Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds free public phone in Ypsilanti

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to Futel on June 5, 2017 to create a new free public phone in downtown Ypsilanti.

Futel is a telephone company and 501(c)(3) organization offering free domestic calls, messaging, human interaction, connections to services, and interactive audio art. Some features are accessed from free payphones which Futel installs in public places, and some are accessed from an incoming phone number.

After hearing a presentation from Futel founder Karl Anderson, Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees try unsuccessfully to give him his grant money through the power of FaceTime.

After hearing a presentation from Futel founder Karl Anderson, Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees try unsuccessfully to give him his grant money through the power of FaceTime.

Futel currently has three public phones in Portland, Oregon, the first of which was installed in 2014. The phones are armored, weatherproof, and low-maintenance, requiring just internet access and a solid place to attach them to. By the end of 2016, over 750 free outgoing calls were initiated per month from Futel phones, and over 50 calls were logged with Futel’s volunteer operators throughout the year. Futel’s Awesome Foundation grant will go towards installing a public free payphone outside Landline Creative Labs at 209 S. Pearl in Ypsilanti.

Futel is founded by Karl Anderson, who splits his time between Portland, Oregon, and Ann Arbor. He is working with Landline Creative Labs founder Mark Maynard to bring Futel to Ypsilanti. Anderson has been involved in several industrial art projects, usually based around making useful, or at least interesting, items out of trash. He thinks the most straightforward thing he’s made may have been a human-powered amphibious jet boat built from dumpstered bikes and house demolition detritus.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

 

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds immigration-themed exhibition at Ypsi Experimental Space

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to the Ypsi Experimental Space (YES) on May 7, 2017, to support an upcoming immigration-themed art show by artist Parisa Ghaderi.

Ghaderi’s current work explores the existential and emotional complexities inherent in the act of immigration. Ghaderi will be collaborating with EMU political science professor, Ebrahim Soltani – who, like Ghaderi, is from Iran – to create a multimedia installation that aims to paint a personal portrait of immigration and loss. Ghaderi and Soltani attempt to transform a painful human odyssey into a visceral experience, highlighting the gap between immigration as a set of policies and as a human condition.

“Living in Iran and the U.S. has been an ‘in-between’ state of affairs for me: I never fully arrived nor fully left,” Ghaderi says. “In my work, I am dealing with emotional and physical distance, compounded loss, and the opacity of language; I explore moments of pause that are filled with vulnerability, silence, and contradiction.”

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present YES founder Mark Tucker with his $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present YES founder Mark Tucker with his $1,000 grant.

Ghaderi and Soltani create an “image-repertoire” (a phrase borrowed from Roland Barthes) which represents a set of realities in artists’ minds: the “imagined reality” of the loved ones who are physically and emotionally absent. In this exhibition, they disrupt an episode of a lost “reality” by manipulating photographs of that “reality” as its only “physical evidences”.

Ghaderi and Soltani’s unique installation opens on June 2nd – coinciding with First Fridays and Ypsi Pride – and will be open until June 23rd at YES, 8 N. Washington St., Ypsilanti, MI (just behind MIX).

Awesome Foundation funds will help cover the installation costs of producing this timely exhibition. The funds will go towards equipment that is necessary for supporting the video/sound tech elements in Ghaderi’s installation. The sound and lighting equipment will then continue to support YES’ future public art projects, including serving as a community arts space open to hosting, creating, and celebrating experimental arts related events. YES was set in motion (in the former Mix Theater space) in 2016 by FestiFools founder/creator Mark Tucker and filmmaker Donald Harrison.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Cobblestone Farm Market receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to the Cobblestone Farm Market on April 9, 2017.

Cobblestone Farm Market will use the grant to pay a part-time seasonal food assistance manager for the weekly market, which is held at Cobblestone Farm on the south side of Ann Arbor. Market organizers hope to employ a young person from economically distressed communities in order for the market to bolster its food assistance offerings with compassion and grace. The candidate search will include help from the Community Action Network of Washtenaw County and other services that support our under-resourced community members.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present representatives of Cobblestone Farm Market with their $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present representatives of Cobblestone Farm Market with their $1,000 grant.

The Cobblestone Farm Market is an earth-friendly non-profit organization that focuses on strengthening community and increasing local food accessibility, security, and quality. The market is a project of the Cobblestone Farm Association. The market creates profitable micro-business opportunities for local small-scale organic growers, producers, and artists. It also engages in community outreach and partnerships with local food pantries and other organizations to build community, share knowledge, and create awareness of local markets. This self-sustaining market provides a safe community space that allows individuals and families from diverse backgrounds to connect over healthy food, fun activities, live music and cooking demonstrations. Held each Tuesday from May through October, the market has become a hub of the neighborhood, providing a lively location to gather and do good.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

SMILE children’s reading program receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation grant

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to the SMILE (Sycamore Meadows Introduces Literacy Engagement) program on March 5, 2017.

Mothers Marcy Schwab and Sentra Brownlee founded the SMILE program for the children in their low-income Superior Township neighborhood, Sycamore Meadows. SMILE is a reading group hosted at Schwab’s house every other Wednesday. Children ages 1-14 are invited to eat a healthy snack and listen to a story. In the program children learn sight words, ask questions about the featured book, and get to pick out a book to take home with them from a shelf of donated books. Schwab tracks attendance each time, and when a child attends five times he or she is allowed to pick a prize. If a child reads a book to the group then he or she can automatically pick a prize and receive a “Superstar Reader” certificate.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present a $1,000 grant to representatives of the SMILE children's reading program.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present a $1,000 grant to representatives of the SMILE children’s reading program.

Schwab, a single mother with four children of her own, was inspired to start the program when she noticed how interested neighborhood kids were when she read to her children. Schwab is a member of the Washtenaw Great Start Parent Coalition and also works with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District Early Childhood Early Head Start Home Visiting Program.

Attendance at SMILE programs has grown to 15-20 children per session. Awesome Foundation funds will be used to cover the costs of healthy snacks, floor cushions for the kids to sit on, books, Little Free Libraries for the neighborhood, prizes, SMILE T-shirts, book tote bags, a chair for the reader, and seed money to help another parent do a similar program in the Sycamore Meadows neighborhood.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ypsi March for Love, Resilience, and Action receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was formally awarded to the Ypsi March for Love, Resilience, and Action on February 6, 2017.

A group of Ypsilanti residents planned the march as a response to the inauguration of President Trump. The march was conceived to mobilize citizens to prepare creatively for the incoming Trump administration, to focus on local issues and build local resilience, to further alliances and express support across Ypsi, and as an option for local residents who were unable to travel to marches planned in Washington, D.C.

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Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present members of the Ypsi March for Love, Resilience, and Action team with their $1,000 grant.

On Saturday, January 21, the march route passed by Ypsilanti sites that honor abolitionists, women of color, and other members of marginalized communities. The march also featured a theatrical performance, booths and spaces for community and social service resources, voter education/registration, a cozy space for breastfeeding, a nonviolent security team, a women-only (trans-inclusive) space, and more. The march attracted a crowd of 1,200.

The march planning committee planned two other events as well. On Monday, January 16, marchers also gathered to support Ypsilanti Community Schools’ teens in their Martin Luther King Jr. Day march and art show commemorating Frederick Douglass. And on Friday, January 20, marchers were invited to make banners and signs, share music, and express their responses to the election at Bona Sera.

Awesome Foundation funds were used for art supplies, permitting for the January 21 march, publicity, food and beverages at the event, and renting space for the event. Given the time-sensitive nature of the event, grant funds were awarded early on January 8.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Ypsi High Superhero Program receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to Jermaine Dickerson of the Ypsi High Superhero Program on January 8, 2017.

The Ypsi High Superhero Program is a high school youth initiative in Ypsilanti that utilizes superheroes to improve character through creative storytelling and fictional character development. Superheroes are colorful representations of our dreams, hopes, and life experiences. The journeys they endure are often inherently reflective of our own lives. Whether it’s overcoming their fears to defeat a formidable enemy, or accepting the responsibility that comes with great power, superheroes, at their core, are human. This program uses these principles and converts them into life lessons for youth. These lessons will help build character and improve confidence while providing students with a platform to creatively tell their own superhero stories, where they are the heroes.

Awesome Foundation trustees present Jermaine Dickerson with his $1,000 minigrant.

Awesome Foundation trustees present Jermaine Dickerson with his $1,000 mini-grant.

The Ypsi High Superhero Program is currently offered as an afterschool program at Ypsilanti Community High School through Eastern Michigan University’s (EMU) Bright Futures program. The program is created and led by Jermaine Dickerson, an Ypsilanti graphic designer, illustrator, and superhero enthusiast who believes there is much reformative power not just in art and design, but also in the very idea of superheroes. Apart from this program, Dickerson has done other superhero workshops and worked closely with the city of Ypsilanti and EMU on a variety of creative projects.

In addition to purchasing diverse comics books for the program, Awesome Foundation grant funds will be used to buy graphics tablets for each student to use during the comic book creation process, T-shirts with their superhero emblems, and printed copies of their comic books.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Girl Scouts transgender inclusion summit receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan (GSHOM) on December 4, 2016, for a November conference on supporting the inclusion of transgender girls in Girl Scouts.

GSHOM is based in Ypsilanti and serves Girl Scouts in 34 counties across the Lower Peninsula. It has worked diligently to ensure transgender girls are welcomed into all Girl Scout activities. GSHOM has begun to develop facilities (non-gender specific bath and private changing areas at camps and regional headquarters) and changing signage to accommodate transgender girls in a way they will feel safe and well cared for.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan fund development specialist Chelsie Armstrong with a $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan fund development specialist Chelsie Armstrong with a $1,000 grant.

The national Girl Scout organization has embraced this issue, and across the country, Councils are challenged with providing support materials and information for implementation that fit their local and regional needs. GSHOM has reached out to the national organization and others for support materials for staff and leaders to be able to advocate for and communicate around issues transgender girls face, and find real ways Girl Scouts can provide meaningful experiences in their lives. Resources specific to orienting and educating Girl Scout volunteers on ways to best transition girls into troops and other Girl Scout offerings need to be developed, and GSHOM seeks to springboard this development, creating much-needed educational sessions and leading from a grassroots position.

GSHOM’s initial effort was to engage Girl Scout leadership from across the country and local youth-serving organizations in education and planning sessions through a three-day “Supporting Inclusiveness in Girl Scouts” summit held in November. The summit included a keynote speaker, plenary session, and a series of workshops. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Diane Schroer, nationally recognized as a pioneer in transgender issues, delivered the keynote address.

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The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

Global Water Dances receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to Global Water Dances on November 6, 2016, for the upcoming Global Water Dances community dance event in Flint.

Global Water Dances celebrates water and life through the art of dance with an awareness of environmental actions. Global Water Dances has had a vibrant history for seven years. It has staged three worldwide events in 2011, 2013, and 2015, with a fourth event planned next year. One day, every two years, over 80 cities from around the world participate in the Global Water Dances event. From Beijing, China to Zadar, Croatia, choreographers take on local water issues through workshops, dance activism and dialogue.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Global Water Dances Flint team members with their $1,000 mini-grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Global Water Dances Flint team members with their $1,000 mini-grant.

Flint, MI will host its first-ever Global Water Dances event on June 24, 2017 at Riverbank Park. The event will be structured in four parts. The first section, “Ritual,” is an opening ceremony specific to each site. The second section, “Local Dance,” will be a dance created by choreographers from the area, using locally-based music, related to the river and recovery efforts. The third section, “Global Dance,” features simultaneous choreography done by all the performers worldwide to the same piece of music, connecting participants and audience globally. The fourth section, “Participatory Dance,” encourages audience participation in a simple movement sequence.

Shawn Lent, social practice dance artist and program director for the Chicago Dancemakers Forum, is organizing the event. Leading up to the event, Lent and other dance artists are conducting community dialogue workshops through the arts in Flint. Partners in Flint include Karen Mills Jennings and students at the Flint School of Performing Arts, Emma Davis at the University of Michigan-Flint, and artists Peggy Mead Finizio, Adesola Akinleye and Alisyn Hurd.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.

ÆPEX Access receives Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation award

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation’s monthly $1,000 minigrant was awarded to ÆPEX Contemporary Performance on October 2, 2016. ÆPEX Contemporary Performance is southeast Michigan’s only professional music concert presenter focused on new classical music. The Awesome Foundation funds will be applied towards the ÆPEX Access project, a public art endeavor that augments ÆPEX’s typical concert presentations with free, simulcast viewing stations across downtown Ann Arbor. ÆPEX Access will debut this concept during an October 28th concert at Ann Arbor’s First United Methodist Church, and test it for future applications.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present members of  ÆPEX Contemporary Performance with their $1,000 minigrant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present members of ÆPEX Contemporary Performance with their $1,000 minigrant.

ÆPEX Access will use social media applications, such as Periscope, to broadcast this concert to at least three sites chosen for their physical accessibility and technological capabilities. At least one site will be outdoors, which will require new equipment and staff. However, ÆPEX will also choose sites that already have video and sound systems, and that are known for hosting viewing events, such as the theater at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library.

ÆPEX Contemporary Performance will promote ÆPEX Access, but also anticipates this initiative will generate spontaneous interactions with this concert. The goal of ÆPEX Access is making classical music performances more accessible to Ann Arbor’s art- and music-loving public. Not only will ÆPEX Access help the October 28th concert reach listeners beyond its venue’s physical boundaries, it will also intensify the listening experience for the live audience at the church, as they will know others across Ann Arbor are enjoying the same performance.

ÆPEX Access will yield a communal art experience impossible to achieve by traditional means. ÆPEX Access will give hundreds of people in the Ann Arbor community a chance to experience ÆPEX Contemporary Performance’s world-class concert production at no cost, simply by taking a walk, or by making a regular visit to their favorite local establishment. By making the world’s best newly composed music public, ÆPEX Access holds the potential to facilitate countless meaningful and unexpected art interactions for people across downtown Ann Arbor.

The Oasis Aquaponic Food Production System

This past fall, the trustees of the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 grant to Michelle Leach, a recently graduated PhD from the University of Michigan, so that she could continue her development of the aquaponic food production system that she hopes one day to distribute throughout Central America.

Here’s how Leach describes the system: “Food insecurity is the constant companion of the poor,” she says. “Our solution, The Oasis, is a solar-powered inflatable aquaponics system capable of producing at minimum 300 pounds of Tilapia and 600 pounds of tomatoes, or other vegetables, annually. With a projected retail price of $100, and a business model that provides low-interest purchasing credit, our system is radically affordable and accessible.”

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[above: Artist's conception of the third generation Oasis prototype being built with assistance from the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation.]

The following excerpt comes from a recent interview between Leach and A2 Awesome Dean Mark Maynard:

MARK: Would it be fair to say that, while a lot of work has been done in the area of aquaponics, up until now, there hasn’t been a lot of scientific research in the field? I mean, a lot of people are building systems, but, to my knowledge, not a lot of trained research scientists, like yourself, have taken on the problem in a systematic way that might yield reproducible results, right?

MICHELLE: Yes, this is one my peeves. There are a ton of backyard hobbyists, who are producing systems that seem to work, but they lack controls. It also seems like a few commercial operations are doing well, but they guard their systems like trade secrets. The few scientists who have done work in the area are using systems which are incredibly complicated/expensive and unsuited for the developing world. No one is doing well-controlled research on SIMPLE systems. This is the hole I’m trying to fill.

MARK: You said this was one of your peeves. Are there others as relates to this new industry you’ve entered?

MICHELLE: Sure, I suppose. The idea that the solution to poverty is a ‘thing’ or device is also somewhat misguided. People aren’t poor because they don’t have an Oasis, or a water filter, or a solar panel. People are poor for a host of other systemic reasons, which include poor infrastructure, corrupt governance, non-functioning legal frameworks, etc, etc, etc. But an Oasis, or a water filter, or a solar panel can make poverty less severe while big systemic changes happen slowly. We can use ‘things’ to chip away at the effects of poverty, and in the process empower the poor to demand systemic change.

MARK: There are other aquaponic systems on the market. How is the Oasis system different?

MICHELLE: The Oasis is designed to be radically affordable and large enough to produce a substantial quantity of food. Other systems are either extremely over-priced or too small to make a dent in a family’s nutritional requirements.

MARK: How is the system being received by those currently using the prototypes in El Salvador? Is it, as you had intended, changing people’s lives for the better? Are they providing useful feedback?

MICHELLE: The systems are being very well received. While everyone to date has received their system free of charge, we only provided alevin (baby fish) and concentrado (fish food) for the first crop cycle. It is up to the families to purchase these items for subsequent crop cycles. So far no systems have been abandoned. We see this as evidence that the families find the systems valuable. We have had some trouble getting ‘straight’ feedback, though… Everyone is super polite to me, and I was getting suspicious that perhaps I wasn’t hearing the whole story. So I recruited a local person to do anonymous interviews. We got some good data, which we are still working to translate and compile, but our preliminary read through suggests everyone is happy with the systems. We did, however, identify some small issues to address that hadn’t been on our radar.

MARK: Can you quantify how impactful a system like this might be in the life of a family in El Salvador? Do you have anecdotal data from those you’ve been working with thus far?

MICHELLE: Very impactful. Whole tilapia sells in the market at $2/lb. Tomatoes are $0.60/lb. A family that produces 300 lbs of fish and 600 pounds of tomatoes, that sold every bit of produce, could cover their costs and still net around $900 a year. In a country where a family is lucky to bring in $500 per person, per year, this can have an enormous impact. (Hard physical labor nets $1 per hour, when you can find it.) And all this from a system which only requires 15 minutes of attention daily.

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[above: Michelle Leach and Oasis cofounder Jacquelyn Hernandez Ortiz in El Salvador.]

For the rest of the interview, which goes into more detail as to how the system will be tested and distributed, click here.