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.