Venturous Theater Fund

NEA doesn’t fund individual works? No problem. There’s Venturuous Theater Fund, supports innovative approaches to theatrical production by encouraging theater-makers to take risks in the creation of new work for the stage. How about that? A funder that ENCOURAGES risk-taking. They want to GIVE ARTISTS MONEY DIRECTLY.

At least that’s what they say at first. Then there’s a little one liner that says they can’t actually give money directly to individual artists. Also they don’t accept unsolicited work. And your organization has to be tax-exempt or fiscally sponsored by a tax-exempt organization to qualify. They’re run through/facilitated by the Tides Foundation, which actively promotes change toward a healthy society, one which is founded on principles of social justice, broadly shared economic opportunity, a robust democratic process, and sustainable environmental practices. Basically, they offer a range of services, including grant facilitation for foundations doing the kind of work they want to promote.

So, this answers a question I’ve had for a while, which is how do organizations like Woolly Mammoth support new play development beyond grants from the National New Play Network. That’s good. They’re guidelines seem restrictive, but not unusually so. But now I have additional questions, like where does the money come for this? Who’s the backer?

Interesting MVP’s from Food Cycle and Poo Pourri

Since we’re all working on videos for our ventures, I thought I would share a few from two newer ventures. The first video comes from a social enterprise and the other is from a commercial enterprise.

Food Cycle is a social enterprise in the UK that takes surplus food from grocery stores, volunteers, and contributed kitchen space to prepare meals for those who need them. They operate under what they call the triple donation model to create hubs, or sites where they offer services. They started out with two in 2009 and have expanded to 14. I like their video because it explains and shows what they do in a fairly simple yet very compelling way. Take a gander.

Food Cycle 2

You’ve likely already heard all about Poo Pourri by now, so I won’t go into detail about the enterprise. The popular commercial of theirs is one of my favorites because of its combined humor, use of imagery, and simple explanations. If you haven’t seen it, then prepare to be tickled.

Poo Pourri



SCRAP USA – it’s a lot like my enterprise.

SCRAP is a 501(c)3 organization originally founded in 1998 by a group of teachers in Portland, Oregon who wanted to find a home for their leftover classroom materials. Over the past 17 years, SCRAP has expanded its reach and now includes locations in Washington DC; Denton, TX; Arcata, CA; Traverse City, MI; and New Orleans, LA.

SCRAP HQ is a donation-based storage center and retail storefront that houses an ever-changing and diverse stock of recycled items for purchase. SCRAP also provides a range of educational opportunities within the community and hosts local reuse-based artists in our Re:Boutique retail boutique, which is located next door to their main “creative reuse center”.

SCRAP does not partner with the city to facilitate pick up of donated items – donors must drop off items they wish to donate at the SCRAP reuse center. SCRAP also offers memberships at varying levels (featuring clever titles like Dumpster Diver and Trash Compactor) with a range of benefits, including discounts on used materials at the reuse center and at partnering local businesses.

The SCRAP DC location was founded in 2010, and is currently located on 12th St NE.They also have a Re:boutique, membership program, space rentals, and craft events for recyclers of all ages. I believe SCRAP DC is currently supported by a dedicated group of volunteers, including the two local Directors. I would be interested to know what their relationship is with the local arts organizations in town. Right now the national organization’s circle of support seems pretty small and mostly limited to the PDX area.

One last note – one of the DC Director’s names is also Heather, so I have to wonder if there is some weird glitch in the matrix, and I am really looking a webpage created by myself five years into the future. Either way, an interesting organization with a great mission that is worth checking out.

Alamo Drafthouse

I am certain I have talked about this place to some of you before, but Alamo Drafthouse is this amazing and wacky cinema meets brewhouse that infiltrates the idea of making movies engaging. Started in Austin, TX, they usually show a small selection of current movies out in theaters (mostly the indies) but they also show old, quirky movies and have events like sing-a-longs and quote-a-longs to classics, meet the director evenings, marathons of sagas like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, as well as special comedy acts where comedians do improve voice overs on your favorite films, transforming them into an entirely different experience.

To add even more excitement to this they offer food and a beer list to die for that you can enjoy throughout your film because they have a wait staff that never gets in your way because of their cleverly designed theatres and paper ordering system.

To top it all off they have recently been creating film experiences and taking them outside the theatre (A program they call the Rolling Roadshow). For example, they have a day trip for a fee where you float the river and at the end you watch Jaws in your tube, on the water, and get dinner and beer included in your cost. They also have a kayak and camping adventure where Deliverance serves as the entertainment for the evening.

They also have some free films (or some for $1) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (at select theatres) on a first come first serve basis. And a free films in the park series in the summer as part of a partnership with Austin Park Foundation.

They are truly a great example of a super for profit model being innovative and taking what their audience wants and applying it to their products. They also leverage the environments of the cities they are located in, partnering with local community organizations and utilizing the assets of their surrounding environments.



In light of our etsy field trip to WAMU, Gumroad is a content distribution website that allow digital artists to easily sell their works.  Check them out!

They also have a quite prolific blog that offers interviews and advice from digital artists selling in their marketplace.

Punchdrunk Theatre Company- Sleep No More

This is kind of a twofold post- the first interesting venture being the theatre company Punchdrunk.  They are a British theatre company focusing on site specific work, which they curate for themselves.  In 2011, they took over three warehouses in NYC and turned them into The McKittrick Hotel, where they produce a theatre experience called Sleep No More. A wildly interactive show, the audience silently follows one or more characters of their choosing for a silent performance of Macbeth throughout the hotel and 2.5 hours.  The interesting part to me is that Punchdrunk is funded by Arts Council England and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, but they do work all over the globe.  There is also a ‘support us’ page on their site, so I’m wondering how that works.  Also, how did they build the capital for the McKittrick Hotel?

Art market merchandise throwdown

I’ve been doing a lot of research on websites that sell arty stuff to people (duh). There are quite a number of new – within the last two years – websites that are really honing in on this “artist” and “maker” audience. The gap in online services to these groups was clearly identified and now the internet is doing what it does best – create access for more people to produce/consume more things. Common threads? Lots of editorial – content is key. Everything is very image heavy, easy to share. The prices are accessible and there is a (fairly) unified aesthetic. Also, the websites all followed a similar pattern with different augmentations: Shop, Meet the artists, Blog. In fact, I was so struck by this that the images preceding each description below are of the header content on each site. It’s almost formulaic!

Now, I said they were all the same, but this one is a little different. That's because Goodsmith's content is almost entirely maker-generated.


“The Marketplace for Makers” is very similar to Etsy – makers set up their own shops on the site through which they sell their crafts. They have the edge on accessibility for the vendors, with free-to-very-cheap membership.  The quality of the craft is higher, though already there are mass-producers slipping in. They also emphasize a network between makers, which is something I talk about a lot with TEN. They even have a group sale promotion, whereby the artist agrees to bring down the price per item if a target quantity are sold. The model here is about scaling up. There’s a huge content generation aspect, with a member-generated blog, features, newsletters, and images everywhere. Very Tweet-able, very Pin-able.

Screen shot 2014-04-22 at 12.08.01 AM

Of a Kind

“Know and Own” is also a marketplace that connects designers (mostly fashion, but also home goods) with buyers. They sell limited runs direct from designers in editions of 30-85. Most of the products are made in the US, but it’s not clear who exactly is making them. The price is variable, with most goods falling between $50 and $200. Again, editorial is key – lots of it.

Screen shot 2014-04-22 at 12.08.07 AM

Art Markit

Art Markit is very new (launched Jan 2014) and a little bit different from anything I’ve seen. Started by a very well-known curator in New York, they sell merchandise that is linked to emerging- to well-known artists. It’s confusing, but they work with both artists who are actually producing the work sold, as well as artists like Ai Weiwei, who consent (I assume) to have some iconic image of their work printed on a snowboard or sunglasses (and we’re talking mostly clothes, small home goods, and gifts, here). They produce a lot of curated content – interviews, blog posts, lists – with major artists and designers. There are a lot of little features throughout – artists can propose projects and if the curatorial team likes it, they’ll link them with vendors (I think) to produce and sell it. They also partner with arts non-profits who receive a percentage of the proceeds. There’s a lot going on and what looks to be very little revenue-generating activity so far.

Screen shot 2014-04-22 at 12.08.11 AM


Baye posted about this one a while ago, so I won’t go too deep on the description. The aesthetic is art world-y because it’s curator-driven and the founder is connected in the scene. They only deal in prints.


New Music Co-op

Located in Austin, Texas, the New Music Co-op is a 501(c)3 organization that creates and presents new music. It is a collaborative of music performers and composers from a wide range of genres. With its members, the organization operates on a consensus basis, and they have been presenting concerts since 2001.


NEW INC is a shared workspace and professional development program designed to support creative practitioners working in the areas of art, technology, and design — housed in the Mew Museum. They are staking their claim as “the first museum-led incubator” and leveraging their access to the museum, artists-in-residence, museum specific programs, and their partner, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

In addition to the space and access to the Museum’s community, the program will develop a 12 month program geared toward professional development, which will include business training, skill development, lectures, seminars, and workshops, as well as peer-to-peer knowledge exchange through networking and community building opportunities.

The program just started accepting applications on April 1st and is set to launch this summer with a community of about 100 members. Lets You Volunteer to Pay Off Loans! Would a Social Enterprise Model Like This Also Work for Artists?


If you have a student loan (and we’re guessing you do—the researchers at say seven of 10 college students who graduated in 2013 owed money on a student loan, averaging nearly $30,000 in debt each) or would love to help others knock down those payments, you’ll want to know about SponsorChange.

Here’s how it works: Graduates with student loan debt sign up to volunteer at organizations that need manpower. The grads help their community by putting in hours toward that organization’s goals. Then donors who have also signed up at SponsorChange reimburse volunteers by paying down their student loans. So the donors help the nonprofit get free manpower rather than making a traditional donation. The volunteers get help with their student loans—and gain useful work experience along the way.


What would happen if the artists and host-funders adopted this model? Many artists already volunteer their work — what if conservatory/art school loans could be funded the same way?