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This Sloup Dinner Provided Self Help, As Past Winners Reminisced

A crowd at Climb So iLL
Zoë Scharf | Sloup

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec.10. 2013Sloup has been hosting monthly crowd-funding soup dinners in St. Louis since 2010. But the one on Dec. 8 at Climb So iLL (1419 Carroll St.), differed from the usual -- and not just because a gym staffer was clambering across the rock wall above the crowd. No arts groups presented proposals for bike-generated sound systems or giant murals. No votes were cast. There wasn’t even soup.

There were tacos, however, and that was enough for the 90 or so attendees who braved the cold to support Sloup’s first fundraiser for itself. Styled “Condensed Sloup” (a reference to the group’s decision to roll the November and December Sloups into one event), the evening was an opportunity for Sloup to look after itself after 40 events that have distributed a total of just under $20,000 to local artists, educators and grassroots entrepreneurs. According to co-organizer Zoë Scharf, Sloup raised about $800 from the evening, which, like other Sloups, asked for a $10 donation.

Compared to other Sloups, the event was relatively unstructured. With no groups presenting projects, the evening was given over to the food donated by Mission Taco, the kombucha provided by past Sloup winner William Pauley, and the music courtesy of Crank Out the Jams, a group of Sloup winners that offers bicycle-powered music for arts events.

Past beneficiaries spoke briefly about their projects. One of the speakers, Justin Strohm, never actually presented at a Sloup. At the October 2012 event, he heard Zach Swanson present a proposal for a series of art shows in run-down buildings. “I thought, ‘I have access to decrepit buildings,’” said Strohm, who works in real estate. He approached Swanson about working together, and though Swanson’s proposal didn’t win, the first edition of This Must Be the Place took place in August, hosting the Washington University BFA exhibit in a property at 2276 S. Jefferson.

“Most of these proposals are going to occur whether or not they get the funding,” Strohm said.

“I love the tenacity of [Sloup],” said Tom Nagel, who was involved with the Cotton Belt Building mural project, which won last January’s Sloup. “It’s every month. There’s some major economic empowerment going on here.”

Other speakers included Jessica Hentoff of Circus Harmony, Steve Housewright of Strings Attached (a group that’s won twice), and Bryan Payne and Kristin Cassidy, who turned their home into a museum for the Living Gallery Project.;

Henry Goldkamp, whose interactive poetry venture, What the Hell is St. Louis Thinking?, attracted attention from Time and NPR. Goldkamp said that when he started he had no expectations that his efforts would find a national audience, and credited Sloup for their help.

“It can make things happen in St. Louis, which is the greatest city of all time,” Goldkamp said.

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