Brattleboro, VT

Contact Name
Margaret Shipman
Project Dates
three times a year
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2013
Tags
Event, Networking
Based on similar programs happening all around the world, B.E.A.N. Micro-Grant Dinners enhance the vitality of art and artists in our community by providing artists with much-needed financial support and encouraging dialogue and collaborative decision-making between artists and the general public.

B.E.A.N.also aims to change the face of arts funding — from a top-down model with limited interaction between funders and recipients to one that features direct, personal contact between donors and their beneficiaries, allowing virtually anyone to become a philanthropist.

For $12 anyone can attend a dinner catered and served by the Elliot Street Cafe, with live music by local musicians. Over dinner, guests review and discuss funding requests for local art-related projects.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
Providing funding to artists and to small community projects.
Have they changed over time?
The groups who receive funding tend to be community projects or school projects and not so much individual artists. Because of this our
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
Elliot Street Cafe
Brattleboro Museum & Art Center
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
We created an online entry form linked to our website and a hard copy entry form applicants could deliver to Elliot Street Cafe or BMAC.
As people applied we converted their applications to a template which was distributed at the dinner/ vote event.
At the event diners/voters had time to review the applications while eating, then before votes were cast, the group decided if there should be one large grant or multiple smaller grants distributed that night.
Have they been refined over time?
We have raised the cost of the dinner/vote to $12 per person (from $10) with $2 coming back to us to help cover costs.
We hire musicians to play at each dinner.
We have made multiple grants per event the standard.
We now require that applicants attend the dinner to receive the grant.
We are starting a new idea where one grant for 10% of the proceeds will be awarded to a randomly selected application each time.
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles?
Finding applicants has lately become an obstacle. When the project first began we would have 80 applicants for each dinner. In the last year or so they have lessened to about 20 per dinner. We have had some feedback from artists that the grants are usually awarded to applicants working with children or community groups. I think this means that these are the projects our community finds valuable and wants to fund. So rather than change the way B.E.A.N. works (by making different categories for example) we have decided to let it evolve naturally. We are proud that the B.E.A.N model is to allow this change to happen.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
We are expanding our marketing and social media word of mouth -as well as contacting past applicants and asking them to resubmit previous applications.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. Research- Look online at all the various examples of how similar projects have been set-up around the country. There are so many different ways it can work!
2. Organize- Decide on a structure that works for you- maybe that means a group of ten friends who want to have a potluck where they throw $10 a piece in per month to fund each other's art projects - or a museum who partners with a cafe to pull in a bigger crowd a few times a year - or a school or church.
3. Allow it to evolve. Grassroots projects with many individuals investing and feeling ownership might tend to develop in ways you don't expect. Don't be afraid of the change, it might keep the project alive and interesting.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
We have established a partnership with a local Cafe to help us host the event every three months.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We have about 80 diners who have attended multiple dinners.
We have distributed regular micro-grants to about fifteen projects (averaging about $250 per grant).
Were there unexpected impacts?
We distributed over $4,000 to artists impacted by Hurricane Irene in a special "B.E.A.N. vs. Irene" event we held in 2011.
CCX Workshop Handout