Awesome Toronto: putting a bounty on the head of Mayor Rob Ford

    In my capacity as Dean of the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation, I found myself spending an hour or so this afternoon cruising around the web, checking up on other Awesome Foundation chapters across North America. And, in the process, I found something interesting. Our associates in Toronto, it would seem, have decided to go rogue.

    Before I get into the details, I should first tell you a little something about the organization and how it works. The Awesome Foundation, which now has a few dozen chapters across the country, and several on other continents, was formed in Boston in 2009, when a group of ten individuals agreed to start meeting on a monthly basis with the intention of pooling their money and making a $1,000 cash grant to a group or individual in their community with an idea for a truly awesome, visionary project. They solicited individuals with inspired ideas to come forward, and the rest, as they say, is history. They made good bets on good people, awesomeness was achieved, and the idea spread. To date, $797,000 has been granted through the Awesome network, which now spans the globe, and 797 incredible projects, many of which wouldn’t have otherwise seen the light of day, have been funded. Here in Washtenaw County, for instance, we’ve made almost twenty $1,000 grants since our inception a few years ago. Among other things, we’ve helped a permaculture educator build a bike-powered grow light system that he uses to teach local kids about plant growth, the power of the sun, and any number of other things… and, just recently, we helped get a new local microcinema series get launched. Like other chapters, we just let it be known that we’re looking to help get new and wonderful things of all kids off the ground, and people bring their brilliant, ambitious, sometimes crazy, ideas to us… At least that’s the way it happens here.

    The Toronto chapter, though, seems to be playing by a different set of rules. They aren’t just saying, “Come to us with your wonderful ideas.” They’re soliciting specific kinds of work. Specifically, they’re asking the people of Toronto for creative ways to get their scandal-prone Mayor, Rob Ford, out of office. I don’t want to overstate it, but they’ve essentially put a hit out on an elected official, at least in a poetic sense, which I think is both totally awesome, and totally understandable, given the circumstances. Here’s their formal request for proposals.

    AwesomeFord2

    I love it when organizations adapt to meet the challenges of their environment. Sure, it may be a dangerous precedent, but evolution can be a messy process. It can also, as we know, yield incredible results. The people of Toronto have been put in a unenviable position, and I think that it’s great that my Awesome associates up north have decided to set aside the rule book and solicit “subversively awesome” ideas as to how this “direct threat to (their) city’s inherent Awesomeness” might be neutralized.

    I don’t know that our chapter would be up for it, but it’s an interesting idea… Instead of seeding Awesome, what if, on occasion, we identified the impediments to Awesome, and set out to creatively eliminate them? It’s interesting food for thought this cold winter night.

    Speaking of A2Awesome, if you’d like to keep up to date on the projects we’ve funded, and our associated activities, please “like” us on Facebook. Or, better yet, send us your most awesome idea. Our next meeting is February 2, and we’ll be awarding $1,000 to the person with the most incredible idea submitted between now and the end of the month.

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      12 Comments

      1. Dave M
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 2:32 am | Permalink

        I read “microcinema series” as microenema series and pictured a guy standing in front of the committee with surgical tubing and syringes successfully pitching a new health product for professionals on the go.

      2. anonymous
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

        $1,000 for the best idea to arm the homeless.

      3. Elf
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

        Ford’s doing a pretty good job of getting himself out of office. Can he claim the $1,000?

      4. Lisa Dengiz
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        Who know Philanthropy could be so awesome! A2 Awesome can take some lessons here!
        Lisa Dengiz

      5. Kim
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        $1,000 for the best idea to stop the Water Street dollar store from opening?

      6. Eel
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        I was hoping that Ford would come to Ann Arbor for the Winter Classic. That would have been awesome.

      7. perspective
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        Ford has his fans.

        Here’s a quote from one such person.

        “He’s a hero. He’s awesome. He parties. He’s a lot more real than anyone else.”

        huffingtonpost.ca/2013/12/20/rob-ford-bobbleheads-robbie-bobbies-second-edition_n_4478126.html

      8. Torontonian in Exile
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        This is not new territory for Toronto Awesome. They funded an anti-Ford project in the summer of 2011 as well.

        From their site:

        Toronto, ON
        created by Ryan Ringer

        I strive to discover unknown territories of individual and collective being. To this end, I incite liminal experiences – the psychological and metaphysical subjective state of being between disparate existential planes – offering opportunities for one to embrace the strange and singular of our existence; to explore alchemical possibilities of the imagination; to live more intensely and freely in the here-and-now. I do a lot of different projects. From public interventions to roadtrips to multimedia parties to urban expeditions to installations. I am a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design’s Sculpture/Installation program, and am really competent designing/building stuff. My contributions to public/urban art in Toronto have been featured in Canadian Art Magazine, the Toronto Star and other media outlets.

        This project is a 50-ft-tall photo-transfer paste-up in response to mayor Rob Ford’s war on graffiti/street art culture in Toronto. It would be a giant (digitally rendered) image of Ford in a white painter’s suit eating graffiti hotdogs smothered in gravy he pours-on using a gravy boat shaped like a train (a “gravy train”). I’d get help from my talented street art friends (http://www.jessealbert.ca/index.html and http://www.at-aw.com/http://www.at-aw.com/ to name two) to produce and install the piece at a symbolic downtown location where it would be widely seen and photographed dynamically, like Graffiti Alley south of Queen Street. I will also work with my long-standing collaborative partner and documentary filmmaker (http://decipherimages.com) to document the process. The project will be the focal point of a short documentary video about the war on graffiti in Toronto.

        The subject matter of this project is very close to me, both as a street art practitioner and a creative human being. I see Rob Ford’s ignorant, my-way-or-the-highway attitude toward graffiti as an affront to free creative expression and an insult to people who strive for and want to live in a vibrant city of art and joy. While I don’t appreciate/condone senseless, destructive tagging, etc, I believe that street art is an important cultural/social/political form of expression that must be kept alive. It is sorely misunderstood and people like Rob Ford need to be challenged at every turn. Obviously, this project is time-sensitive. Now’s the time. So getting a grand from the Awesome Foundation would be… grand.

      9. T. Brian Hughes
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        Also worth noting, two members of Toronto Awesome left the board after the decision to fund the 50-foot-tall Ford piece referenced above.

        The story can be found here, toward the end.

        http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2011/12/27/toronto_awesome_has_a_bunch_of_great_ideas_and_some_duds.html

      10. Taco Farts
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

        “creatively eliminating the impediments to awesome” is basically what the people who work and vote for the Koch empire think they’re doing. They just define awesome differently.

        I’m not saying we sane people of the world don’t need to fight fire with fire. I’m just saying I’m not sure that’s what Awesome should become.

      11. Zaxxon
        Posted January 6, 2014 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

        Canadians are pretty anti fat people. It doesn’t surprise me they would sponsor art that would fat shame Ford.

      12. Robert
        Posted January 22, 2014 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        My offer of $1,000 cash to Mark if he’ll stop blogging still stands.

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