Last Friday, members of Santa Fe's art community invested $8,015 in the imagination and self-esteem of 20 DeVargas Middle School students during SITE Santa Fe's micro-granting dinner, SPREAD 2.0. The event took place at the Santa Fe Farmers Market.

While accepting the cash contribution to the Reel Youth Stories Project, founder Jason Jaacks stressed that, though a small group of seventh and eighth graders will benefit directly from the grant, the initiative will also enrich Santa Fe arts and culture with local stories by local kids at public screenings.

Attendees voted for Jaacks' project over seven others that ranged from activist art installations such as One Million Bones to the multidisciplinary improv performance piece Storm by Theater Grottesco and Out of Context Orchestra. SITE representative Anne Wrinkle tells SFR that, at the inaugural SPREAD last spring, some of the finalists who did not win the popular vote later received backing from donors who had heard about the projects through the fundraiser. She hopes to see that spirit of giving become a trend, but as of deadline could not confirm that similar donor-finalist connections have been made this year.

With SITE and its partners picking up the tab for dinner—burritos, salad, tortilla chips and beer or wine—voters provided the cash reward by buying tickets priced at $15-$50, according to the attendee's mode of transportation.

Speaking just before the 350-some attendees deposited their ballots, members of the art collective Meow Wolf—the inaugural SPREAD winner—told the audience that the more than $7,000 they received last spring transformed their group from a collection of artists with ideas into an active and productive collective. Meow Wolf used the grant to launch its interdimensional spacecraft, The Due Return, and has been busy with commissions and education initiatives at local schools ever since.

Jaacks intends to implement the Reel Youth Stories Project during the spring semester at DeVargas. Using "tabletop filmmaking"—a process that boils down the filmmaking process to tools and methods that fit on a table—the project hopes to teach students various technical and social skills. Two students involved in the first incarnation of the project, Jaacks said during his presentation, started out completely silent, but by the end delivered a presentation, "less nervous than I am now."

Having run the project on $80 and volunteer hours, Jaacks said that he'll use the grant to rent the screening venue, provide transportation for the students, buy equipment and provide a teaching stipend.