Feast RVA: People helping people, people eating food

The first Feast RVA has come and gone. Should you hand over your money to support a creative project at the next meeting? Read on, gentle feaster, read on!

It sounds so impressive to say, “Oh yeah, this weekend I funded a creative endeavor, no big deal. I do it once every couple of months.” And I know because I said it to myself in the mirror while trying on pearls and quilted jackets. But guess what, bros, I wasn’t lying. Because I attended the inaugural voyage of Feast RVA!

And guess another what! You, too, can pat yourself on the back for getting someone’s artistic dreams off the ground.

Beginning in Brooklyn, FEAST aimed to raise proceeds for creative projects via a delicious dinner. That is, the feasters would pay money to attend, listen to some pitches, and vote for the one they thought should receive the pot. It’s such a simple idea: let these small projects get a headstart within an artistic culture that, especially in New York, can be a little daunting when you’re trying to seek out funding.

Johnny Hugel and Josh Epperson bring FEAST to Richmond, renaming it Feast RVA and unleashing it on our town this past weekend. “I wanted to do something,” says Hugel. “And he brought Feast.” When pressed for just a tad more information as to how it all began, Hugel elaborated: “I’ve known [Epperson] for awhile, but it was only recently that I heard him describing a website, and I realized he was working on similar things as I. It highlighted my frustrations about Richmond being insular amongst its creative communities. So I started talking with him and some others about what we could do to help bring people together.”

And, on Friday, October 14 in the Quirk Gallery parking lot (that sounds way less elegant than it really was), Feast RVA made its debut.

About 50 of us chatted at covered, candlelit tables with lights strung above us, throwing some drinks back, waiting for the presentations to begin, and hungrily eyeing The Cellar Door’s buffet-style spread in the corner (only after we listen can we feast, that’s the rule). Then Rebecca Johnson, Anna Wittel, and Nicole Lang got up to speak, all backed by audio, visual, audiovisual, and edible presentations. They each had five minutes to explain their proposed project and where exactly our hard-earned money would go.

Hugel and Epperson had explained earlier that they’d received many more submissions than they’d originally expected, but they’d winnowed it down to these three after much deliberation. It was easy to see why. Though their endeavors ranged in size and scope, all three hopefuls had a cohesive plan on which they’d clearly already made headway. In other words, this was going to happen with or without us, but we could seriously help them along if we voted for them.

Johnson’s extremely thorough audio map of Richmond promised to document the sounds of our city via interviews and other recordings (she needed the money for a better recorder), Wittel was partnering with a photographer to expose how all of us fetishize objects (they wanted to set up a gallery show), and Lang plans to open a bakery (our money in that case would go towards setup costs).

Then, we all discussed among ourselves. The folks around me took their vote seriously, and pondered whether or not a business venture truly fit with Feast’s mission to fund artists, especially since that $500 prize would be one small drop in a fairly large bucket, whereas $500 could neatly cover something like a gallery show 100%. But the spirit is there–Richmonders trying to get things done. Other musings: Would the gallery show really push any innovative envelopes? Would the audio map come together as an interesting whole? Would there be enough food left by the time this line shortens? Why didn’t we heed their advice to bring a jacket?

Here’s where one of the more weirdish parts of Feast comes in. You discuss while you eat, you vote via a ballot, and you watch as your money may or may not go to the thing you want it to go to. That’s democracy, though, it’s put to a vote and you’ve agreed to go with the outcome. These projects were so solidly planned that it was hard to imagine that they wouldn’t at some point receive the funding they needed (it’s only $500, after all), but it was sad to know that at least one person’s hopes would be a tiny bit crushed while we all shoved sushi into our mouths.

In the end, it was a tie between Johnson and Lang, who split the pot. That brings us to another potential problem…what do you do with $250? Epperson assured us that the pot this time was bigger than expected, since the event sold out pretty easily, but you still have to wonder. Does Johnson still get her camera? Will that even cover one piece of equipment for Lang? One of my tablemates suggested that you have to come back with proof of your finished project or you have to wash dishes at the next Feast, but in this sense, Feast RVA is kind of like Kickstarter. You just give on faith. And unlike Kickstarter, winners don’t have to give Hugel or Epperson a cut.

I left feeling satisfied in both stomach and wallet. I met some people, ate some good food, ran into some old friends, and was impressed by people’s creativity. And I’d fork over $25 to do it again.

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You, too, can participate by attending the bi-monthly event or submitting a project idea to feastrva.com. The next one is planned for December — check back on the site for updates and set $25 aside so that you can get your ticket before it sells out. The December iteration will not, they assured us, be held outside.

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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