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What Happens When A Knight Grant Runs Out? Sweat Records Turns To The Web


With the Knight Foundation officially taking applications for this round of its Knight Arts Challenge grant, buzz about the program is heavy in Miami's artistic circles. As we pointed out the week applications opened, no project is necessarily too small or strange, and the foundation funds projects from funky to formal.

But these grants, naturally, don't last forever -- in fact, they have a strict three-year funding period. After that, the same organization might qualify for another Knight Arts Challenge grant, but the money will have to go towards a different project. That means that groups using an initial grant for a continuing event sometimes wind up with funding gaps to fill after that first period is over.

So what's one solution? For Miami-based Sweat Records, it's crowd-funding, turning to the internet to solicit donations of goodwill from fans and supporters. In 2009, the Knight Foundation recognized the record store as more than just a place to buy music but as a proper community hub and vital note in the city's creative network.

The shop scored $150,000 from Knight to expand its event programming and establish the Sweatshop, an e-commerce portal for local artists' goods. Among the events so funded was Sweatstock, the store's annual all-day, all-ages, free festival celebrating both Record Store Day and the anniversary of the shop itself.

This year, Sweat again received a Knight grant, but the money can't technically be used for Sweatstock. The 2012 grant, some $140,000, is meant to pay touring acts to play free, all-ages shows in Miami. Similarly, a major beer company that sponsored past editions isn't participating. So owners Lauren "Lolo" Reskin and Jason Jimenez went to Indiegogo, a site that allows entrepreneurs, creatives, and other thinkers to solicit money for projects. A caveat: These donations aren't tax-deductible.

The average Sweatstock is a fairly large-scale, but grassroots, affair, with Sweat blocking off the side street next to the store for an all-day, all-local free concert. Inside the store, more DJs and electronic musicians perform, while selected bands also take over the stage at Churchill's Pub from the afternoon into the late night. Local artists and vendors set up shop, and food trucks -- particularly those with sustainable and animal-free slants -- complete the overall homegrown party feel.

Reskin and Jimenez of Sweat seek to raise $5,000 to cover the costs of permits, street closure, outdoor stage rental, production, security, sanitation and, of course, insurance. "We do things by the book to keep everyone safe and happy," says Reskin, "and the last three years of drama-free community awesomeness have been a testament to the fact that we spend four entire months organizing it."

With a little over a month to go until the online fundraiser deadline, Sweat is about $3,000 away. Regardless of whether or not she and the shop meet the full goal, though, Reskin promises all of the funds raised will go directly to Sweatstock's production, and that the event will stay true to its roots. "We really want to keep Sweatstock free, not fenced off, and open to the public. If we don't meet our full goal we might do a stripped-down version just in the shop and Churchill's, without the street closure, which would be a step backwards in our eyes," she says. "We're way more into moving forward."