Return of the Philly Stake: the lowdown with founder Theresa Rose
Theresa Rose is the founder and one of the organizers of Philly Stake, a locally sourced community dinner gathering at the historical Bartram’s Garden in the summer and rotating to different neighborhoods the rest of the year. The uniqueness of Philly Stake extends beyond its cultivation of organic morsels: it is a cultural petri dish of creative advocacy, local organic food harvesting, local economy bolstering, and above all community awareness of the arts. Philly Stake provides a micro-granting platform for relevant community-based projects in the area. Creative project proposals are presented along with dinner, after which attendees pay a sliding scale donation and vote for whichever project seems most fund-worthy. FringeArts caught up with Theresa, who is also the FringeArts visual arts program director, to get the scoop on the inner-workings of the micro-fundraising feast, Philly Stake.
FringeArts: Where did the idea come from?
Theresa Rose: While unique and oh-so-Philly, Philly Stake is not a complete original. It is part of an international network of like-minded micro-granting programs called The Soup Network . The first program, Sunday Soup, began in Chicago in 2006 by the artist collective Incubate. They started with intimate gatherings (around soup) in which a couple of folks would propose projects and a small pot of money would be awarded. Since then, Philly Stake and forty-plus programs around the globe have been throwing dinners, collecting donations, and directly funding relevant and creative community based projects, and they have grown in scale. Incubate started with about thirty people and depending on the venue, Philly Stake accommodates 150 to 250. And we always sell out.
FringeArts: How did Philly Stake come into being?
Theresa Rose: After learning about these micro-granting dinners and attending FEAST (Funding Emerging Arts with Sustainable Tactics) in Brooklyn, I decided that Philadelphia must have its own version. This was in 2009 when I was working for the city’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. I had no doubt that there was enough creative energy in Philly to organize and sustain this program, and I was right. With the help of Kate Strathmann, we organized several meetings around the city to find organizers, cooks, artists and all around good civic-minded people.
Unlike most other Sunday Soup models where the organizers are made up of a group of friends, Philly Stake was born out of the passions of strangers (now friends). A group of about twelve like-minded volunteers with special skills in the arts, local food sourcing, cooking, administration, and community building are the fuel behind the event. No one is paid. We’re a team and the current organizers/contributors are listed as follows: Mira Sophia Adornetto, Eric Blasco, Mallary Johnson, Hannah de Keijzer, Dave Kyu, Alyssa Maloof, Brett Mapp, Theresa Rose, Ruth Scott, Kate Strathmann, Annemarie Vaeni and Jonathan Wallis. Several additional individuals contribute from time to time.
FringeArts: What are some of the proposals coming up this event?
Theresa Rose: Here are three examples but eight proposals will be presented at the event and you can view a complete list, as well as past grantees on our website. Aging in Motion plans to create a program aimed at bringing together older Philadelphians for movement and exercise through dance. Yo! Teen Philly will be a free, spoken word poetry and music performance for teens, by teens in our own 2013 Fringe Festival this fall! And finally, Tertulias Herb Garden intends on growing a medicinal garden in the heart of Norris Square with traditional Puerto Rican medicinal herbs to promote health and community. While only eight to ten proposals can be presented at a single event, Philly Stake generally receives twenty to thirty proposals for each call. These numbers demonstrate to me that so many Philadelphians care, and that they are aiming to ignite positive change, to increase connections between their neighbors, and to add to the beauty of our city in sustainable ways. It’s the opposite of watching prime time news. I should also mention that Philly Stake generally grants $1000 to the first place winner with about $400 to $600 for second place, and at times a third place winner depending on the amount raised. Votes are collected at the end of the presentations, counted and awarded at the end of each event. All funds go directly to the winners, with a portion left over to cover the costs (food, venue) of the next event.
FringeArts: How did Bartram’s Garden get involved?
Theresa Rose: Bartram’s Garden shares many of the same ideals as Philly Stake; engaging the local community, supporting locally sourced produce, and bolstering the arts. With the help of Kim Massare, then Public Programs Manager, Bartram’s offered the venue at an incredibly low fee (it’s almost free). This will be our third summer at this beautiful historic garden, tucked away along the Schuylkill River in South West Philly. Lounging on picnic blankets on a large romantic sloping field, folks listen to ideas, cast their votes and claim a stake in their community while eating a delicious locally sourced meal. This event is dreamy, to say the least. If you would like to get involved, we are always accepting volunteers to help with set up, cooking, and most especially, clean up! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
5-8pm Sunday, June 23rd, 2013
Bartram’s Garden, 54th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard