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Awesome Tampa Bay to fund creativity with $1,000 microgrants

Ten "trustees of awesomeness" have created a new regional organization aimed at providing $1,000 micro-grants to people with cool, community-uplifting ideas.

The titles may sound silly but the concept behind the group – to fund clever and simple ways to solve community problems or just show people a new way to look at something – is an intriguing addition to Tampa Bay's growing creative culture.

The group is called Awesome Tampa Bay. The 10 trustees have committed initially to ante up $400 apiece, or a total of $4,000 annually, to fund four, uh, "awesome" projects at $1,000 apiece.

"It's really a great, simple model," says T. Hampton Dohrman, one of the founders of Awesome Tampa Bay. "If there's no money, it's hard to make something happen. But $1,000 is enough to get something new off the ground. That's what we are about."

Traditional channels for getting funding for people trying to do interesting things can be burdensome, says Peter Kagayama. He's one of the 10 trustees, one of Tampa Bay's truly restless creatives and author of the recent book For the Love of Cities: The love affair between people and their places.

Giving $1,000 — a sum Kageyama considers not overwhelming but enough to accomplish plenty — fits an international model of micro-grants that has a track record of success, even in the United States.

The group's launched a web site — awesometampabay.org — where people can go to learn more. Folks with a cool idea can fill out a simple application online. The initial deadline is Nov. 1 and the first "awesome" project will be funded by early December.

Next year, the goal of the group is to provide up to two $1,000 projects in the spring, and two in the fall, Dohrman says. The USF graduate, who switched from a classical music major to accounting, still likes to mix arts and business. His non-profit Hampton Arts Management already provides micro-grants to area artists. It will handle the funding from the Awesome Tampa Bay trustees.

The idea for Awesome Tampa Bay came from the Awesome Boston group that first came up with the micro-grant concept for community projects. The "Awesome" idea took off in other cities, including Sacramento, Toronto and overseas. Now there is a Tampa Bay chapter, one of 25 in what is a growing, international network

"Awesome" chapters have funded dozens of creative projects, from construction of a giant hammock in Boston and a "cardboard fort"' night in Toronto to a guerilla chamber music series in Washington, D.C.

In Australia, a Melbourne grant helped fund a documentary of the "Tour de Timor" bicycle race.

How can $1,000 grants do something big enough to make a difference?

That's kind of the point of this effort and, for that matter, the whole micro-grant movement.

Small is beautiful.

Better to launch four $1,000 "awesome" projects — no strings attached and no claims to ownership — than one funded for $4,000 or more.

Keep in mind this is self funded. No tax money. No government grants. No borrowed money.

Just the commitment of 10 trustees of awesomeness.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@sptimes.com.

>>Fast facts

Meet 10 'trustees of awesomeness'

Michelle Bauer: founder and chief strategist, Common Language marketing firm.

Christine Burdick: president, Tampa Downtown Partnership

Diane Egner: publisher and managing editor, 83 Degrees Media, which tells positive stories of the area.

Brett Freeman: architect

Bob Devin Jones: artistic director, The Studio@620

Peter Kageyama: founder, Creative Cities Productions and author, For The Love of Cities

Joey Redner: founder, Cigar City Brewing

Michelle Royal: founder, HDYI (How Do You Innovate)

Todd Smith: executive director, Tampa Museum of Art

Paul Wilborn: executive director, Palladium Theater

Awesome Tampa Bay to fund creativity with $1,000 microgrants 09/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 2:57pm]
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