The bowls of soup — sweet potato peanut, broccoli potato leek and vegetarian three-bean chili with quinoa — were scooped up as quickly as volunteers could deliver them at Sunday's Soup N'at fundraiser.
Homemade in very large pots in volunteers' kitchens, the soups are part of a grassroots effort to draw new financial supporters for artists. To be held quarterly this year, Soup N'at charges a $10 admission for the soup and live music. The crowd also hears two-minute presentations from three to five artists, and then votes for the one they favor the most. That artist then takes home the "pot," or earnings for the evening.
"Soup is something that is universal," says Tirzah DeCaria, one of four volunteers running the event, and a postgraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh.
Unlike art, which can sometimes be difficult to get in front of new audiences, "soup is simple and accessible," she says.
Sunday's Soup N'at, held at the South Side's Brewhouse Association, was the seventh since August 2011. Five artists made presentations, pitching ideas that included helping offset the costs of a comics anthology, Andromeda Quarterly, and the work of a photo exhibit featuring portraits of each of the 49 exotic animals shot in Zanesville, Ohio, in 2011.
The more than 100 people who attended raised $1,000 for the winner, the Bunker Projects, an artist-owned and -operated gallery and residency space being built in the Penn Avenue arts district.
The next three Soup N'ats will be held at the Union Project in Highland Park on April 7, July 14 and Oct. 6. You can track any changes or announcements through the website soupnat.wordpress.com. Artists interested in presenting their projects at a Soup N'at can also apply on the website; applications are generally accepted about a month in advance of each event.
Cory Bonnet, an artist who pitched the creation of six large-scale paintings of Pittsburgh landmarks and buildings targeted for demolition, says he was taken aback by the popularity of Sunday's event.
"I thought it was going to be 20 people in a room," he said. "I had no idea."