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Voters give proceeds from Sunday Soup #8 to music collective

Underwriting support from:
The spread, provided by six main volunteer chefs.

The spread, provided by six main volunteer chefs. /Denise Cheng

Organizers count the ballots. $180 was awarded to the Grand Rapids Music Collective Studio.

Organizers count the ballots. $180 was awarded to the Grand Rapids Music Collective Studio. /Denise Cheng

Organizers started early today to set up for Sunday Soup #8. By the time the first volunteer cooks trickled in, the Division Avenue Arts Collective (115 S. Division) had been tiled with homemade benches, decorated with freshly carved pumpkins and draped with braids of black and orange cuffs. The six volunteer cooks brought in several steaming pots: Two types of leek soup, a couple of vegan chilis, ginger squash soup, kale-chorizo stew and a beet curry with rice to boot.

Up till 6 p.m., more food kept coming: Bread rounds, corn bread, toasted coconut flakes, soy chai, apple slices and caramel sauce, bowls and mugs, people waving $5 bills. Everyone attended to hear two project proposals over bowls of soup. Each patron forked over $5 for their meal and a vote.

"You vote on the one you think should get all the proceeds from the event," said Miriam Slager, one of the organizers.

At 6:30 p.m., the crowd settled in and the first presenter took the stage. Kyle Colter was presenting on behalf of the Grand Rapids Music Collective Studio, a group of 12 musicians who rent 470 Market SW to compose and practice music.

"After being active in the GR music scene for a little over five years, I've become a little bit more aware of how difficult it is to find a place to practice in town," Colter began.

City ordinances and rental monopolies translate into scarce space for musicians to compose and record music. "It is very difficult to find places in this city to practice, where it is legal, where you don't have to think in terms of whether or not you can get away with it."

The collective had managed to find a space to practice and would apply the Sunday Soup #8 proceeds toward rent. In the last week, the group had discovered that their treasurer, who is one of the two people on the lease, had been embezzling the collective's rent money, and now the musicians were three months behind on rent. They had already managed to pay off the first two months but still needed $260 to be back in the black.

"If we lose the space, it's a pretty big hit to us, and I'd like to think the Grand Rapids music scene in general," Colter said. The musicians belong to four main bands: Pistol Brides, Lazy Genius, A Paschal Circus and Night Toucher. "We're already looking into more transparency in our system."

After a brief pause for the crowd to get seconds of soup, Emily Johnston presented her proposal, Surreal Meal. Surreal Meal was Emily's idea for a quarterly gathering of artists and friends of the arts community.

"It's more or less just to diversify our local culture. We have The Soup, we have bars, we have theaters, we have these islands all over the place where you can expect to see someone … but the surreal meal will become a community outreach," Johnston said. "'Collaborate' is the name of the game."

The quarterly meal would be open to anyone and would take place at a different venue each season, from public and business spaces to artists' homes.

"There's a lot of architecture in the city that could be respected and utilized. There's really an unlimited option, numbers of places to create this surreal meal." Some of the themes Johnston spouted were sausages in a stairwell, pancakes on the beach, sushi in the winter and crepes on the roof.

"Before you walk in, you'll know the whole environment has been transformed for this one event," Johnston said. "God knows what happens after the Surreal Meal gets out."

The audience then broke into smaller groups to discuss the merits of each project. As votes were being counted, Uma Mishra, winner of Sunday Soup #3, gave an update on her project.

Mishra's proposal was to buy a tripod to make a documentary of a water project she was overseeing this summer in Ghana. The project had installed 30 water filters to benefit 260 villagers with clean water, and another project had been started farther north.

"Unfortunately, due to time and getting malaria twice, we do have a lot of footage, but it's not going to encompass itself into a documentary just yet," Mishra said. "It's going to be a longer process than I expected, and that's okay."

Mishra has since grown the project into a nonprofit, Love is What We Are, and will return to Ghana in December to further its reach.

George Wietor, another co-organizer of Sunday Soup, then stepped on stage to unveil the website for the Sunday Soup network. Users can browse the site to learn about 11 Sunday Soup spin-offs happening around the world, find out what projects have been funded and what meals have been created.

"We launched it two weeks ago, and since that time, there's been a couple of projects that none of us have ever heard of that have added themselves to the map," Wietor said. InCUBATE, a Chicago-based group, initiated the first Sunday Soup in 2007.

The final announcement before presenting the Sunday Soup winner came from Mike Wolf, a visual arts student at Grand Valley State University. As part of the Society for Experiential Artistic Services, he and a friend had designed t-shirts for $10 each. Since the size of each Sunday Soup mini-grant is dependent on the number of attendees, SEAS decided to donate the proceeds to Sunday Soup to create a reliable funding base.

"We're working on creating a PayPal service because it's getting bigger than I thought it would be," Wolf said.

The crowd began a drum roll as Slager called Colter to the stage, awarding him $180 drawn from 38 votes. Colter will return to the next Sunday Soup with an update.

"We'd like a song written for Sunday Soup," Slager joked.

Although Sunday Soup typically happens on the last Sunday of each month, the next Sunday Soup will combine November and December soups on Dec. 12 to accommodate the holiday season. It will be a potluck, and anyone interested in contributing can contact the Sunday Soup committee.

Disclosure: I have applied for Soup three times (but never won), made soups in the past and emceed Sunday Sundaes #5. My coworker is a co-organizer of Sunday Soup.

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good times - soup, bread, jack-o-lanterns and caramel and apples!

we decided to switch to use American Apparel so the price tag got bumped up to $12 for local pickup and $15 (including shipping) if you're ordering from outside GR.

surreal meal. holy cow. brilliant.

emily is constantly coming up with the wildest shit. i'm in love with it.

wish i could have been there to munch and vote.

love this city.