Monday, July 21, 2008

About Stock

Stock is a monthly public dinner event and presentation series which democratically funds Portland-area artist projects. Diners pay $10 for a homemade meal and the chance to vote for which artist proposal will receive the evening's proceeds. The dinner's profits immediately become an artist grant, awarded according to the vote of the diners. Winning artists present their completed work at the next Stock dinner.

Stock is inspired by InCUBATE's Sunday Soup granting program in Chicago, Illinois. In the last two years, the number of grassroots dinner granting programs rapidly multiplied, forming in Brooklyn,Baltimore, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, Newcastle, Providence, Iowa City, Columbus, Ann Arbor,Buffalo, Detroit, Kiev, Mexico City, and Milan. Each of these places adapts the Sunday Soup model to support their own city's cultural life. For example, Brooklyn is able to distribute 2-3 sizable grants per dinner, while Baltimore focuses not on art but on community development projects. Kiev serves borscht and Stock serves farmers market fare. While the innovation involved in the creation of a new project can have its own power, the adaptability and repeatability of this model is what makes it powerful, allowing others to easily grow and change it as needed.

Stock adapts the soup granting model to include a two-round voting process. We believe that this process encourages participants to think and talk more about what makes an art project valuable. During the second round of voting, outliers have to reassess their plans, while winners advocate for their favorite project. Overall, the voting process invites constituents to consider and promote the kinds of cultural
production they would like to see in their city.

At the core of the democratic process, people organize around the fact that they have a common stake in each other. This model for funding is gaining momentum in part from the way it provides people with a direct experience of their control over a shared future outcome. Stock makes space for artists to be seen and heard publicly outside of other existing institutional frameworks.

Stock is one way of activating the democratic process. It creates a forum for people to come together and make something happen as a group that could not have happened if we each acted separately. We try to make the process as transparent as possible: At the beginning of the night you pay for your dinner, talk to the other diners about what art matters to you, vote and, at the end of the night, see your cash, along with everyone else’s, being handed to the artist you helped select.

Each proposal answers the question, "Why is this important?" During our first year in operation, we collected 55 reasons for why culture and art making are important for Portland, and were able to support six of those reasons with $2,900 in funding from local individuals.

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