Get fed, get funded at MIAMI SOUP

The first MIAMI SOUP microgrant led to the creation of a free, interactive theatrical performance that took place at locations across the city last month. “History on Wheels” is bike tour and performance based on the life story of city founder Julia Tuttle and her inventive interactions with other Miami figures like Henry Flagler, George Merrick, and James Deering. Photo Credit: Pati Laylle.

Miami’s latest recipe for social innovation offers changemakers an opportunity for network support and funding. MIAMI SOUP has invited  three people with big ideas to dine with community members — over  gourmet soup, salad and bread — to decide “what’s next” for the community.

How it works: Each dinner guest is a donor; event registration includes $50 for a plate of fine food and the opportunity to vote for one of three people with a small-budget idea that they believe would have big impact. The third MIAMI SOUP will take place Nov. 9 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Macy’s Test Kitchen in the Dadeland Mall.

To start the evening, Tongue & Cheek will provide a cooking demonstration of the evening’s menu items. This is the second time that teen volunteers from Higher Ground, a youth community service organization based in Allapattah, will help to serve the food as a way to both gain professional experience in the kitchen and raise awareness of their community efforts.

Following the meal, microgrant candidates will make a pitch to earn votes from the night’s guests. The November event candidates will include: Sandy Skelaney of The Ignition Fund; Val Steinberg of Guitars not Guns; and Aaron Glickman of Social Miami – Opening Night.

The MIAMI SOUP microgrant experience, supported by Knight Foundation, is one of nearly 100 other local SOUP campaigns across the nation. Carl Hildebrand, director of MIAMI SOUP, launched the concept in Miami this past May and says he is excited to see the buzz and participation begin to escalate.

“The people attending are a little foodie, socially engaged, and interested in their community,” he said. “MIAMI SOUP is a wonderfully organic, word-of-mouth network where people either get fed or funded.”

Miami pioneer Julia Tuttle, via Wikipedia

Hildebrand said the event’s first grantee, Front Yard Theater Collective, just recently put their grant to use. September’s free living-theater production of “History On Wheels” raised awareness of Miami’s female founder and original innovator, Julia Tuttle. The performance took place at various downtown locations including History Miami, Miami Circle, Bayfront Park and Pérez Art Museum Miami. Hildebrand calls the production a “feat of engineering” that engaged more than 300 participants in an organized bike ride comparable to Miami’s Critical Mass — but with a history lesson.

“Seeing the first microgrant put to use is what makes me most excited about the third SOUP,” Hildebrand said. “What I see now is the real impact this initiative can have.”

Stephany Torres, the “History on Wheels” organizer and performer, said that microgrant opportunities such as MIAMI SOUP are redefining arts funding and the arts themselves. She said it was the support of MIAMI SOUP, Olympia Theater and bike tour organizers at Emerge Miami that made the performance-in-motion feasible, safe and well received by the community.

“The advice that I have for people applying to grants like this is to understand that a little goes a long way,” Torres said. “A creative idea with a small budget can lead to really big things — things that grow and get more support down the road.”

Torres said she will continue to attend MIAMI SOUP alongside other supportive local artists from the Grand Central Theater, a theater that hosts Front Yard Theater Collective events once a month. As a result of the turnout for “History on Wheels,”  the Front Yard Theater Collective and Bike Walk Coral Gables are collaborating on a performance piece as part of the annual Gables Bike Day, she said.

“This is just the beginning for performance artists and creatives to have their ideas realized in the city,” she said. “It all starts with asking, ‘Well, if not now, then when?’”

Jenna Buehler is a Miami-based freelance writer.

Click here to register for the third MIAMI SOUP event, which will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 9  at Macy’s Test Kitchen at Dadeland Mall.

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