By Noah Johnson
Youngstown State University faculty members are on the search for local artists and technology projects leaders to come forth with proposals for Awesome Foundation Youngstown.
Awesome Foundation Youngstown will award a $1,000 grant to the winning proposal. Robert J. Thompson, YSU assistant professor of graphic design and interactive design and founding member of the Youngstown chapter’s twelve trustees, started the local chapter this past summer.
“Awesome Foundation Youngstown is one chapter of a global network of Awesome Foundations,” Thompson said. “My job is to find active and interested trustees and have them commit to a $100 buy-in that would eventually fill the $1,000 grant and to also promote our cause in the community.”
Youngstown received one of 64 Our Town grants from the National Endowment for the Arts to fund the public arts program, INPLACE (Innovative Plan for Leveraging Arts through Community Engagement).
“A lot of this was prompted by the NEA Our Town grant [that] we received to create the INPLACE project,” Thompson said.
Thompson said the INPLACE project really brought a lot of great funding and enthusiasm to the arts community. He intends to use Awesome Foundation Youngstown as a means of assuring an ongoing commitment to investing in Youngstown and its artistic community.
While the grant is focused on creative arts and technology projects within the city limits of Youngstown, Thompson said proposals from outside those categories are considered.
“We’ve gotten applications from folks in Zimbabwe, from startup entrepreneurs that need help funding their business and a grant proposal the other day from a gentleman that wants to buy helmets for local youth football teams,” Thompson said.
Thompson was first exposed to the Awesome Foundation through a contact in the Pittsburgh chapter. The Awesome Foundation has been funding projects since 2009 and veteran chapters like Pittsburgh have awarded several grants that impacted their community through grassroots projects.
“Getting the grant early on helped clear our doubts and affirm that we were onto something,” said Josh Corcoran, a member of one of the organizations impacted in Pittsburgh.
Awesome Pittsburgh’s website describes the organization, Spare Change, as a creating platform for those who have had success playing music to give back while documenting the journey in a professional docuseries.
The organization expanded their charitable busking operations to proper event hosting after receiving the grant. Their first event raised nearly $300 for the Rainbow Kitchen food bank and the video covering it received approximately 20,000 views in one week on their website www.sparechange.tv.
“Micro-grants are suited to these projects with a reasonable scope yet room to grow,” Thompson said.
Lillian Lewis, fellow trustee and YSU assistant professor of art education, agreed by saying she is really interested in something that can have a lasting impact or something that has a ripple effect.
“It’s something that is able to reach a number of people, maybe not just in its initial conception but in terms of its implications with how people work with it later,” Lewis said.
She admired the accessibility of the Awesome Foundation’s approach to community investment and said it eliminates a lot of barriers of entry to both funders and awardees.
Those interested in the competition must submit proposals to the foundation by Sept. 8.