Pomegranate Studios Announces 5x5

When you offer a reward, it serves as a catalyst. The process through which competitors go to become the winner of that reward, and the community engagement and conversation that occurs because of that process, is the hidden value.

This was especially true for Grand Rapids during ArtPrize. Regardless of one's interpretation of the event, the massive experiment created new discourse and discussion, while prompting thousands of artists to create new work.

Now, Pomegranate Studios seeks to do it again with 5x5. 5x5 is smaller in scale, and perhaps more Grand Rapids-centric, but has a similar essence.

5x5 is a monthly event series, taking place the last Tuesday of each month, starting Feb. 22, 2011 at 5 p.m. in the Cook Auditorium at the GRAM. Here, five presenters come to share an idea. They each get five minutes and a maximum of five Powerpoint slides. There will be a Q&A (including questions accepted via Twitter). A panel of five judges will then deliberate on the ideas they have just heard. At this point, audience members and presenters will cross over to Reserve (201 Monroe NW) where the recipient of a $5000 grant will be announced. Here, the $5 ticket each attendee purchased can be redeemed for a glass of champagne to toast the winner. Mingling and conversation is encouraged.

Much like ArtPrize, 5x5 is a fairly open-ended, open to adaptation as new things are learned. The money could be split up between participants, judges will switch up each time and the rules are few. So few, that an idea could be almost anything.

"Ideas will be chosen on the basis of quality, feasibility, if it has reasonable traction and what sort of impact it could have," Pomegranate CEO Rick DeVos says.

With those vague guidelines, ideas could be art endeavors, start-ups, non-profits, community projects -- anything. The only string is that each recipient must return in two months' time to update everyone as to what they've been able to achieve.

"It's a platform for people to share ideas, to provide funds to make those ideas happen and, more importantly, to continue to build community about cool ideas in the region," DeVos says. "Over time, we want to not be the only ones who are making the grants."

All an individual needs to do to apply to be a presenter is fill out the form on 5x5's website. The form is very simple, needing only a name and a description of the idea.

"The classic Grand Rapids approach to this sort of thing would be to just quietly support (the ideas) and not talk about it, but I think we need more people to be aware of ideas that are being supported," DeVos says. "That's why we're doing it publicly like this -- the goal is that we become just one of a handful of organizations or individuals supporting interesting ideas."

5x5 is not the first event of its kind in Grand Rapids. Sunday Soup also works with the idea of mini-grants, and local groups have also begun using Kickstarter and Kiva to fund projects, as well as coming up with innovative ways to raise money (often using their artistic talents). 5x5 is yet another means of support and engagement, this one with a potentially higher monetary prize than others that does not rely entirely on smaller pledges from a multitude of sources.

Bill Holsinger-Robison, Pomegranate President, points out that even the process of applying for an event such as this is intrinsically valuable to the idea. Pomegranate's similar series, Momentum, focuses on entrepreneurs looking to start web applications. These ideas holders must also apply to present.

"If you go through an application process, you think through the business and it helps you formulate your ideas and take a step forward," Holsinger-Robinson says. "The questions are simple, but get it on paper, share it someone and even if you don't get selected, you've got an idea that's now packaged in a way you can share easily."

5x5 adds to a local culture Holsinger-Robinson senses of entrepreneurship, idea sharing and creativity. This plays well with Grand Rapids' first foray into hosting a TEDx event, 2011's Innovate X, as well as groups like StartUp West Michigan.

Chances are, if you are reading this right now, you have an idea. Get started here.

And join 5x5 for its inaugural night.
Feb. 22, doors open at 5 p.m.
Start at The Cook Auditorium, located in the GRAM (101 Monroe Center St. NW)
Finish at Reserve (201 Monroe Ave. NW)
$5 (includes champagne toast)

J. Bennett Rylah is the Managing Editor of Rapid Growth Media.
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