FEAST MIAMI – dinners that micro-fund arts ventures

Raising capital for your budding business just became delicious.  FEAST Miami, a grassroots organization is cooking up an arts revolution, holding vegan dinners that micro-fund arts ventures—And chef Loren Pulitzer is the one behind the scenes, cooking up the revolution.

Here’s how it works: you and your friends pay what you can to sit down for a vegan dinner at a leading Miami arts venue. Local artists then pitch their project or business to the crowd. After the meal, you have the chance to vote for your favorite proposal. The winning artist goes home with the proceeds of the dinner as seed money.

“It’s hard to get funding for individual artists and even for small arts organizations,” says FEAST Miami Co-founder Susan Caraballo, “We’re offering something to fill that niche.”

Caraballo and Pulitzer first heard of FEAST (Funding Emerging Art with Sustainable Tactics) happening in Brooklyn in 2009. When that operation ran out of funds, they didn’t see a door closing—they saw an opportunity waiting.

So the duo decided to bring FEAST to Miami. Their first dinner was held in April 2014 at The Lightbox in Wynwood. Already, they’re work has disrupted the worlds of both food and art.

“In the food world, since I’ve been in Miami, I’ve seen an amazing shift in food culture and what we eat and how we eat and what people think about food,” says Pulitzer. As a vocal advocate for plant-based or vegan diets, Pulitzer has championed the re-writing of Miami’s food narrative.

She draws from her personal experience to help others become more food-conscious. At 17, Pulitzer was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease. Pulitzer began exploring natural ways to manage her disease, and slowly found her way into gluten-free eating.

Four years ago, Pulitzer started her own company, Healing Through Nutrition. Her ongoing effort to educate people about healthy eating has been an uphill battle. But she maintains the utmost resolve: “Am I an entrepreneur whose goal is to make money and be comfortable? Yes. But that’s not what drives me…I have a bigger purpose.”

As our thoughts on food in Miami begin to change with the tide, so do the traditions and practices behind art making.

Artists are looking more and more to community-driven funding on the micro-level. Consider the explosive growth of crowd funders like Kickstarter and Indiegogo in recent months. This is how grassroots projects are finding a true voice in popular discourse. FEAST Miami is a creative and energizing extension of this fundraising model.

“The event gave me an opportunity to present my concept to a large group of people and to get their support and feedback,” says Amanda Season Keeley, FEAST Miami’s first grantee. She created Exile Books, a pop-up bookstore dedicated to the printed works of artists. The temporary installation migrates throughout several locations in Miami. “It’s not a lot of money,” says Pulitzer, “but it’s a lot of money to artists for what they need.”

It’s not just the money that makes a difference to artists. It’s the community connection. FEAST Miami dinners are building bridges in more ways than one. For example, each event takes place at a unique arts venue, raising awareness for the diversity of cultural institutions in Miami. On another level, artists are exposed to potential funders, even if they did not win the vote. And can you also imagine sitting in a room with one hundred other Miami thought leaders who are passionate about local art?

Caraballo (who is also the Artistic Director of ArtCenter South Florida) finds community involvement to be one of the greatest insights entrepreneurs can use to their advantage. “Being part of the community is really important…I’m not a big fan of the word networking,” but when Caraballo immersed herself in the community, “it was like organic networking. I got to know a lot of people that way.”

Pulitzer has used this insight to bolster her own business. Every Monday, she meets with a group of three colleagues to discuss the challenges and successes their ventures are experiencing. In trading insights, group members (including Tío Gazpacho founder Austin Allan) offer support to one another as their businesses take off.

That support helps Pulitzer weather some fierce challenges. “I mean there are some days where I’m done. Tired. I let myself have that. I try my best not to beat myself up about it. It would be easier for me to just get a job. I wouldn’t be making the difference I’m making, the impact.”

This is the entrepreneurial spirit that is fueling Miami’s redefinition. And Pulitzer proves the best at stirring things up.


OCT Takeaways:

  • Miami is making its mark as a healthy foods destination.
  • Democratic micro funding is the next frontier for artists seeking financial support.
  • Being an active member in your community is essential to the success of a budding business venture.
  • FEAST Miami’s next dinner will be taking place on August 3 at the Emerson-Dorsch Gallery in Wynwood. For tickets and information visit: www.feastmiami.org.

Leave your thought