Yesterday, the Trustees of A2Awesome convened in the secret writing lab behind the Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair store in downtown Ann Arbor, and handed out another $3,000 in cash grants intended to make life the Ypsi-Arbor area more awesome. The cash awards were handed over in brown paper bags to artist Trevor Stone, 826michigan’s Amanda Uhle, and photographer Bill Streety, for projects which they had submitted through the organization’s website for consideration. With these three grants, A2Awesome has invested a total of $9,000 in the local community, making possible everything from an elementary education project involving bike-powered lighting systems to be used for growing vegetables, to a drama program at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility based on the works of William Shakespeare.
A2Awesome Chair Lisa Dengiz had the following to say: “It’s really amazing how many people in our community have brilliant ideas that can be realized with as little as $1,000. When we started this chapter of the Awesome Foundation almost a year ago, we had no idea just how much potential there was. Our grants, among other things, have helped launched Bona Sera Cafe on Michigan Avenue, bringing a renewed sense of vibrancy to downtown Ypsilanti, and put exercise equipment inside Ozone House, improving the lives of local at-risk youth. That’s incredibly gratifying.”
The three individuals/groups who received awards were:
Amanda Uhle on behalf of 826michigan… With their A2Awesome grant, 826michigan will be able, for the first time in four years, to bring the students who participate in their after-school tutoring program at Ypsilanti Middle School to the internationally-recognized non-profit’s creative writing facility (which is secreted behind the Midwest’s leading robot emporium) in Ann Arbor. These field trips will happen several times over the course of the school year. “We’ve made a great deal of progress with these students in the school setting, but we want to go further, and create memorable experiences for them,” says Uhle. “We want to get them out of their schools, where they’ve already been for ten hours, and bring them to this special place that we’ve created. We want them to know that a place like this exists.”
Spontaneous Art (Comprised of Natalie Berry, Chris Sandon and Trevor Stone)… With their A2Awesome grant, the Spontaneous Art team will set out on a Washtenaw County Tour. Performing regularly at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, the group, which is known for creating humorous and approachable interactive performances for the public, rarely has the opportunity to share their work in the greater Ann Arbor area. With the A2Awesome grant, they will be able to engage people in Chelsea, Dexter, Saline, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. They hope their surprise visits to these communities, will not just bring joy and laughter, but create environments where sincere interpersonal connections can flourish.
Bill Streety / Ypsi-Arbor Unsung Musical Heroes… With his $1,000 grant, Bill Streety, a past president of the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, will photograph and interview at least 40 area jazz and blues musicians, both young and old, as a way of documenting the musical activity taking place in our community today. The results will be self-published in book form (both digital and print), of which approximately 65 copies will be distributed to Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor school libraries. “With the shrinking educational budgets and the reduction in funding for the creative arts,” says Streety, “I see this as a way to preserve a piece of our shared history.”
And it’s kind of shaky, as I was eating cupcakes as I was shooting, but here’s video of the three recipients talking about their projects, which, thanks to these mini grants, will soon be coming to fruition.
A2Awesome, which is composed of 13 individuals, including yours truly, is organized under the banner of the Boston-based Awesome Foundation. The stated purpose of the local Ypsi-Arbor chapter is to provide seed funding for innovative, inspiring, and awesome projects envisioned by fellow community members that might not otherwise evolve into being. The organization intends to make one grant a month for the foreseeable future. All grants will be in the amount of $1,000.
Those with creative, inspired ideas are encouraged to apply for a grant online. Grant deadlines are on the last day of each month. (So you’d better hurry.)
Every month, chapter trustees contribute their own personal funds toward a $1,000, no-strings-attached grant to an awesome project that promises to make life better. In addition to Dengiz and myself, the group includes Dick Soble, Paul Saginaw, Jeff Meyers, Linh Song, Heather MacKenzie, Monique Deschaine, Hans Masing, Alice Liberson, Omari Rush, Tanya Luz and Larry Grant.
Created in 2009, in Boston, the Awesome Foundation now has chapters in 57 cities across the globe. In addition to the Ypsi-Arbor chapter, there are Awesome Foundation outposts in both Detroit and Grand Rapids. Projects funded have included efforts in a wide range of areas including technology, arts, social good, and beyond.