About 40 people convened in the Gladstone Hotel’s Melody Bar last Thursday night to donate a total of $1,000 towards a “useless but wonderful” project, in the words of attendee Tonya Surman.
It was the latest pitch night by the Awesome Foundation, a collective of photographers, engineers, artists, and others who have chip in cash to fund ridiculous (or revolutionary) projects.
“In my real life, I look at social impact,” said Surman, co-trustee and executive director of Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation. At the Awesome Foundation, she gets to indulge in frivolity, as Thursday’s applicants made abundantly clear.
Conceived in Boston in 2009, the Awesome Foundation has grown to 51 chapters internationally; Surman’s group has served Toronto since 2011. The tribunal of “trustees”—a much more formal term than Team Awesome’s laissez-faire conduct suggests—sat around long wooden table replete with pints of Steam Whistle and fries, listening intently to the evening’s four short-listed presenters.
The proposals included: 81-year-old retired businessman Bill Wrigley’s “Little Free Library” for Trinity Bellwoods Park, a dollhouse-sized library mounted on a post and centered on a “take a book, return a book” framework that’s already been successful in The Beach; local improv actor Cole Banning’s business-card scavenger hunt; and “Park Yourself Here,” an installation to pay tribute to International Parking Day on September 21, spearheaded by local architect and activist Andrew Chiu. The evening’s fourth nominee was local artist Miss Suzette, who pleaded for funding for her penny-recycling project to save the soon-to-be obsolete currency.
After punching their votes into a Google doc, the group elected to fund two projects, an unprecedented move. The “Little Free Library” and Park “Yourself Here” earned $1,000 each. It seemed that even after she handed out penny-adorned magnets to the trustees’ table, Miss Suzette couldn’t secure a win. Even though, said Surman, “We usually accept bribes.”