Salt City DISHES links artists with community to fund projects

Only one of the nine project proposals would walk away with the $1,000 minigrant from the debut Salt City DISHES dinner on Sunday, but the intangible benefits, the networking and exposure each project gained from the event were just as invaluable.

And that was the goal all along.

DISHES debuts

Held in the beautiful Saint Clare Theater on the North Side, the DISHES dinner offered a little bit of everything: a sophisticated meal, an informal community gathering, a concert, a networking opportunity and the chance to award one of nine proposed public art projects with a $1,000 minigrant, generated by the $10-$15 admission price each participant paid.

A huge group of volunteers and vendors joined forces to make DISHES possible, beginning with co-founders and organizers Rachel Somerstein, Briana Kohlbrenner and Stasya Panova.

Their efforts were validated by a sell-out crowd of 135 people. Organizers announced Saturday that the theater would be at maximum capacity, and tickets they had planned to sell at the door would not be available.

"Once we knew that it was sold out and that people had gotten tickets in advance we all felt comfortable knowing it was going to be really successful," Panova said. "It met my expectations, even though my expectations were set high and I was hoping for a really amazing turnout and something outstanding."

The future of funding?

With money tight all around and arts taking an especially hard hit in every budget process, are community generated funding systems like DISHES the future of public art?

Kohlbrenner and Panova think so. The DISHES event was modeled after the FEAST program already popular in cities throughout the country, and the reception Syracuse gave the inaugural is a positive sign.

"I think this trend got teed up with the recession, there has been a lot of pullback in funding for the arts in a lot of cities across the county," Kohlbrenner said. "People don't want to wait around for corporate things going on outside the city, they're saying 'we should focus our energy right here,' and they're throwing the gloves off."

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