Art is expensive to buy, but it also may be costly to make. Artists make objects that they hope others will appreciate enough to purchase, and sometimes the making of those artworks can run into the thousands of dollars. So, where is that money going to come from? Brother, can you spare a dime? Artists, like everyone else, have various options for raising money: There are foundations and government agencies that provide grants to artists (the problem is that the process may take months), microlenders (the problem here is high rates of interest and short periods of time to pay back the loan), tapping one's parents (hey dad, got 20 grand?) and maxing out credit cards (the interest rate again, let alone potentially ruining one's credit score).
A growing number of artists have been raising money online through "crowd-funding" sites in which Artist X lists a project, presents a short business plan and a budget, and waits to see if any visitors to the sight will pledge an investment of some amount, paid out of that person's credit card only if the pledges reach the artist's goal.
Michele Brody, a sculptor in Manhattan, raised $5,000 through the Los Angeles-based United States Artists, enabling her to complete the installation of her tubes-and-fluorescent lights installation "Nature Preserve" at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The three-month installation was the artist's prize in a competition, and "they provided me with a very small honorarium, but I had to pay my own travel, shipping, materials, room and board," she said. "Nothing is provided but the space."
United States Artists makes grants for as much as $50,000, but it also allows artists to post information on their projects and need for funding. The nonprofit organization lets artists, who have a record of receiving funding from other sources - Brody had been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation in 2003 for the creation of a sculpture that had been commissioned by the Laumeier Sculpture Park, in St. Louis, Missouri - to solicit donations from whomever visits the United States Artists Web site. Donors, who provide money through an Amazon.com account, are able to deduct their contributions, and the website takes a 19 percent commission on the revenues raised by the artist. That 19 percent "affected how much I asked for, since I had to factor that in," Brody said.
In this realm of crowd-funding for the arts, the New York City-based KickStarter is the current leader, providing a means of fundraising for a range of fine artists and craftspeople, as well as creative types in other areas of the arts. One fine artist who recently reached his $60,000 goal (and more, he actually received pledges of $116,000) was noted New York City photographer Spencer Tunick, who took a picture at the Dead Sea in Israel in which the water was dotted with nude models. "I prefer museum sponsorship," Tunick said, "but the museums in Israel are controlled by the government, and there is no more difficult government to get an answer from than the Israeli government, so KickStarter was really my last resort." Tunick would seem to be good for the money he received: His photographs sell for between $7,000 and $30,000, and he already has 700 orders for his "Dead Sea" image to fill to buyers around the world.
Filmmaking is the largest area of creative projects listed at KickStarter.com, according to a spokesman, who noted that "10 percent of the films that premiered at the most recent Sundance Film Festival were KickStarter-funded projects."