Downtown venue seeking proposals for creative projects

Jan. 13, 2013 @ 02:58 PM

Mercury Studio opened last year downtown as a co-working, meeting and events space. Now the organizers of Mercury are accepting applications for creative or community-minded projects. Visitors who come to Mercury Studio Jan. 22 will get to see several project presentations and vote on them. The presenter whose project is chosen will take home all the money from the $5 entry fee.
This model of fundraising is called “groundworkk,” which Matt Konar began about five months ago in Raleigh. Katie DeConto, one of the co-founders and the community director of Mercury Studio, said she was sent a link to the groundworkk website, liked the concept and thought it would work well in Durham.
The Jan. 22 groundworkk event will be the first of what organizers hope will be an ongoing community fundraiser. The deadline for submitting projects is Friday, and proposals can be existing businesses or organizations, or a single project, DeConto said. The only condition is that the project be creative, or community-minded, she said. “I was really excited about it when I read about it initially,” DeConto said of groundworkk. She and a committee of Durham residents have met with Konar, and with representatives of the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, who expressed excitement about the project, DeConto said.
Groundworkk has already funded several creative projects at Raleigh events, among them the organization RESQD, which makes clothing and gives 25 percent of its profits to orphans worldwide. In the next three to six months, Konar said he and other organizers will decide whether to make groundworkk a for-profit company or a nonprofit group. (He does not take any money from the fundraising events.)
The description of the types of projects groundworkk accepts is “purposefully open-ended because I want groundworkk to develop and fulfill the niche that the community needs,” Konar said. He hopes that the event in Durham will reflect the character of the city, he said. “There is a slant toward creative artists, toward things that don’t get traditionally funded,” he said.
Konar is a graduate in engineering from N.C. State University and an architect by profession, but also has a strong connection to artists of all kinds, he said. Groundworkk is his way of giving back to the community and helping to support artists. “I’m not a venture capitalist,” Konar said. “I don’t have that kind of money in my back pocket,” but groundworkk gives artists access to money they might not get through  traditional channels, he said. “I think [artists] are really creative with their projects, and if they get that money they can stretch it quite a bit.”
Groundworkk events are also intended to be fun, with local food and socializing. The $5 admission fee “is your personal vesting in one of these projects,” he said.

Go and Do
WHAT: Groundworkk project fundraiser
WHERE: Mercury Studio, 407-A N. Mangum St., Durham
WHEN: Jan. 22, 6:30 p.m.
ADMISSION: Entry fee is $5, payable at the door. All money goes to the project winner. To propose a “groundwork” project for this event, visit