While working as a wardrobe assistant on the upcoming Dolly Parton film Joyful Noise, Atlanta artist Dorothy O'Connor had a dream. It involved waterspouts and chaos and a feeling of being consumed by the maelstrom. A nightmare to some, the dream was a source of inspiration for O'Connor, who transformed it into a piece of art. "Tornado" is one in the artist's series of tableaux vivants, or "living pictures," featuring an elaborate set, props, live model and a room consumed by a funnel cloud. The installation will debut this October during Atlanta Celebrates Photography.
"The tornado represents work and obligation," says O'Connor, 41. When it came time to fund the project, local art philanthropist Louis Corrigan's Possible Futures kicked in $3,000. To make up the difference, O'Connor turned to the online funding platform Kickstarter to help raise an additional $3,200.
With almost everyone struggling in the economic downturn, art can seem like the hardest sell of all. If you want to set off a conversational stink bomb at a gallery opening, ask a dealer or artist how the economy has affected their sales. It's common knowledge that "expendable" art purchases are the first to get chucked overboard when purse strings are tightened.
But in at least one place money for the arts seems to flow freely, good ideas are rewarded, and artists and patrons skinny-dip in a swimming hole of mutual appreciation. That world is Kickstarter, and other crowd-funding sites that have sprung up in its wake such as IndieGoGo and RocketHub. The East Village-based Kickstarter, started in 2009 by co-founders Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler and Charles Adler, has proven a boon to creatives looking for money to get their ... fill in the blank: record released, art show funded, music video made, or entrepreneurial pet project off the ground. The model has been called micropatronage for its ability to bequeath support in small and large amounts, from $1 to $1,000 or more.
"Money has always been a huge barrier to creativity," Chen told the New York Times during the site's early start-up days back in 2009. "We all have a lot of ideas we'd like to see get off the ground, but unless you have a rich uncle, you aren't always able to embrace those random ideas."
Kickstarter's risks (failure to get funding) are small compared to its potential. Kickstarter skims 5 percent off successful projects and projects that don't reach their funding goal incur no costs. For many Atlanta creatives who have traditionally self-funded their work, the alternative is maxed-out credit cards and an eternity of Kraft macaroni dinners.
Social networking may have led to modern scourges like oversharing and unproductive time-suckery, but for all the downsides there are copious pluses, one of them the spirit of generosity, conviviality and boosterism that often infects such sites and which defines the Kickstarter ethos.
That sense of community is clear in the growing number of Atlanta artists who have both solicited money for their projects and then turned around to fund the projects of other creatives. Puppeteer/filmmaker Raymond Carr, 29, appealed to the Kickstarter genie for $3,500 to make the long-form narrative music video "Old Man Cabbage" for local band Blair Crimmins and the Hookers (Watch the trailer). Director Mike Brune raised almost $18,000 on IndieGoGo to make his feature-length film Congratulations!. In turn, Carr donated money to Congratulations!, on which he is the art director. It's a karmic concept, where you throw your carrots or meat into creativity's stone soup pot and hopefully reap your own rewards in the process.
For this new generation of visual artists and filmmakers, grant money has not been the go-to for funding, either, because it's all dried up or because the competition is so fierce. "I didn't have the time or desire to go through the lengthy process of researching for and then writing proposals for grants," says photographer Beth Lilly, 48. The Atlanta photographer turned to Kickstarter when self-funding her work proved more difficult after she took a sabbatical from her teaching job at Kennesaw State University and her husband was laid off. Lilly raised $12,181 on Kickstarter toward the March 2012 publication of a book documenting her participatory art project The Oracle @ WiFi. The Oracle @ WiFi blends old-school fortune telling with a new technology hook: Lilly takes cell phone photographs for strangers around the world as a response to questions like, "Will my boyfriend and I remain together and get married?" or "What are the causes of my panic attacks?"
Photographer Neda Abghari, 34, recently raised more than $10,000 on Kickstarter to fund a dream she's been harboring for years called the Creatives Project, which supports the creativity of local artists through initiatives such as an art supply drive, workshops, lectures and residencies. Among many other things, the Kickstarter money allowed Abghari to hire a lawyer to secure nonprofit status. "It was a great way to spread the word," says Abghari. "I don't know how successful it would have been just on our own."
Part of Kickstarter's appeal is undoubtedly its democratic strain: Instead of ponying up $1,500 for an art grad's Cibachrome, you can kick in $1 or $5 or $100 toward a cause. It's about more than just an object, it's about an idea of supporting art in the abstract. With a $1 donation you may not receive much more than O'Connor's "eternal gratitude," but you can't always put a price tag on the warm afterglow of helping another human being create.
For artists, Kickstarter is an immediate way of road testing an idea: You throw out a concept, give it your best shot and the universe rewards you with cash ... or the sound of a million cricket chirps. It also expands your audience, providing a virtual spotlight on your work and making it accessible to millions. "Your work gets in front of a whole new audience, all over the world," says O'Connor, whose donors have originated close to home, as well as in England, Australia and even Pakistan.
"I can't maintain a career as an artist just by entertaining my friends" concedes Carr, who realized that to take it to the next level he'd have to reach out to a broader audience. "If your idea sucks, nobody's going to want to be a part of it."
I wonder if Ariel and Maya's "game hosted by friends" was the Georgia Tech Band's…
Su ch a blessing!!!
Captured every detail, you'll have to come back on a clear night.
does he need the Z and the S?
love this story !!!
Evan is a very funny fella