Straight Talk About Doing Good: Five Questions For Stephanie Bleyer
Stephanie Bleyer is a project manager and founder of Six Foot Chipmunk, a boutique consultancy providing a variety of services to media-makers, artists and entrepreneurs. Stephanie’s expertise, which she shares with her clients, includes creating business plans, producing live events, managing projects and campaigns, raising funds, and overseeing communications. Stephanie leads a regular Creative Capital webinar called “Producing & Funding Your Community Engagement Campaign“, a session designed to highlight effective practices for community outreach and engagement for work that includes social justice content.
We asked Stephanie a few questions about her own trajectory, and got her thoughts about how to raise awareness for socially engaged work in an increasingly competitive field:
Hannah Fenlon: Your background is insanely diverse. How does the variety of work you’ve done and places you’ve been inform your work with artists?
Stephanie Bleyer: Over the last 15 years, I’ve straddled the worlds of art, media and activism. When I work with artists and media-makers, I draw on my experiences working with do-gooders to help turn their work into an educational and mobilization tool. When I work with do-gooders, I draw on my experiences working with artists to help amplify their message and inspire new audiences. And to maintain commitment to this work, I’m always subconsciously drawing on the empathy and perspective I gained working with street boys, refugees and victims of war and conflict.
Hannah: Much of your engagement work in the arts has centered on film. Is this a conscious choice for you? In your opinion, how does the creation and dissemination of social justice focused work happen in film as compared with similar projects in other mediums?
Stephanie: Hell no! Focusing on film was not a conscious choice; I just happened to start my consulting business when the tools for documentary filmmaking were becoming accessible to the masses and engagement campaigns were becoming a necessity.
The principle difference between the dissemination of indie social justice docs vs. other types of pro-social art and media projects is that there are widely accessible platforms and methods in place to drive grassroots distribution and it’s super cheap. A small church in Alabama probably can’t present a theater piece about rape in the military, but it’ll take them 10 minutes to get the public performance rights and a screening discussion guide to show the film Invisible War.
Hannah: What are some of the differences in the audience and funder landscape for socially engaged work today, as compared with 10 years ago?
Stephanie: Getting funding from film funders is much more competitive but there are a lot more issue-based funders supporting media and communications projects.
Hannah: What surprises you most about fundraising for socially engaged work?
Stephanie: How much bull-shitting funders tolerate, how often grantees use engagement funds to pay off production costs (it’s a pervasive problem), and how long artists wait to start thinking about and fundraising for engagement.
Hannah: What’s the riskiest strategy you’ve used when producing an engagement campaign or fundraising for a project?
Stephanie: The riskiest fundraising strategy I’ve used is to be myself and treat funders like peers and partners. There’s an inherent power hierarchy that needs to be abided by with many funders and it can be risky to ignore it.
Want to learn more from Stephanie? Check out our calendar for details on her next Creative Capital webinar.