Bread KC goes on indefinite hiatus after Saturday’s dinner, artist Sean Starowitz says

It’s a bittersweet moment for those who have enjoyed attending – and those who have benefited from – the dinners held by microfunding arts organization Bread KC. Following Saturday’s event at the Drugstore, Bread KC – which was started by local artists Sean Starowitz and Andy Erdrich in 2010 – will go on an indefinite hiatus. 

For those unfamiliar, Bread KC works like this: Guests pay a minimum of $10 to attend a dinner featuring food and drinks donated by local chefs and companies, and while they eat, they listen to a trio of presentations from local folks who need a little money to get their arts-focused causes a boost. After dinner, the guests vote on which presenter won them over; votes are tallied, and the winner takes home the money brought in by the ticket cost. It’s completely no-strings-attached. 

It’s a pretty sweet opportunity for some grassroots arts funding, so we’re sad to hear that Saturday’s Bread KC could be its last. From the event page:

We will be going on an indefinite hiatus to take time to reflect on the project. Like we said, we started four years ago and haven’t taken time needed to investigate our work. The project has always been volunteer run and we are not getting in applications. We think it may have run its course but can’t be for certain unless we take some time to reflect, re-imagine or even better, maybe a younger generation of artist will do a better job than we could have ever imagined.

It’s becoming more and more evident that fundraising efforts are being more targeted to individuals. We’ve lost track of the number of online crowd-sourced funding models that are around these days. The fact is, funding for the arts really isn’t on the radar anymore when it comes to the government. And as a nation, we’re being confronted with all sorts of issues: with a limited budget, if it comes down to funding the public school system or a women’s shelter or an art organization, the arts are likely going to be considered a lower priority. That being said, we think we’ve taught the value of local support and the potential of getting a lot of people willing to donate a little rather than one person to donate a lot. The bottom line is, if you want to make your city an interesting place, you should do whatever you can to help support people that are doing interesting things.

“It’s not technically the final [Bread KC], but we’re going to take at least a year off,” Starowitz explains. “I think we’ve been selective about our work. We started doing it once a month, then we started doing it once a quarter. We’ve been able to raise over $25,000, which is great, but the landscape has changed quite a bit since we started Bread KC four years ago, and we really need to think about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and manage it in a way that’s meaningful.” 

Starowitz says that though the community is still invested in Bread KC, the last four years have seen some decline in applications for funding. 

“We’re still selling out a hundred-plus tickets, so obviously it still really means something to the community,” Starowitz says. “But I think a lot of times, public projects – especially community projects – suffer prolonged life support, and that’s not what I want to happen here. I think we, as a group [of Bread KC volunteers], really want to investigate what we’re doing and be plugged into the community in a way that’s responsive, and I think taking a year off will do that.” 

Starowitz emphasizes that this isn’t a sad thing for him or for Bread KC, and he adds that the three projects slated for the upcoming Bread KC are all worth hearing out. The projects up for funding at Saturday’s dinner are all centered around writing: high schooler Caroline Meek of Young Writers KC; Stephanie French of LittleHowl, a youth-engaged poetry project; and the KC Wordshop, a collaborative space on language and writing. 

Chef Andrew Heimburger, formerly of Cleaver & Cork and now at Happy Gillis, will be preparing the food on Saturday. Dinner starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 6, at the Drugstore (3948 Main). For more info on the dinner or to purchase tickets, go here

For more on Starowitz’s involvement in the arts and community, go here

See also: 
Best Alternative Funding Source for the Arts: Bread KC
Talking shop, bread and social practice with community artist Sean Starowitz
Bread KC at Maker’s Village, 6/26/14 (Slideshow)

Categories: A&E, Art