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Some of the search results for Kickstarter when you plug in “art”.

LOS ANGELES — For Co.Design recently, Bruce Nussbaum reflected on the idea of “indie capitalism,” a form of small scale, independent capitalism focused more on makers and communities:

“It’s socially focused, not technology focused, more designer/artist-centric than engineering-centric. I especially like ‘indie’ because the indie music scene reflects many of the distributive and social structures of this emergent form of capitalism. It’s no accident that Portland and New York have vibrant indie music scenes and are the centers of a rising new indie capitalism.”

In a post-2008 world, all the artists I know have had to take a ruthlessly entrepreneurial mindset to both promoting their work and sustaining their creative practice. A recent post in GigaOM makes the case that the internet has been a boon for artists willing to navigate the plethora of tools for promoting their work and raising much-needed funds:

“Everywhere you look, artists are taking more control over their own economic well being, in large part because the internet has enabled them to do so. You see it in all forms of content, from books, to video to music.”

Consider, too, the 2011 stats released by Kickstarter, which helped creatives collectively raise almost $100 million this past year.

“More than one million rewards were selected, nearly quadruple the year before. Approximately 1,000 projects were successfully funded each month. In fact, more projects succeeded in 2011 than launched in 2010.”

Jason Eppink tried (tongue-in-cheek) to raise $5,000 to donate money for his friends’ Kickstarter campaigns.

Art projects received nearly $6 million in pledges. For perspective, that’s double the reported operating budget of Creative Time. And with a total 78,588 backers for 1,172 projects this year, that averages out to about $75 per donor and $5,000 per project (enough for Queens-based artist Jason Eppink to fund his friends’ projects).

Of course, shooting past traditional art world gatekeepers and straight to one’s audience is fraught with its own challenges. Instead of individual investors, artists have to manage their own financials and marketing and deal with thousands of backers scattered around the world, not to mention shipping or promised rewards and correspondence. But it’s refreshing to see that alternatives to the traditional system are becoming more and more viable.

Btw, did you know Hyperallergic has a curated page on Kickstarter? Now you do.

Original unaltered images in center via and via

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An Xiao

Artist An Xiao (aka An Xiao Mina) photographs, films, installs, performs and tweets and has shown her work in publications and galleries internationally. Find her online at @anxiaostudio and anxiaostudio.com.

3 replies on “Artists Kickstarting Their Own Careers”

  1. As time ticks on, I’ve become less of a Kickstarter fan than I once was. I’m worried that non-profit art orgs will rely on the artist to fundraise the bulk of their projects, which is not their job. This can put the artist at risk of producing a half-ass project. Micro-fundraising is extremely time consuming and takes the artist away from their core responsibility; making art. Remember, if 100 ppl funded your project, that could mean 100 “rewards” or items to post (for many, without help). Kickstarter can be great for start-ups or other industries (like music, for instance), but am a bit defensive of using Kickstarter now as a default for art projects. And squeezing $50 out of friends and family can only last so long.

    Of course there are exceptions and I’m not 100% anti. If you can’t get the grants you’re after, Kickstarter is certainly an alternative… but I’m not sure it should be the norm.

  2. sure would like to spend more time working on my project but it is still a fun process and helps you really think about your goals and even find new directions you did not consider before while building a project at kickstarter… so far and we have yet to launch our Haitian Superflat kickstarter project… been working on it for a few weeks now I guess its the anxiety of not being sure if you can reach the goals set

  3. Kickstarter has angred me because it is funding some “projects” that are essentially stores but it would not fund a project that I had for an alternative art space because it was “for profit.” I’m happy that they let artists sell outright: goof for them! But then they should be fair and consistent and let alternaitive art showspaces (that offer more wall time to emerging artists and give them a larger cut) in on the fun(d).

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