the grant money to print up several sets of cards to leave around the city in public places. Hicks’ project, although wasn’t chosen, didn’t see the dinner as a competition rather as an opportunity to share his project with the community.

Artist Claire Wolf also submitted a proposal to buy a small screen-printing machine for the Urban Studio Cafe. Urban Studio is a nonprofit social venture cafe where all profits go fund arts programs and community programs for the neighborhood.

That night, after votes were tallied, Wolf’s proposal won.

The application process for grant seekers was simple. They just need to submit a one-page pdf document answering five points:
1. The project they want to fund
2. Why are they asking for Sloup grant instead of a million dollars venture (and will credit score be a factor?)
3. Who are they as a creative being?
4. Any project of them from the past that succeeded or failed
5. Who is their favorite artist this month?

The reason for simple questions and not asking grant seekers to submit extensive resumes or provide a long list of prerequisites is to encouraged new artists to join. If they won, it will give the courage to apply for another, bigger grant.

One winner of the grants was Emma O’Brien, studio manager for StudioSTL. The studio is a writing lab that encourages children age six to eighteen to write and tell their own stories and publish their works. She thought that one way to physically establish community was by making buttons. She then applied to Sloup and won a grant to buy a button maker for kids. She attributed Sloup as a great venue to connect with other nonprofit art groups and communities. O’Brien was also high-praised of Ginestra and Jones’ attitude and sincerity.

Rats and People Motion Picture Orchestra, a six-piece ensemble, was another Sloup winner. They compose and perform original soundtracks to old silent films. They have used the $260 grant to buy a projector so they can screen a film and soundtracked it anywhere.

Another great project that came out from Sloup was a Nomadic gallery. Zach Swanson submitted a Sloup proposal three times for a project called ‚ÄúThis Must Be the Place”. It aims to incorporate curated work in unique and unexpected places. He recalled never winning at Sloup.

However, during one of these Sloup events that Swanson met Justin Strohm. Together, they self-funded the project and launched their pilot show. By providing a venue to curate various artists’ works, they aim that “This must Be The Place” to be an alternative to traditional gallery options in the state.

When St. Louis Sloup started, Ginestra and Jones cooked the soup themselves. Soon, they asked for soup sponsorships from local eateries. Generous and innovative chefs had prepared kale soup, corn chowder, fire-roasted tomato soup – and the organizers made sure that soup being served won’t overlap for vegans and locavore arts supporters. After initially staging the event at Stirrup Pants shop during the first few months, the dinners became mobile with venues happened at different areas at St. Louis and even had a caravan Sloup outside the city.

The Sloup’s first fundraiser for itself happened on December 10, 2013, when past beneficiaries and their supporters gathered together for the “Condensed Sloup” (a group’s decision to combine November and December meetup). It also served as a celebration for the 40 events that have been organized since the group’s inception and a total of around $20,000 grant given to local artists, budding entrepreneurs, and educators. The Sloup event that night raised $800, which, like other Sloup’s meetup, asked for $10 donation.

And with everybody allowed to present their idea, Sloup’s proposal every month had attracted hundreds of different amazing, and sometimes quirky, proposals – from building a 12-foot sundial as a visual display to creating a semi-circular panorama of the City Garden at night, to film making, money transfer protocol, and to cook local food for the community – there was so much enthusiasm from the art community at St. Louis.

For its amazing initiative, St. Louis Sloup was awarded the 2010 River Front Time’s Best Arts Organization and 2010 RFT’s MasterMinds Award.

In 2012, Sloup’s leadership was passed on to Tara Pham, Zoe Sharf, and Becca Moor, who ran the project through 2015.

The Importance of Sustaining the Arts in America

Arts, although regarded as crucial to a thriving culture and beneficial throughout stages of human life, is suffering from states that continue to cut funding. In the United States, where the art industry is not controlled by a single agency but instead a combination of federal, state, regional and local agencies, receiving funding can be a challenge. No wonder that there’s an increasing number of art patrons who start a nonprofit arts organization to keep the art community and culture alive.

Nonprofit arts organizations credit crowdfunding campaigns as an important tool to raise funds. Groups like Portland Stock, Feast in Brooklyn, and Incubate in Chicago raise micro-funding for the arts, and art organizations with the hope to make the art world feel more like a community and for larger cultural institutions to incorporate similar projects in their budgets.

These soup dinners were the inspiration for Maggie Ginestra and Amelia Collette Jones. After attending InCubate’s soup dinner in Chicago, the duo brought the idea to the St. Louis art community scene. They were inspired by the idea that a group of ordinary people could not only help fund an art project but can also bring artists and art patrons together for a discussion and a meal.

The ladies, who both arrived in St. Louis to work toward masters’ degrees at Washington University has a very simple idea – organize an event where attendees pay $10 and get free soup. Attendees will pick their favorite project amongst different proposals handed at the door. All the proceeds from the dinner go to the winning proposal.

Ginestra’s passion for giving back to the art community was evident when she opened Stirrup Pants, possibly the world’s only poetry chapbook consignment shop, in St. Louis. The store was the venue for Sloup’s dinners during its first few months. Jones, who lives above the store with Ginestra, shares the enthusiasm of projects getting funded through the soup dinners.

In February 2010, the first-ever St. Louis Sloup dinner project came to life in a two-story brick building on Cherokee street. Ginestra and Jones made a pot of soup, invited a few arts aficionados, ask for a small donation of $10, provide guests with a bowl of soup and a ballot to vote for a creative project that has earlier been submitted. At the end of the evening, the money raised from the soup dinner went to the winning proposal.

What is the St. Louis Sloup Project?

People all over the world volunteer for a variety of reasons: to end poverty, to combat injustice, to educate children, to tackle environmental issues, to improve basic health or to fight social inequalities, violent conflicts and end the war. Volunteers are usually motivated by their values – equality, justice, freedom, passion, positivity. They see lack, and they believe volunteerism can contribute to others’ well-being.

When a group of physicians and journalists felt frustrated with the neutrality of the Red Cross, they took it upon themselves to provide medical intervention and provide assistance to those people beyond the national borders. That’s how international humanitarian groups, Doctors Without Borders started in 1971. Volunteerism can be as globally organized like Doctors Without Borders or as simple as providing service to the community.

Providing service to the art community they love was how founders, Maggie Ginestra and Amelia Collette Jones, started the crowdfunding group Sloup in 2010.

The idea of modern crowdfunding has its origins in 1997 when British rock band Marillion funded their reunion tour when fans clubbed together and raised $60,000. Crowdfunding is the method when businesses and people, usually online, ask for a small amount of money from a large group of people. Why crowdfunding works? Most people who donate to crowdfunding campaigns do so simply out of their affinity to the cause, and in the case of Sloup, it is to provide a platform for art projects in St. Louis to be funded and recognized.

St. Louis in Missouri might not have major internationally recognized museums and art galleries like in New York or Chicago but what you’ll find here is an authentic, innovative, and thriving arts community. St. Louis residents are proud of their City Museum which displays masterpieces of the late artist and local legend Bob Cassilly, their glorious landscaping and attention-grabbing flora in Market Street, and a dozen galleries and studios peppered around the city. Graffiti, which is usually covered up by most cities, are proudly displayed in the wall in Chouteau Avenue and South Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard. This just shows how St. Louis appreciates their gritty edge and vibrant artistic flare.