Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sloup #1: February 2010

Your name or the title of your organization:
The Urban Studio Café

What you will do with your Sloup Grant:
The Urban Studio Café will purchase a YUDU Personal Screen printer to use in evening art screen-printing workshops for teens in the community. Additionally, teens will create Urban Studio Café apparel (totes, shirts, scarves) that will not only promote the café but will be unique, creative, pieces of art. Apparel will be sold at the cafe and profits will be reinvested in Urban Studio community programs.

A little about yourself and what led you to this project:
In the summer of 2007, I started working at The Urban Studio teaching photography and media literacy to teens. This summer job turned into a passion for the Urban Studio’s neighborhood. I love Old North St. Louis, home to Crown Candy Kitchen, because of its strong sense of community, character, and diversity. However, due to years of disinvestment, the neighborhood lacks local businesses, job opportunities, community gathering spaces, and positive outlets for youth.

After spending time working with the community, we decided to work on creating a solution that addressed the aforementioned issues while showcasing the strengths of the neighborhood. This experience birthed The Urban Studio Café, a non-profit, social venture café that opened in September, 2009. Profits from coffee and food sales will generate sustainable funding for The Urban Studio’s youth art programs. The Urban Studio Café creates jobs for low-income individuals, fosters a sense of creativity and possibility, and strengthens social bonds while serving a quality cup of joe. This social venture won the Skandalaris Center's Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Competition in April, 2009.

A previous project of yours, and some ways it both succeeded and failed (this can be entirely unrelated to your proposal):
A previous project was Picture the Future, a darkroom photography summer camp for youth ages 11-16. We took the participants on photo shoot field trips to places like City Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park, the Loop, and the Contemporary Art Museum, and spent the afternoons in the darkroom developing and printing the pictures. The youth produced incredibly powerful photographs and were able to explore their city through the lens. Success! The failure of this program was that we couldn’t continue providing the program the following summer because of lack of funding.

Your power animal and/or icon:
See power icon below. If you tattoo this on your body, I will give you free coffee for LIFE from the Urban Studio Café.


Your name or the title of your organization: Jordan Hicks (My project is a collaboration with photographers David Johnson and Brett Beckemeyer. It also includes photos by Lyndsey Scott and Michael Allen).

What you will do with your Sloup Grant: This summer, I worked with two photographers to create a set of 19 postcards about St. Louis' urban landscape - specifically, how it is impacted by the city's precipitous 59% drop in population from 1950 – 2000. There are cards about the urban wilderness on the former Pruitt-Igoe Public Housing complex site; the reuse of materials from demolished buildings; abandoned schools; urban agriculture, and more. I selected 19 sites, the photographers shot at the sites, and I wrote text for the back of each card. We printed a small run of cards. Instead of selling the cards in shops, we gave a few sets to friends, and left a few sets out in public places, to be picked up, discussed, and shared. I left sets of cards at the arch grounds, the downtown public library, and City Garden. I have two sets of these cards at home, if you'd like to see them.

With the Sloup Grant, I would print more sets of these cards (and $10 could print about 1 and 1/4 sets at Kinko's, the least expensive option) and leave them, free for the taking, in more public places. I would like to leave them at markets, parks, and institutional buildings (places with a lot of foot traffic), but I am open to / looking for more suggestions. Also (though I would still need to coordinate with the photographers) I would like to add a few cards to the set – maybe one about squatting, one about urban wildlife, one about brownfield reclamation, and one about that old core of a building on the north side that fireman use for training.

A little about yourself and what led you to this project: In the last couple of years, I've been reading a lot about urban planning and design issues. I became pretty interested in work being done in shrinking cities – cities that are losing population, and as a result have lots of leftover, abandoned building and landscapes. I noticed, around St. Louis, a lot of interesting and unique approaches to the problem, many of them in direct ideological conflict with one another. I felt like that was the real story about urban planning in St. Louis, and it is ultimately more pertinent and more interesting than the "urban development" issues that garner attention in the press – sports stadiums, downtown lofts, highway improvements, and new shopping districts. I wrestled with various ideas to address this, but ultimately decided on the postcards for their symbolic value (being postacrds and all) and their accessibility (Few people will pick up a two-page text article, found sitting on park bench. Many will pick up beautiful pictures by talented photographers).

A previous project of yours, and some ways it both succeeded and failed (this can be entirely unrelated to your proposal): I feel like Open Lot has been successful in some ways: it has been a good studio environment for a number of artists, a good venue for visiting musicians, and a good gallery space. However, when we (Me, and my friends Aaron and Jonathan, who have since moved to Toronto and Nashville, respectively) founded the project, I think we intended to have more community involvement. We weren't really sure what that meant, but we discussed hosting free classes for kids, creating some kind of communal arts library, or maybe public service projects – something that extended beyond our own social group (you know, young, college educated people with an interest in the arts). We never really got around to that, and if I start another similar project elsewhere, I will want that to be part of it.

Your power animal and/or icon: Komodo dragon, or maybe a Gila Monster. Some kind of big lizard. They're like contemporary dinosaurs.

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