A bowl of soup is a comfort. Whether you are seeking relief from a head cold or cold weather, or want to pour your soul into cooking a meal shared with friends, soup is the answer.
In 2013, Victoria Williams, Maureen Brondyke and Brooke Ray infused those ideas of sustenance and community into Charlottesville SOUP—a semi-annual dinner series where attendees listen to four-minute pitches, then vote for one project to receive proceeds from the $10 ticket sales and donations.
“I knew local artists who were struggling to afford to make their art and I thought SOUP might be a way for a lot of people to give a little and help fix that,” says Williams. She learned about SOUP’s model from Kate Daughdrill, a UVA graduate who co-founded The Garage before moving to Detroit to get her MFA and co-found Detroit SOUP in 2010.
Brondyke says at the first SOUP “There were over 250 people in line [at The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative], stretching all the way down Graves Street, and we had to cut it off at 70. People were so excited they gave us money for tickets even though they couldn’t come in.”
In May 2013, photographer and former McGuffey artist Megan Bent won the $1,720 grant to fund her journey biking and photographing the California Coast Classic—an eight-day, 525-mile bike ride that benefits the Arthritis Foundation.
“My experience to have a body of work that was very personal, to be supported and endorsed locally helped me feel like the work I was doing mattered,” says Bent, who lives with autoimmune arthritis, and now makes art while teaching photography at the University of Hawaii. “That was really monumental to me—not just to make [my art], but to have a whole community say we want to see that work.”
Cellist Wes Swing and visual artist Bolanle Adeboye won $2,696 last October. The grant funded a project rendering participants’ self-reported emotions in audio feedback loops woven together by Swing, while Adeboye created a tapestry of dip-dyed cards in colors corresponding with six major emotions: anxiety, depression, anger, love, joy and hope.
“[SOUP] was a big part of why the project moved forward,” says Adeboye. “It’s starting a race at the top of the hill as opposed to sloughing it. We’re still rolling off that momentum.”
On June 20, seven more artists will pitch projects during SOUP’s tenth installment. The lineup includes flutist Elizabeth Brightbill and cellist Andrew Gabbert of the duo Terra Voce, former New City Arts resident and textile artist Tobiah Mundt and collaborator Kimberly Anderson, opera singers Wesley Diener and Rachel Mink, and illustrator Laura Lee Gulledge. Brondyke anticipates that at the conclusion of this SOUP, the program will have raised more than $20,000 to fund and inspire local artists.
Brightbill and Gabbert hope the grant will fund their third album, a mix of Brazilian choro and jazz, traditional Galician folk, and 18th-century Iberian dances.
Mundt and Anderson will pitch a movable, installation piece featuring a six-foot round loom made by sculptor Lily Erb.
“There are lots of different fibers that make up this city,” Mundt says. “We’ll have people weave their Charlottesville experience into one big tapestry to represent the city as best we can.”
Diener and Mink are planning a staged production of Autumn Valentine, a song cycle for soprano and baritone with music by Ricky Ian Gordon and poetry by Dorothy Parker that addresses topics like intimacy and sexuality.
“The presentation forces us to ask ourselves important questions about our project: ‘Why does this matter to me? How could it matter to someone else?’” says Diener. “Even if we don’t get funding, the input we hear from SOUP guests will be invaluable.”