Arts nonprofits help people express themselves and build community to create new ways of looking at the world. In order to do this well, arts groups need to juggle many priorities, from planning programs to spreading awareness on social media to enlisting volunteers – and of course, there’s FUNDRAISING. At ioby, we think crowdfunding can be an important tool in every nonprofit’s toolkit, and arts nonprofits have been some of our greatest fundraisers.
Love music? Love working with young people? Interested in organizing a music program for youth in your community, but not sure what it could look like?
You’ve come to the right place. Over the years, we’ve worked with many leaders who have started creative initiatives in their communities that get young people involved in music, often in conjunction with something else engaging like the outdoors, visual arts, or technology. They’re all different, but they all have some common threads (such as, we’ll just say it, being awesome).
ioby is more than just a crowdfunding platform: we’re a team of individuals who are passionate about helping neighbors make their neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and more fun. We love hearing from ioby Leaders about their experiences planning, funding and implementing a project with us. We think by sharing these experiences, complete with both triumphs and roadblocks, we can help spread knowledge and maybe even inspire others to take action towards positive change where they live.
Looking for signs
As a self-identified sign-hunter, Khara Woods is always on the lookout for street art in Memphis. On leisurely walks through her hometown, she documents property signage and graffiti as reference for her graphic design and hand-lettering projects.
[Photo by David Leonard]
One day in midtown, Khara stopped in her tracks and took notice of a colorful new graffiti-inspired mural on a formerly unsightly wall along Lamar Avenue. The stark contrast between the mural design and surrounding disrepair drew into focus the strange mix of rapid transformation and neglect that for her characterizes the historic neighborhood of Rozelle-Annesdale. The wall sat adjacent to a freeway that now the divides the area, which was formerly a bustling corridor for residents and commuters. Her curiosity piqued, Khara was determined to track down the artist responsible and soon learned that the art was one of eight installments comprising the “Paint Lamar” ioby campaign led by Kyle Taylor. Khara kept ioby on her radar. She bookmarked the site to her browser and checked in periodically.
A family affair
She also sent the link to her mother. While Khara scouts emerging street art, her mother NJ Woods keeps busy as a “primitive folk” artist building on a collection of self-portraits depicting Mid-South and Civil Rights- era living. For some time now, they had been looking for a way to collaborate, and they had an idea to work on a large scale public mural together. They had applied for grants, responded to city RFPs and sought funding from arts commissions to no avail. Feeling defeated, they tabled their collaborative project until they had the resources to execute on their own terms.
[Photo by David Leonard]
A connection is made
In the early stages of ioby’s 85K Memphis Match, Khara skimmed our blog announcement and promptly got in touch with our office to float a question about what permission she’d need for a potential public mural project. After connecting with ioby’s Ellen Roberds in person at an Urban Resource Center meeting, Khara shared her concerns about her lack of fundraising experience and navigating permissions for public property use. Drawing on her local relationships, Ellen facilitated introductions between local business owners, weighed in on potential sites, and even proofread Khara’s draft emails to property owners.
After much back and forth with local stakeholders, Khara secured the site of a welcoming local eatery in Midtown: Moore Food Company. Launching their ioby campaign “Headshots”, Khara and NJ quickly racked up match funds for their $1,000 funding goal for wall clean-up materials and paint supplies. Inspired by NJ’s past collage work, the mother-daughter pair spent a couple of weekends rolling out a cast of minimalist geometric figures to represent the diversity of their Memphis neighbors. After Khara and NJ’s mural went up on behind the Moore Food Company, the restaurant saw business profits spike – their beautification project was clearly doubling as a placemaking success and a striking new neighborhood landmark!
[Photo by David Leonard]
Vision meets guidance
Khara and NJ’s mural project reminds us that fundraising is just one of many barriers that can stand in a way of potential leaders starting a project. After being burned by grant opportunities, Khara felt discouraged by bureaucratic language, sluggish timelines, and by veteran organizers competing over resources for public arts projects.
When the Woods pair came to ioby with the vision to get their project off the ground, ioby provided the footing they needed to ask for buy-in from their community. Ellen’s guidance throughout the process speaks to one of ioby’s core principles: we believe that our neighbors know what’s best for their neighborhoods. While we’re confident that local residents are the ones best equipped to make on-the-ground change, our hands-on approach offers leaders the chance to build confidence and expand their skillsets. We’re here to affirm ioby leaders’ right to improve their neighborhoods and to guide them through unforeseen hiccups along the way. ioby is proud to be a part of Headshots fundraising success and we hope it’s one of many for the Woods family!
And remember: if you’re ever headed east from Downtown Memphis, keep on the lookout for the Woods’ bold and whimsical 10-foot geocentric headshots to jut into view.
At ioby, we are lucky to be surrounded by experts from across the country. Our ioby Leaders can do some amazing things; They can build bat houses, make beeswax candles, teach kids how to tell stories through dance! And best of all, they’re not stingy with their knowledge. That’s why we like to feature some of our favorite Leaders in our Learn from a Leader series. We hope you enjoy!
This week we hear from Karen B. Golightly, a graffiti photographer and one of the three main organizers of Paint Memphis. Her photos and articles on graffiti and public art have been published nationally and internationally in literary and art journals, such as Triggerfish Critical Review and Number magazine. Paint Memphis sponsors a one-day annual paint festival to create public art in unusual places. In 2015, they created Memphis’s largest collaborative mural, which was also its first city-sanctioned wall for public art.
- Get permission from the City—with some friends. This might be the hardest part! Memphis spent so many years trying to cover up graffiti that officials had a hard time understanding why they should now condone it; it literally took us years to reach agreement. We finally got there by doing a presentation to the Office of Engineering and Public Works showing how beautiful the public murals in St. Louis are, and how this is all about community—it’s not a threat! We also partnered with a local environmental nonprofit that wanted to beautify the floodwalls lining their recreational trails. It’s better not to go into this looking like one crazy person—get some backing!
- Figure out your budget. If you’re not familiar with calculating mural costs, ask someone who is. The other Paint Memphis organizers had a better idea than I about how much time and paint (both spray and bucket) we would need. We approached Home Depot, and they donated a lot of primer, paint, and volunteer labor (we shouted them out in our press release); paint brands Glidden and Behr and a local contractor also made donations. Our muralists also chipped in themselves by buying some of their own paint; about half of what we needed total. Remember that the bigger the wall, the more expensive it will be!
- Clean and prime. After appealing to the chief of our fire department for months, he understood that pressure washing was an essential part of the mural-making process, and agreed to help us. Once it was clean, Home Depot employees volunteered their own time to prime the wall.
- Get volunteers! We sent one press release, and had our ioby campaign and a website, but most of our buzz stemmed from the nature of the project: graffiti is cool! A lot of people spread the word through their own social networks and really showed up to help with prep and cleanup, press, professional photography—everything! We also had organizations reach out to see what they could do; one volunteered to clean along the wall after the mural’s completion.
- Choose your painters and prep for the day. We gave local and regional artists whose work was really good first dibs on painting, but artists from as far away as South Korea eventually heard about it and got involved. We organized the artists along the wall to alternate between solo muralists and crews; many developed their pieces to fit together, so we planned for them to work side by side. A local restaurant donated a barbeque lunch, and another sponsor donated water. All 70 artists were so grateful to come out and share their work.
[Photo by Daryl Andrews. Lots more great ones on Paint Memphis’ Facebook page]
If you’re in a hot climate, don’t do this in the middle of the summer! After you get permission from the City, six months should be enough time to organize, provided you’re working with a committed team.
We raised $2,500 and got a separate $500 donation, which was enough to buy half the spray paint; we needed an additional $2,000 for bucket paint and priming. So the materials total was about $8,000—but that was for a floodwall a third of a mile long and seven feet tall! We wanted it this size to make an eye-catching statement and a real community movement for Memphis, but you don’t have to start so big.
In addition to all the usual paint and priming supplies—brushes, rollers, buckets, tarps, etc.—don’t forget to have tons of water and snacks on hand for everyone!
[Photo by Frank Chin. Lots more great ones on Paint Memphis’ Facebook page]
– Paint Louis gave us tons of great advice
– Living Walls—a different approach in Atlanta
– Local arts agencies (like our UrbanArt Commission) are usually more than willing to help with securing funding and lending expertise
– Get a local nonprofit—one involved in the arts, environment, or something else related—to lend your cause validity and help make inroads to local government easier
– If there’s a person in charge of public art in your city’s administration, reach out to them (of course)!
Tom Finkelpearl, a self described ‘Public and Cooperative Art Guy,’ is the Executive Director of the Queens Museum of Art. Here he discusses the power that artists have to draw a crowd and the Queen’s Museum’s work towards expanding and deepening social networking in the surrounding community.
About a hundred years ago, Marcel Duchamp took a urinal and he put it on a pedestal in a museum and called it art. The idea was, if you take something out of the flow of life and put it in a museum, which is out of the flow of life, it becomes art.
An artist who we are working with, Tania Brugara, said it is time to symbolically restore Marcel Duchamp’s urinal to the bathroom. To make it useful again. We actually did that. We have Marcel Duchamp’s urinal in our bathroom. It’s a urinal again. It has been repatriated. So she is having a meeting that we are sponsoring about useful art. There are environmental aspects of it.
Mel Chin has done a series of environmental works. He is a legendary guy. His most famous is one called Revival Fields, where he worked with a scientist from the US Department of Agriculture with certain kinds of plants which are hyper accumulators of cadmium and lead and planted them in some toxic waste sites in order to suck the toxics out of the soil and then burn the plants and mine them for cadmium and lead to pay for the process. So it’s a sustainable model of bioremediation.
He’s working on a huge project right now in New Orleans which is called the Fundred Project, that project is based around the idea of getting kids particularly, but also other people, to draw each person one $100 dollar bill. The idea of it is to raise enough money to deal with lead poisoning in New Orleans. This is a sort of post Katrina project. Already over 320 thousand people have participated in the project making individual works of art. And he’s going to go to Washington and try to redeem the money for bioremediation of the toxic wastes and lead poisoning in New Orleans. We were a Fundred site. We collected a lot of fundreds. He came by with an armored car.
Rick Lowe is this absolute visionary down in Houston Texas who has reclaimed a whole neighborhood. He now has a campus in a low-income African American community. He is an African American guy, grew up very poor on a farm in Mississippi. He has reclaimed a whole neighborhood as an art project.
It includes everything. He is building housing. He has revitalized several blocks of old row houses. They have community gardening. They are collaborating with Rice Architecture School on designing and building housing. He is a visionary of useful art.
We’ve been working off-site in Corona, at a particular part of Corona which is a low income mostly Latin American community in Queens, on a series of projects with artists (and some without artists). The major components have been public space and health and immigration. Part of the idea is that it’s all linked in together. You can’t separate the health outcomes from the community network outcomes from the environmental outcomes. So we’ve been doing big community festivals, often times based around big art projects.
Artists can draw a crowd. And when the crowd is there you test people for diabetes and high blood pressure, etc. When John Leonardo did a project as a Lucho Libre thousands of people were there and you say, “Okay, they’re here. Let’s see who has insurance.” Thousands of people signed up for low-cost insurance, which is like the public option if there were one — Metro Health Plus. Thousands of people got screened for various problems and they got immigration information.
This whole idea of cooperative art — that’s what I’m interested in, the idea that in the history of art the idea that the artist was this lonely person sitting in his studio is a very new idea. It’s only in the last thousand years that people have been isolated in their studios, before that, art was part of the collective.
We did a “social network map” of Corona and we had it mapped by this Center for Creative Community Development at Williams (C3D). The idea of social network mapping is to say that it is demonstrable that there are better social outcomes in communities with denser social networks, especially multi-layer social networks. So that if you are on the PTA and you’re also a member of the church and you’re also the member of a business association, and your neighbors are on those things too, and you have multilayered relationships and, for example, you show up at the Community Board meeting, and your friend who you talked to at the PTA doesn’t show up, you might call them and they might be lying on the floor waiting for someone to call and they answer and say “take me to the hospital!” The idea is to get more mutual surveillance.
So what we’ve done is one test of the social network map to understand both how dense the maps are and to understand how central the Queens Museum is to those maps, because the more central we are, the more important our role is.
We’re hoping is that we can demonstrate that the second time we do it, the map is denser, and The Queens Museum is more central. That’s the hope. If we’re actually helping our community, we’ve helped our community have denser social networks, we’ve brought people from the edges of the community more into the flow of interaction.
A good neighbor is someone who is active in the community. There are other communities I’m a part of besides my residential community, the art community, the school community. There are all these ways that actually having a kid ties you to a community — PTA, sports, etc.
I think privacy is overrated. It’s not associated with happiness. It is this protective sheen that Americans try to put around themselves which is unhealthy socially, physically, personally.
Every one of the happiness books says that being a member of a community, being active in your community is associated with happiness. All of these things that are counter intuitive to Americans are based on this idea of the individual, which is unhealthy.
There are very few animals that are as cooperative as human beings. We are aggressive and territorial, but we are also insanely cooperative. There are only four animals that have social units over a hundred thousand, and we’re one of them. So it’s ants, and bees, and I don’t know, bats, and us! And that’s amazing! So we have these social units, cities, and 8 million people are living together, and for the most part we cooperate. Then there is this question: why are we so fixated on the fact that we don’t cooperate?
I’m really rooting for our species to make it through all these problems we have, and the only way I can do it is by being cooperative. Not by being more competitive.
I had one experience with an artist, Merl Euchilles, not long ago and she did this project about this Jewish principle “tikkun olam” and it has to do with repairing the shattered world. She did a performance of it at the Center for Jewish History and the idea was for people to make some sort of pledge on the basis of that principle, it could be anything from being nicer to people, there is a whole wide range of what it could mean, she had this sort of performance and ritual. It was kind of hokey and I didn’t think it was one of her best pieces, but it actually changed my life.
There was this mirror, a two-sided mirror. You looked in the mirror and saw yourself, so it had to do with self-examination. So I made this pledge to repair stuff. These shoes have been resoled three times and I started to not just throw things out automatically. I did a renovation of my loft based on things I found on the street. I stopped using a dryer, cause you don’t have to, just hang things up and they will dry (Americans waste an amazing amount of energy on dryers). I just became much more conscious. I stopped buying stuff. It’s been a year and a half now and I’ve continued all this stuff. It was an amazing performance and it sort of crystallized what I was already thinking in a way, and it gave me motivation to make this commitment.
There is a lot of underlying spiritualism in artists’ work that doesn’t get acknowledged because it’s kind of embarrassing. The only artists who will say it are Buddhist, because they’re not afraid to say it.