The Starving Steampunk Foundation

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October 10, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe

You’ve all been there, walking down the street and you’ve caught the eye of a charity worker, you know you have to stop and talk. But what if they were dressed in goggles, cogwheels and a top hat?

It could happen in the future. The Starving Steampunk Foundation is a newly formed charity, founded by Rachel Harrison. It’s vision is simple, to help creative Steampunk types fund their pie in the sky ideas become reality. Giving money and materials to anyone with a good idea and the drive to do it, the SSPF wants to help encourage original creative art within the Steampunk community.

‘Great!’ I hear all you budding DYI-ers out there say, rummaging around for your full-sized working airship blueprints. But it’s not quite as easy as that. There’s forms to fill out.

But worry not, the application process is pretty simple. Fill in the form, say what you want to make and what you need, and then a random lottery picks the winner of the grant from random. It may seem a strange way of doing things that might lead to some of the best ideas going unfunded, Rachel says, “This is done to keep from being accused of favouritism because a lot of our friends apply for grants.”

The Foundation works on donations of pretty much anything: money, materials, anything that could be put up for auction, and intends to pick its first lucky grant winner on the 1st of May, money allowing. So get applying, and donating too. “Nerf Gun Mods need not apply” are Rachel’s words of advice. “It can be just about any kind of project from costuming and accessories to a Steampunk version of a Van Gogh painting.We’re looking for original ideas, things that haven’t been done to death.” I’m thinking of making a fully sentient Steampunk Optimus Prime. “We want to see Steampunks and retro-futurists push the envelope a little and try new things. We have some of the most innovative and imaginative people in the world, lets show it off.”

While it’s not aiming for street peddling to get your money, the newly-formed Foundation is looking for donations, and fast. “We decided that the quarter between February 1st and April 30th would be a fund-raising quarter and set a goal of $500.00. We haven’t even come close. So far after taking care of unavoidable overhead we have about $35.00 in disbursable donations.” While it’s still very early days for the Foundation and it’s not been a false start, things could be looking better. “I wont lie, I’m very worried. We haven’t done as well as I hoped.” The funds haven’t been as forthcoming as everyone though and the material donations have yet to materialise. Ideas to generates funds are being thrown around, art raffles and auctions are being talked about for the near future, but anxiousness is obvious. “I am concerned that come May 1st I wont be able to disburse a Grant.” For Rachel this is a very personal thing, the Foundation was here idea and she’s been there every step of the way. “It’s been a challenge. I had to find people I could trust, who had the skills I didn’t but needed. I kept it a secret until we had the structure in place so we didn’t get peoples hopes up if it went kablooie.”

As with a lot of the best ideas, Rachel came up with the idea after spotting a problem. “I noticed that there were a lot of very talented creative people who had all these amazing ideas that they kept having to put off because they just didn’t have the money to spare to start them, or they couldn’t finish a project because they didn’t have the money for that one last piece.”

The amounts varied as to how ouch they needed, but usually weren’t very much at all. “I had the thought pop into my head that wouldn’t it be nice if there was a grant group for Steampunk Artists? And the more I thought about it the better it sounded. And the more I thought If I don’t who will?”

So once the ball started rolling more people started getting invalid. There’s currently seven people on the board.”With the exception of my Vice Chair Paul, no one had any experience with Nonprofit groups or setting them up so this has been a major learning experience. I’ve been quite the pest to the librarians in my town looking for books and resource materials.” Bureaucracy has been an obstacle as well, it’s not as easy as you think to set up a charity “You wouldn’t believe the amount of paperwork that we have to do to get a 501C3. But its worth it. I think were doing a good thing here.””

In a way fitting for a punk charity the government isn’t involved or welcome in the operations. The SSPF doesn’t rely on any kind of state assistance to keep it afloat. “I wouldn’t want them to even if they did offer. That kind of help comes with a price and an agenda. This Foundation is about innovative Steampunk and Retro-futurist Art.” She seems adamant about how things should be run at the foundation and who should be involved. “We want to see new ideas, no inspirations and inventions and innovations. The Government won’t see that.” In the same way control won’t be taken out of the Foundation’s hands by the state, the Foundation is going to try to let the artist have as much freedom as they can. Obviously there has to be some rules, for such a fledging outfit getting fleeced would be a disaster. Rachel calls it a ‘balancing act’. “We try to remain in close contact with the artist without breathing down their necks and impeding their creativity.”

So there won’t be a guy with a pen, clipboard and checklist. “We ask for status updates and pictures for the project as its being done so we know the money is being put to its intended use.”

Worries about scammers aside, the reaction to the revealing of the SSPF have been more than complimentary. “Its been amazing. The day we unveiled, the explosion of positive comments was astounding. So many people kept saying thank you and good job. I was flabbergasted. And were still getting positive reactions from some really notable figures.”

And notable is what Rachel is aiming for. “We want the SSPF to be as easily recognised as Abney Park. Everyone in the SP community knows about Abney Park, it’s a fundamental. We want that too. Its going to take time and hard work but were ok with that. We came this far and well go all the way.”

Visit to apply, donate, or just have a look.

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