Taking advantage of an unorthodox arts grant opportunity, I secured funding for Night of 1,000 Fridas by pitching my project on stage while wearing a flower headband and standing next to paper-mache alien and tentacle sculptures.
The spectacle was part of D.C.’s Awesome Foundation Live Pitch. The Awesome Foundation is a worldwide organization with a local autonomous chapter in Washington, D.C. The group gives monthly micro-grants to projects they believe will make the city more awesome.
What makes something “awesome” can best be described by looking at some of the projects funded in the past. They helped start the D.C. Funk Parade, Skateboarding Santas delivering gifts, and literacy programs at laundromats.
While I thought I’d submitted a regular writing-based online application, unbeknownst to me, I’d applied for funding just in time for the Live Pitch, a performance-based evening similar to the T.V. show Shark Tank.
Though there was definitely a part of me that wanted to run from this, I recognized it as a great opportunity to get the word out about my project. The foundation took time to prepare the finalists. This included a one-on-one phone call with an Awesome Foundation representative to help me refine my presentation.
The feedback I heard from that session was that while I was prepared and organized, I wasn’t coming across as fun or awesome. After all, though this was serious business with some worthy projects, it was also a night out for the attendees, many of whom would be in costume since Halloween was days away.
I made a few adjustments. I added props including my sculptures of an alien, some tentacles, a devil head, and a portrait of Frida Kahlo painted on a toilet seat lid. I also recruited Teddy Beats and Mandy Kimlick to run through the audience to high five people with giant monster claws. I put fake flowers on my head.
It worked! I won the pitch and earned $1,000 for Night of 1,000 Fridas. I’ll use the money for prizes for D.C. artists, advertising, and partnerships with neighborhood organizations in the city.
This Could Go Boom, an all-female non-profit record label seeking to promote and distribute work of “under represented, gender-diverse people” won the audience choice award.
I got to know fellow finalist Ashley Quarcoo of D.C. Story Circle. She’s bringing communities together to share stories and bridge the gap between D.C.’s past and its ever-changing future.
Overall, though terrifying, working with the Awesome Foundation was a terrific experience. Everyone at the live event shared an interest in creative projects that could make D.C. better. The Awesome Foundation is volunteer run. Any money generated goes directly toward grants, so the people involved are dedicated and generous.
I’m grateful to have had this opportunity not only for the sake of the grant, but also to connect with some great people in the city. Furthermore, this is likely the only time in my life I will be handed a giant novelty check.