Charity Profile: Inspire Artistic Minds
In 2010 Bobby Navarro set out to eat at 100 different restaurants in 100 days, an adventure chronicled in his blog 100eats.com. What grew out of the project was more than just a refined palate—Navarro gained a greater appreciation for the artistry and work happening behind the scenes of each restaurant, and he was inspired to find a way to support that creativity. “In 2010 I set a goal to take my sommelier test in order to get a promotion at my job. I had to pay everything out of pocket to take the test, totaling nearly $1,000,” Navarro says. “The restaurant industry has always been a passion of mine, but to realize that there is no support for passionate working individuals or to help reimburse the cost of further educating driven people working in these tactile, artistic industries seemed unfair.”
Navarro founded Inspire Artistic Minds in 2012 with a mission to provide direct scholarships and educational experiences to those working to advance the arts of “sight, taste and sound,” with a primary focus on the food and beverage industry, which to date has awarded $200,000 in scholarships and funding. One such recipient was Noble Ale Works in Anaheim, California. Funding from IAM helped to send brewers Brad Kominek and Evan Price on a trip to England and Belgium to learn about traditional brewing methods for styles like lambic and gueuze. “Both Evan and I became so eager to put this knowledge to use that we were actually excited for the trip to come to an end to start formulating recipes and brewing,” says Kominek.
Navarro says that witnessing the change that comes from educational inspiration is one of the most rewarding parts of operating the organization. “We were able to see how [Noble Ale Works’] experience impacted their business, and how the new influence inspired change in their culture and community. We want to encourage this kind of diversity and cultural awareness, and food and art are a primary way to do that.”
Inspire Artistic Minds accepts applications from any individual working in visual or fine arts with an emphasis on the food and beverage industry and exhibiting the ambition and passion to advance their creative pursuits. IAM provides funding for opportunities and programs such as sommelier certification, events like Tales of the Cocktail and educational travels. “I wanted to be able to help people have the opportunity to feel like they could have some support as they move forward in their career,” says Navarro. “Now we are one of the only organizations in the country that specifically targets and supports education of the bar industry.”
As a frequently selected charity recipient during Negroni Week, Navarro says IAM has seen huge bi-coastal exposure, which they are then able to reflect back onto the bars and restaurants that support them. “We hope to be the bartender’s charity, knowing that the money they work hard to collect will go back into strengthening their own industry and connecting hard-working individuals to the things that will inspire them.”