By OluShola A. Cole
What do a yogi, a local urban beautification enthusiast, and a theater company have in common?
Crowdfunding – the use of a crowdsourcing platform, like Kickstarter.com or Indiegogo.com, to raise funds for a project or campaign.
These three different entities came together over one uniting premise. They raised huge amounts of money for an issue or idea they had and cared about related to the New Haven area. I had the pleasure of hosting a really great discussion panel on crowdsourcing. Ben Berkowitz (of SeeClickFix.com), Jen Vickery (of 108 Monkeys) and Bert Bernardi (of Pantochino Productions) all contributed to a great conversation, which was moderated by Christian Shaboo and explored their experiences using crowdsourcing platforms as fundraising tools.
Insights such as what to do when getting close to a financial goal, how to build an audience beyond friends and family, and the autonomy or the “ownness” of the campaign were explored, as were the differences between crowdfunding platforms and their requirements.
As the discussion was had, I began to see that crowdsourcing campaigns can also be a way to help create and sustain spaces. Some of you are familiar with my feelings about the availability of cost-efficient and accessible performance spaces in New Haven. (I’m happy to share my thoughts.)
I do think that crowdsourcing and crowdfunding campaigns can help give identities to physical spaces. These new fundraising tools have the potential to sustain the arts by helping to offset the costs of maintaining the spaces within which artistic endeavors are pursued.
Various arts-participation surveys have identified crowdfunding as the fourth-largest source of arts funding (see the National Endowment for the Arts’ 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts).
Crowdsourcing, I believe, has the ability to further validate the choice of New Haven as a place to present work. In my opinion (and as the Arts Council’s community programs coordinator), crowdsourcing has begun to level the playing field in terms of arts-funding possibilities, and it has created a potential solution to what I view as a performance-space crisis by supporting creative people fiscally as they create new work.
OluShola A. Cole is the Arts Council’s community programs coordinator. This is her opinion.