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Kickstarter provides launch pad for artists' careers

Special to the Union Leader

December 22. 2012 10:10PM

Kickstarter, a website on which people can pledge money to help creative types with their artistic works, has launched more than 33,000 ventures in its young existence, including several Granite Staters' projects.

And while tossing a project in with hundreds of thousands of others is no guarantee of success, it's the feeling of hope that gets people to participate - the hope that they, too, can find funding for a project that ends up exhibited at MoMA, gets accepted at Sundance or debuts in the Top 10.

This is how it works: An artist in need of money - perhaps to buy materials or to pay bills while the project is being worked on - sets up a Web page and usually makes a video to explain the project, announce a fundraising goal and set a deadline. If people like the project, they pledge money. In exchange, the artist offers rewards of varying values.

For example, in exchange for a $5 pledge, the donor may get a signed thank you card or a copy of the project, while for a $500 pledge, the donor might get lunch with the artist.

The average donation is $75, but there are plenty of others at the far ends of the spectrum. If the fundraising goal is met, the artist (or photographer, or musician or filmmaker) gets the money. If the goal is not met, the artist gets nothing and no one is charged.

According to the Kickstarter website, more than $374 million has been delivered to help more than 33,000 projects since the site's inception, in 2009.

For artist Lyndsey Marston of Concord, even if she falls short in fundraising on Kickstarter, she still comes out ahead.

"Kickstarter is a great way to share my artwork beyond the scope of my usual social networking or art festival reach," Marston said in an email this month. "I'll be extremely happy to meet my fundraising goals in order to complete my project, but I'm also happy to have more people see my artwork and visit my website."

Marston said she's been invited to participate in a small gallery show in Concord, but as of now, none of her drawings are framed. Her goal is to raise $2,523 to frame 18 drawings so she can be in the show. Wth the deadline nearing, she has about $800 in pledges.

"The process has been great so far," she said via email. "My biggest challenge is simply trying to market myself! It's difficult to ask people for money, and I try to walk the fine line of getting the word out without overwhelming people with Facebook posts."

Sumner Hatch, who raised $8,400 after seeking $7,000, concurred.

"For me, the hardest part was getting to the psychological state where I could ask people for money," he said. "This isn't something I'm bred to do.''

The "commerce aspect'' of the arrangement, however, "that I'm kind of giving you something for your support, was really important for me,'' he added. "I'm not asking for a handout; I'm actually giving you something."

Hatch, 28, lives in New York City most of the year now, but grew up just outside of North Conway. Every summer, he stays with his family for two months at their place on Squam Lake in Holderness. For the past five years, he's captured these lazy-day visits with an old-school, black and white camera - the kind "where you put the cloth over your head," Hatch said. "It's a very intense cost for the materials."

Kickstarter has enabled Hatch to make art - not a weekly paycheck - his priority.

"This year, I really wanted to be able to focus, and I wanted to be able to spend the time without having to worry about having to make money," he said. "It just wasn't seeming it was going to be possible this summer, and Kickstarter seemed like a good way to raise money and connect to whatever network I have. . . . It was a good experience, and I think it's an amazing platform."

Tom Jorgensen, a senior at Keene State College, raised more than $5,000 for his feature-length psychological horror movie about a defunct mental institution. He and 12 of his film studies classmates were determined to be the first at the school to make a full-length feature film for their senior thesis project.

They set a goal of $5,000 - to add to the $12,000 they were putting into the project themselves - and reached it in the first two weeks of the campaign, Jorgensen said. To get that money, they relied heavily on social media, calling in favors from Facebook friends and others.

Setting a realistic fundraising goal that attacts donors in the first week on Kickstarter is crucial to success, Hatch said.

"It creates momentum," he said. "It's like the herd mentality. People like to donate to successful causes. It's true in presidential campaigns, it's true in everything: People don't want to give money to a loser."

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