I’ve probably told some form of this story many times over, but it’s true, I moved to Philadelphia from Minneapolis in 2003 to specifically be a part of its arts and culture scene. At the time I was listening to a lot of internet radio as I worked as an Assistant Hall Director, building community among staff and residents. At the same time I was finding my poetic voice, frequenting open mics and falling in love with Philadelphia from a distance.
So when I was ready to make a change in my career, rather than stay in Minneapolis, an equally awesome creative city, I set out east to find out exactly what they were drinking in the creative water in Philadelphia! In my first few years here I soaked it all in: grad school, open mics, theatre, live music, art, food, house parties, new friends, new jobs and neighborhoods each with their own ebb, flow and creative tick.
In 2006 I set out to record my first album. I had no idea what I was doing, I was just really passionate and believed in the words I had to share. To promote the album, I watched the artists before me, whose work I admired, and mimicked them. Email updates, tours to cities where friends and family could lend a couch, self-marketing, professionally pressed CDs, more performances, more self-promotion, networking, grinding, juggling and hoping with a lot of hope that my “break” would come.
One thing is very true of what they say about the Philly arts scene; it will toughen you up, and if you can hold your own in front of a crowd here, you’re pretty cool most anywhere else.
In that time, I learned a lot. I can’t say that my “break” ever came, it was more like a lot of smaller breaks and opportunities to build other bigger creative projects. I joined a collective of driven artists who also wanted to support the arts scene in Philadelphia. I stretched myself from spoken word into theater and I embraced my marketing and programming skills to help other organizations and businesses.
If you met me at that time, I had a pretty constant “soap box” speech about what artists like myself and my peers needed in order to actually grow and thrive (i.e. funding, connection to resources, professional development), and I felt pretty strongly about artists being able to do so in Philadelphia.
Sometimes it comes down to timing and common business sense, and other times it is the need for basic dollars and cents.
When the Knight Foundation released their announcement of the second Knight Arts Challenge I’d like to say I jumped at the chance to apply, but I didn’t. Not at first. My idea seemed pretty small and almost too simple: “give me money and I will give money to others” — like yeah, sure. But Small But Mighty Arts Grant seeks to do that and much more.
SBM has everything to do with timing, the opportunity to support indie artists at a time in their careers when a boost through a micro-grant could make a significant difference to the advancement of their work. The timing in Philadelphia couldn’t be better. The City’s arts and culture scene is among the best and fastest growing. SBM would be a part of a very rich collection of established organizations and grassroots efforts to bring more art to Philly and sustain up-and-coming artists.
Small But Mighty is starting with the basic need among artists for dollars and cents.
In the coming weeks and months, you’ll see more updates and news about why micro-grants are so critical for artists in Philadelphia and you will have a chance, as an artist or supporter of the arts, to lend your support to our efforts.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to join a team of equally passionate folks to do something that I’ve always wanted to do…”insert [more] art here” in Philadelphia, one small but mighty artist at a time.
Thank you for reading…it’s the first step to supporting our mission…we’re looking forward to many more to come!
Erica “RhapsodE” Hawthorne