Our friend and critic for TPG5, Scott Oliver is leading a collaborative artist and community project here in Oakland.  In these times when funding models for the arts are changing, he is reaching far and wide for small donations that will be matched by a larger organization. Here’s another example of a community funded project and the power of collective contributions.

I thought I would post his letter here not only to show how funding models are expanding and changing, but also because I think that this is an interesting project that I would help spread the word about.  Help support great projects!


I am writing to tell you about an exciting project I am currently working on that will debut in January of 2010. Briefly, it is a self-guided audio walking tour for the loop around Lake Merritt in Oakland. Entitled Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After, the tour will use a mixture of ambient field recordings, interviews, music and narration to weave an idiosyncratic but approachable narrative guiding listeners through the various natural and artificial elements that surround Lake Merritt. With an emphasis on local history, cultural diversity, urban ecology, and the power of imagination, Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After will explore the invisible that surrounds the visible—the stories and forces that shape the lake and our perceptions of it. The audio tour will be free to the public and widely accessible to Lake Merritt visitors through both on-site and remote locations. Please see the attached project narrative for more details.

I have been seeking funding for this project over the past several months and recently received a generous matching grant from the East Bay Community Foundation in the amount of  $4,000. The funds are contingent upon my ability to raise an equal amount from individual donors. The intention of EBCF’s Fund for Artists matching grants is to create a broad constituency of support for the creation of new works sited in the East Bay. With this in mind I humbly ask for your support of my project with a donation of any size. In order to receive the full grant amount from the East Bay Community Foundation I have to raise the matching funds by June 29th, 2009. Whether you can give $5 or $500, every donation will be doubled up to the $4,000, all of which will go toward the research, development, and production of this project.

Though I am the lead artist, the making of Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After will be a collaborative and cross-disciplinary process. I will be working closely with recording engineer and musician Michael Blodgett; musical ethnographer, composer, and musician Mark Gergis; and visual artist, writer, and educator Maria Porges. A number of other local musicians will provide the soundtrack for the tour and the Rotary Nature Center located in Lakeside Park has agreed to present the project and provide research support. Additionally The Oakland History Room at the main public library, the Natural Sciences Department at the Oakland Museum of California, the African American Museum and Library, the Nature Sound Society, local historical societies such as the Oakland Heritage Alliance, and cultural organizations such as the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, Eastside Arts Alliance, Oaklandish, and Junior Center of Art and Science will serve as valuable resources for the project.

I recognize that these are difficult economic times but believe deeply in the potential of this project to be a genuinely public artwork—seeking connection with the lives of the individuals who experience it. For me art is first and foremost a form of active looking, a way of seeing and making sense of the world around us. It can readjust or expand the frame through which we peer, focusing our attention on something we have never noticed before or synthesizing ideas and experiences we previously thought were unrelated. Guided by these principles Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After will offer an immersive audio experience to listeners in a unique urban public space. I hope you’ll join me in bringing this dynamic project to fruition.

If you would like to support this project in the form of a donation that will be doubled by EBCF’s Fund for Artists matching grant, you may do so by mail. All donations must be received by June 22nd to be eligible for the matching grant. And all donations are tax deductible through my fiscal sponsor the Oakland Museum of California who have generously agreed to offer this service non gratis. Please send checks or money orders made out to “Oakland Museum of California Foundation” with “Once Upon A Time Audio Tour” written in the memo area to:

Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After
c/o Scott Oliver
321 Henry Street
Oakland, CA 94607

Donors to the project will be invited to preview Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After prior to its public debut. Additionally the names of donors will appear on printed materials associated with the project as well as on the project web site unless they request otherwise.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I very much appreciate your interest and support of my work over the years. I would not be able to continue my practice without a supportive community, but more importantly the Bay Area arts culture thrives because of individuals like you.

Scott Oliver

Download and read the full “Once upon a time” project description here