March’ing to the beat of a different drum

March 2012’s Thousand Dollar Thursday took place at Commonwealth Bar & Stage, which bills itself as “An Uncommon Bar for Uncommon People.” As Awesome Calgary’s all about enabling and exposing awesome and potentially “uncommon” ideas, it was an ideal venue and an ideal choice to hold one of our events at.

This month’s AF-Calgary Thousand Dollar Thursday was hosted by John Smiley (one of AF-Calgary’s Founding Trustees of Awesome and also known around town by his alias Mister YYC), which set the stage for the Top4 Finalists for March 2012 to take the stage for 90 seconds each to try and convince the Trustees and audience why they felt they were deserving of the $1,000 no-strings-attached micro-grant.

Pitch 1: Calgary Can

First up was Kate Letizia and Stephanie Shields with Calgary Can.

Kate and Stephanie have travelled around developing countries the last few years and have learned about various social enterprises that address poverty and wish to apply what they’ve learned here in Calgary.

Taking inspiration from similar projects and programs in Lima and Vancouver, Kate and Stephanie wish to engage what they call Calgary’s “informal recyclers,” often called bottle pickers or binners, in a new social enterprise called Calgary Can that aims to move people out of street poverty while improving urban environmental health by providing a dignified, accepting and safe working environment for Calgary’s informal recyclers allowing them to walk proudly through Calgary’s communities on their own two feet.

The first step in the project is to engage the local community, meaning that the $1,000 would be used to run the first round of initial public consultations including paying for focus groups consisting of informal recyclers, renting a venue to hold the consultation process and other related costs. Kate and Stephanie hope to engage 15% of Calgary’s informal recyclers, which represents about 40 people.

Kate and Stephanie also submitted to us a quick video explaining their concept along with their idea submission, which you can view here.

Pitch 2: Hello Neighbour

Next up was Lane Shordee with Hello Neighbour.

Lane is a local artist who built a carriage in his garage. The inspiration for that project was the fact that the house and garage that he was living in at the time was also used to create horse-drawn carriages 100 years ago. Lane is also a self-professed scavenger, so he created that carriage out of used and scavenged materials.

Lane is set to display his project at the Pith Gallery & Studios in Inglewood during June and July. He would like to use the $1,000 to rent two horses for the exhibit and to ferry people around the neighbourhood on his newly created carriage, just like in the old days.

Pitch 3: SurrogART (a.k.a. Remote Robo-Art)

Third was Ben Reed with his SurrogART project, a synergy of art and technology. In his idea submission, he billed it as a project where “the nerds & artists of Calgary are collaborating to create a remotely controllable art robot.”

The gist of the project would combine aesthetic design with streaming video, remote control, a controllable limb and a mobile platform to virtually bring famous artists to Calgary. How it would work is that an artist from a remote location would create art through a remote interface, and the robot (dubbed the Surrogate Artistic Robotic Telepresence or S-ART for short) in a separate location would replicate movement for movement the artist’s motions leveraging the power of the Internet as the method of communication. This would allow any artist virtually anywhere in the world to make art that could be re-created in real time somewhere else.

While Ben was cognizant of similar projects around the world that use similar concepts and technology to perform things such as surgery or other remote work, SurrogART is unique in the sense that it aims to do it as cheaply as possible using consumer-grade, mass produced parts (along with the help, donations and support of many local organizations and institutions).

Ben would use the $1,000 to purchase the rest of the equipment and hardware needed to complete the project, including a wheelchair chassis, batteries and other electronic parts.

Pitch 4: Stop & Drop

Up last was Lisa Gilmour and Michelle Gallant with Stop & Drop, an installation designed for Calgary’s busy downtown people; Mindful Moments for Busy Times.

The concept would create a guerrilla living room in the heart of the downtown core where people can stop and take a load off. There would be couches and chairs along with audio headsets broadcasting inspiring words or music. Signs would be posted encouraging Calgarians to “breathe,” “claim space” or “Let’s chat!” The intent of the project is to bring awareness to bu
sy Calgarians to take time and space for oneself.

The plan is that Stop & Drop would take place from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Stephen Avenue Walk for one or up to three days over the summer, and the $1,000 would be used to pay for permits, headsets, signage, promotional materials and other logistical costs. The rest would be covered through donations and volunteer support.

And the winner is…

Before we got to the winner of March 2012’s AF-Calgary $1,000 no-strings-attached micro-grant, we had some housekeeping to take care of first.

Last month, AF-Calgary awarded the first ever multi-grant in the chapter’s history to two winning ideas, Timmy’s Only Delivery Service and Gumsphere 300. Since we weren’t intending on doing that going into the night, we only had one bag of money on us to give away. So this month, we invited February 2012 co-winner John Frosst to the festivities to present his $1,000 Bag o’ Cash, which apparently was a good thing since John and his team already used the good old credit card to purchase the final parts needed to create the missing eighth Ford Festiva needed to complete the fleet for the Gumsphere 300 roadshow. Look for the Gumsphere 300 traveling roadshow to hit North America this summer.

And with that out of the way, it was time to award the March 2012 AF-Calgary prize.

AF-Calgary’s March 2012 winner of $1,000, no-strings-attached, is Ben Reed with SurrogART. Ben and his team plans to purchase the final components needed to build the robot and the other hardware needed to complete the project and start construction right away.

Kudos to everyone who submitted (or re-submitted!) an idea or project for consideration this month, and congratulations to all of our Top4 Finalists and Honourable Mentions for the month of March.

Congratulations, Ben!

Thank you to Commonwealth Bar & Stage for hosting us this month, especially to Colin Canning for being so accommodating. Many of the people in our audience told us that it was their first time ever at the venue, and we received many comments of “this was an awesome place!” throughout the night. By using the Pitch Night format and by holding them at various venues around town, we hope the least we can do here at Awesome Calgary is to bring some exposure to the many awesome (and uncommon!) ideas and businesses around town to the rest of Calgary.

As always, putting on a Thousand Dollar Thursday every month is always a challenge, and it can’t be done without the help and support of our Awesome Support/Production Team. So a BIG Thank You to the following people for volunteering some of their time to help us out this month:

Photography Duties:

Livestream/Video Production:

Live-Tweet Team:

As you might have noticed over the last few weeks, things are picking up over here at AF-Calgary. We’ve got lots going on and planed for the rest of the year and we’re growing quickly! If you’re interested in helping out, either as a volunteer with skills or time (see the right sidebar for some ideas), or as a Trustee (we have a couple of Trustee spots opening up in the future), send me (Reg!) or Lori an email to find out more.

We’re still accepting submissions for the AF-Calgary April 2012 prize, and the deadline for that one is Tuesday, April 10 at 11:59 p.m. To apply, fill out this handy-dandy web form!

Speaking of April, it’ll be the one-year anniversary of us awarding our very first $1,000 no-strings-attached micro-grant! As such, we’ll be bringing it back to our very first venue and will be holding April’s Thousand Dollar Thursday at Endeavor Arts & Design Gallery on Thursday, April 26. Mark your calendars and save the date because we’ll have some Special Guests, Special Announcements and perhaps a few more surprises to unveil, so it’s one Thousand Dollar Thursday you won’t want to miss! More details as we get closer to the date, but in the meantime, feel free to RSVP on Facebook and Yelp.

Thanks again to everyone who took time out of their evening to join us at Commonwealth Bar & Stage, and we hope to see you again next month at Endeavor Arts & Design!