Talk soup

Art is necessarily a community effort. One group in Portland takes this rule literally.

Art is necessarily a community effort. One group in Portland takes this rule literally.

Portland Stock is a new group dedicated to raising funds for small art projects in a democratic fashion. Katy Asher, Ariana Jacob and Amber Bell organize monthly dinners for $10 a guest. The dinner always includes a soup coupled with local, seasonal delicacies that the group obtains. Ten artists present their project ideas to the crowd, and each guest gets one vote. At the end of the night, the winner receives the profits from the dinner.

Understanding the group’s name is an important aspect of understanding their intentions. Asher defines “stock” as broadly as can be conceived—clear soup broth, investment, estimation, faith, gathering, accumulation, appraisal, cash, assets, a stem, tree or plant that furnishes slips or cuttings, ancestry, lineage and merchandise.

The idea comes from a group in Chicago, Ill., called Sunday Soup, organized by the arts group InCUBATE.

Several other offshoots exist, including FEAST in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Saturday Soup in Newcastle, Wash.

In six months, Portland Stock has raised $1,800 for four groups. So far, the winning proposals have been projects with a community appeal. November’s winner, Public Social University, creates participatory events with a variety of topics and formats at different galleries around town. Their winning proposal funded two such events: one about the value of listening to elders, and the other about the social value of solitude. As part of the terms of their award, attendees of this month’s event will hear about how the projects turned out.

However, these awards are not limited to projects that are likeminded with the organization. November’s runner-up was a group who wanted to build a skate park shaped like a woman’s genitalia. Groups and individuals of any art practice and experience level are encouraged to send in their ideas. The group’s Web site has a very simple template for all proposals, and the group turns the first 10 submitted proposals into 11-inch-by-17-inch presentation boards.

This novel way of funding art is important, as markets for art are unstable and the value of art has historically been called into question. Portland Stock emphasizes the value of art to a community rather than the consumer. Bringing working artists together in such a way also creates possibilities for meeting other creative people.

The community has responded positively. Last month, Asher, who also maintains a project called Golden Age Work Group, was asked to move her blog onto the Urban Honking network, a popular blog and social networking site maintained by members of YACHT and States Rights Records. In the short time Portland Stock has been operating, the size of their dinners have nearly tripled. Most of the food is donated from local gardens and farmers’ markets by individuals who would like this project to succeed.

This month, all proposals are due by Jan. 17, at 5 p.m. Folks wishing to attend the event are encouraged to RSVP through the website, as spots fill quickly.