Volunteers for Boise's Charm School scurried about the Visual Arts Collective June 12 before Feast II setting out black cafeteria trays on long, mess hall-style tables, stirring huge pans of paella and tossing vast bowls of Caesar salad. Feast I winner Sam Johnson hauled in a green papier mache dinosaur head.
The Charm School's Feast dinner is a quarterly competition among Boise creatives to snag a crowd-funded micro grant. Attendees pay $20 admission, which includes a cafeteria-style dinner prepared by a rotating lineup of local chefs, a seat and a ballot. Each presenter has a few minutes on the VAC stage to pitch his or her idea, and at the end of the evening, attendees vote for the project they think deserves the grant, which is pooled from the door money.
But the event wouldn't be called "Feast" if there wasn't grub involved. Before the presentations, attendees lined up to fill their trays with paella from The Basque Market. There was a vegetarian variety—featuring generous amounts of zucchini and string beans—and a satisfyingly salty chorizo and clam variety. Guests picked up hunks of baguette from Acme Bakery and whoopie pies courtesy of Heather Plummer of H Bakery.
In all, there were 10 local artists pitching ideas at Feast II, including: Doug Bolles, Travis Campion, Josh Gross, Stephen Helecker and Cody Gittings, Heidi Kraay, Erin Mallea, Whitney Rearick, Eric Valentine, April Vandegrift and Tyler Walker.
The night began with a brief update from Johnson on King Dazbog, a 65-foot-long, 25-foot-tall, glow-in-the-dark dinosaur puppet that won the $1,000 Feast I grant.
"I was really flattered to be the winner of the first Feast micro-grant," he said.
The rest of the evening was marked by a jaw-dropping diversity of ideas, everything from Rearick's photo project set on the Boise Greenbelt modeled on Humans of New York, to Helecker and Gittings’ pitch to fund the editing of their short film, Smoke, based on Alan Heathcock’s short story.
Though the $1,000 Feast II grant ultimately went to Mallea's plan to mail art parcels to rural Idaho communities, many projects proposed at the event garnered an enthusiastic response from the crowd and murmurs of how they might secure alternate methods of funding.
Mallea’s Contact With Mystery included a detailed description of the hand-constructed parcels she’d like to make, as well as a breakdown of how many parcels the grant would fund—determining that each package, complete with art, a brief message explaining the project and postage, would cost $0.83. The cost analysis resonated with attendees.
"I would pay $0.83 for two people to have a magic moment," she said.
Following the presentations, ballots were collected from the audience, and a short while later, the winner was announced.
"I wish I had an envelope," said Chelsea Snow, Charm School co-founder and owner of Bricolage, before announcing that that Mallea had won the grant.
For a slideshow of all the action, click here.