Awesome Newcastle’s March gathering was last Thursday evening at Casa de Loco, in the east end. Our regular board, guest board members and nervous but determined finalists headed up the wooden stairs of the Mexican restaurant y tequila bar for for the night’s proceedings.
As board members and guests sipped on icy cold Sangria and Mexican beer, the room was buzzing with one question: ‘who would be the one to walk away with the bag of $1,000 cash?’
This month, our guest board members included guests Bec Bowie, founder of Estabar, Ian Bennett from Viking Cruises, Chris Sneddon, Director of Maxim Accounting and Kris Leck, founder of Jimmy Figgs Bareknuckle Barber.
Our host for the night Aaron Van De Stadt, owner of Casa del Loco, also joined us as a guest board member, while Adam Lance and Andy Howard from The Village of Useful and Lois Donaldson from Wine selectors made up our ten judges.
The first finalist to step up was Gwendolin Lewis, vice president and committee member from The Society of Artists, a not-for-profit community art group that runs art classes and workshops every day of the week for community members.
The Society of Artists was formed in 1973, and every year stages an art exhibition known as the Newcastle Art Prize has been awarded to a talented artist in the community – that’s 43 years and counting!
But the society is constantly struggling to find the budget to cover their venue, staff and prize expenses, so Lewis told the board members the $1,000 grant money would be make up the major art prize.
Our next finalist was welcomed with a big ‘Hola!’ from the board. Elena Terol Sabino told us through a thick accent about the Spanish Language Playgroup she started in Hamilton.
Sabino explained the importance of the group in bringing together Spanish speaking families and children, but also how the group provides the opportunity for english-speaking families to introduce a new language to their kids.
Sabino told the board the $1,000 grant money would be used to build a Spanish book library.
Former Newcastle Herald journalist and passionate Novacastrian Rosemarie Milsom took the stage next, and shared her story about the Newcastle Writers Festival.
She spoke of the struggles the festival has faced in past years to find the funds to make it happen. Once an on-the-side job, Milsom now works full-time making the festival happen each year.
Beginning in 2013, this year the festival involves 140 writers across 70 events, with more than half the events being free. Milsom said she’d use the grant money to film events to reach a broader audience.
Under the fairy lights on the deck, the board members discussed who should take the grant money this month. As usual, it was a difficult month and the board deliberated long and hard.
Finally, it was Bec Bowie from Estabar who presented the $1,000 cash grant to the lucky and very happy winner, Lewis from Newcastle Art Prize.
As usual, entries never expire and we’re confident we’ll see our finalists again soon.
If you’d like to apply for an Awesome Newcastle grant, head to awesomefoundation.org.