Arts Desk

Story/Stereo Nabs NEA Grant in Time for Its Second Season

storystereoiconSince its debut last September, Story/Stereo has hosted unlikely combinations of poets, authors, and musicians—from jazz poet Brian Gilmore to post-punk legend J. Robbins (Jawbox, Office of Future Plans)—and it's all been entirely free. It all takes place just outside the District at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, which curates the literature portion of the evening; the musicians are hand-picked by Chad Clark (Beauty Pill) and Matthew Byars (the Caribbean). Such gloriously cost-free events are always in peril of finding their bank accounts empty: Luckily, Story/Stereo just received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

"It was important to us to keep the event free," Clark tells Arts Desk. "In my mind, I see Story/Stereo as a companion or sister event to Fort Reno—we're inspired by Fort Reno giving something to the community that's free, positive, and about art and expression. I think it's great that Story/Stereo begins exactly when Fort Reno ends, and ends when Fort Reno begins."

Previously, the event has been funded by the Writer's Center—a nonprofit that is funded by the "Maryland Arts and Humanities council, as well as a blend of other sources," according to Clark. While next fall's line-up has yet to be announced, the NEA grant won't impact the curators' selections. "There are no restrictions on the grant at all, that I know of," says Clark. Though he declined to disclose the amount of the grant, he did say: "Without it, we would've had to ask people involved to volunteer. We might've been able to continue because the goodwill has been so strong, but I'm psyched about the grant. I see it as fuel for us to continue."

"I still regard the whole thing as an experiment," says Clark. "We've overcome certain perceptions that it could somehow be stuffy—that it would be somehow dreary and intellectual. It's really comfortable, and it's in a beautiful theater that many people didn't know existed before Story/Stereo happened."

That it's not a typical rock 'n' roll venue might be an advantage, Clark says: "It actually makes a great date. You're going to like something a lot—either the band and the music or the author or poet—and even if there's something you don't like, there will be something interesting to talk about."

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