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Detroit SOUP Sponsors Crowdsourcing Campaign For Historic Jam Handy Film Studio (PHOTOS)

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When your bowl runneth over, it's often a good idea to get a bigger bowl. That's the situation facing a Michigan microlending organization called Detroit SOUP, which holds regular dinners to help fund creative ventures in Detroit.

In the past, their events have helped fund projects like a Detroit travel guide, the Fender Bender bicycle space and the documentary film “Detroit Threat Management.

SOUP's get-togethers have grown so popular that they're now looking to relocate to a bigger location. Their hope is to move into a Detroit space called the Jam Handy building, once the digs of famed promotional filmmaker Henry Jamison "Jam" Handy. But in order to make it a year-round-thing, Detroit the group needs to retrofit the facility with heat and light. They've turned to the crowdsourcing site indiegogo to make this happen. (Watch Detroit SOUP's video pitch here).

The Huffington Post spoke with Detroit SOUP Director Amy Kaherl to find out more about the group's work, it's indiegogo campaign and the intriguing figure known as "Jam" Handy.

For those who don't know, tell us about Detroit SOUP?
SOUP is a microgranting dinner that funds creative projects in Detroit. Pay $5. Learn about creative projects happening in Detroit. Vote on which project to fund with the money raised from the meal that night. People have the chance to meet, connect, and raise money (between $800-$1000 for a new project in Detroit.

How has SOUP grown since you've started?
SOUP started in February 2010. We started as a group of younger artists finding ways to make a difference in Detroit and it has grown into a very diverse crowd of people from all different parts of the city.

What has the SOUP crew been up to lately?
We were just awarded a grant with the Knight Foundation that allows us to move the idea into different neighborhoods throughout the city. We partook in the Detroit Design Festival and did a wonderful SOUP highlighting the ceramic work of Elysia Vandenbussche and the Detroit Pleasure Society and awarded $1132.25 to documentary Film, Detroit Threat Management.

Tell us about your indiegogo campaign.
SOUP is planning to move its home to the Jam Handy building in North End. We want to help create a space for Detroiters to use for a variety of opportunities. It's currently a large open space that can be used from May until mid November but it needs heat, electrical work and some new lighting so it can be used year round.

What incentives do you have for people to contribute?
We have a small banner that we would like to keep up with those who have helped contribute over $55. We partnered with the Detroit Party Marching Band, who is also trying to make the Handy their new practice spot, and they are providing people a video, or being part of the band! We have a few presale copies of the "Belle Isle to 8 Mile Guide," combined with a print of the city from the fine folks at City Bird. Anthology Coffee also offered some private coffee tasting opportunities. SOUP is sharing ceramic bowls, collection of proposals, and handwritten notes. Overall there are opportunities for people to have public or private parties in this wonderful space.

Why are you so excited about the Jam Handy building?
I think the building is beautiful and the history is so rich. The building used to be a film production studio for many years. There are many nooks and crannies in the space and there are so many possibilities to create new opportunities for new art and play in this amazing city.

What can you tell us about the man behind the building, Henry Jamison "Jam" Handy?
Jam Handy the man was, by all accounts, quite a character. Before arriving in Detroit and establishing his legendary film studio, Handy had already been suspended from the University of Michigan for sullying the school’s reputation by publishing a colorful cartoon poking fun at a stodgy professor, and established himself as a pioneer in the field of competitive swimming by inventing two swimming techniques (still widely used today) and capturing a bronze medal in the 1904 Olympics despite standing only 5’ 2” tall. Even more than rabble-rousing and swimming, Jam Handy’s true passion was visual communication and his prescient belief that it would revolutionize education by--as he stated in one of his many delightfully anachronistic quotes -- ”putting the hay where the horse can reach it.”

To this end, Jam Handy moved The Jam Handy Organization to Detroit in 1932, locating it on East Grand Boulevard in order to be near his biggest client, General Motors and its 80 affiliated companies. Over the subsequent decades, Jam Handy went on to produce over 25,000 instructional films on seemingly every conceivable subject, including more than 7,000 training films for the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. If you’re curious about what these films looked like (and you should be!), check out http://archive.org/details/jam_handy.

What's the vision for the space?
We hope to provide a communal use space to East Grand Blvd and the North End neighborhood. We hope that it can be used for art installations, theatrical performances, music performances, beer brewing, urban farming classes, meeting space, film viewing, recital space, practice space, SOUP space, basketball games, etc. Maybe you have an idea that we haven't mentioned and it probably could happen here!

How would you facilitate people using the space? Would it be SOUP people only? Would there be a charge?
We hope to keep fees low. It would depend on the opportunity and why people would need it. It would be low fee and if that is hard for people we would be open for barters and trade to help pay for some of the costs, which would be paying for the heat and keep the lights on.

What's your relationship to the owners? Would you pay rent?
Simeon Heyer, the gentleman who owns the building, and I have built a great friendship. We were able to use the building for our SOUP two-year anniversary and have been dreaming together since then. At this point I am helping to put in some sweat equity and helping doing a lot of fundraising in the campaign. There would be the possibility of paying rent in the future but we see this as a partnership for both SOUP and the Jam Handy. We have the same goals of providing a space with low overhead for other dreamers and creatives in Detroit.

How concerned are you about increased overhead being a drag on SOUP's work?
When we first started SOUP we were offered the space but slowly outgrew it. We have been paying rent at our current location and we see the costs to be the same, if not less, and more creative partnership. It also allows so many others to use the space and that do us seems like an amazing opportunity and not even close to a drag on the organization but an opportunity to grow and expand.

How do you see SOUP fitting into the neighborhood?
It's technically is the south part of North End. On that street there are so many creatives already like Submerge Records, Howrani Studios, and Tangent Gallery. There already is an energy there that I am excited to be a part of!

Anything else people should know about the indiegogo campaign?
We have enough funds to get heat, so that is exciting. The heat will be hung from the catwalks and be able to refract from the floor to 8 feet us so it isn't wasting electricity or gas. We need to get a few more thousand so we are able to install the electrical work to make the heat happen. Currently there are construction lights that light the space and we would like to put in can lighting (lights the floor up) and some chandeliers to enhance how beautiful the space really us. To encourage musical and theatrical acts, we would like to get a small sound system installed. It's all very exciting!

To find out more about Detroit Soup, including when and where to attend their next get-together visit detroitsoup.com.

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