Guest Blogger: Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson
Crowdfunding is helping artists everywhere get their projects off the ground. It’s increasingly popular to use sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to raise money for exhibitions and art production.
ArtPrize is an independently organized international art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan with an unprecedented $200,000 top prize decided entirely by public vote.
Any artist in the world can compete; anyone with property in downtown Grand Rapids can turn their space into a venue; and any visitor can vote for their favorite artwork.
This is an amazing concept, this is an amazing opportunity, and this is amazing exposure. In the first year, 2009, there were 1,262 artists from 41 states and 14 countries represented. Since then ArtPrize has continued to grow.
I wanted to be part of it.
Light Bulb Moment
After being turned down by a regional funding agency, I struggled to find a way to get my work to Michigan.
I am a triathlete in addition to being an artist, which means long hours of swimming, running, or biking in training. I often come up with my best ideas for future paintings and artistic or marketing concepts while training.
One early morning bike ride as I was appreciating the golden sun cascading across the road in front of me, I had an idea. What if I created one HUGE image for ArtPrize out of multiple small panels? This would offer ease and economy of shipping, handling AND creating.
What if I made a 3×5’ image out of 15 12×12” panels? How EASY would it be to ship a box of 12×12’s to Michigan versus shipping 3×5 feet? And, how easy would it be to work on this project while traveling to teach workshops if it were broken down into two or three 12×12’s in my suitcase every trip?
Then, in the second half of that morning’s ride, it hit me harder.
If I could come up with a composition that allowed most or many of those 12×12’s to be stand alone images, I could sell prints of them to raise funds for my trip. I could pre-sell a limited number of signed giclée prints of each 12×12 panel. Some Facebook fans might even want MORE than one. Heck some might want ALL 15!
Economic means of shipping the work, combined with a great concept for sponsorship and that morning’s 30-mile ride proved to be inspirational on many levels!
I had found the solution and my proposal was eventually accepted.
I started right away. I order the 12×12-inch panels and nailed 15 of them together.
I shared the image and the story on my blog which then posted to my Facebook page via Networked Blogs so that fans from both social media platforms would see the story. I created a Facebook album to keep all the images in one easily accessible place.
Once accepted by an ArtPrize venue, I set out to earn sponsorship money with the same proposal. People who are familiar with my work from following me online were confident enough with what they saw in the proposal to pre-purchase their 12×12” giclée prints based on a numbered grid I provided.
In general, I found that my fans and followers were happy to help me reach my goal of getting to Art Prize. People wanted to be a part of something exciting even though pre-purchasing prints meant they were committing before they really knew exactly what the art was going to look like.
Asking for $60 vs. $395 (price of a 12×12 original) made sponsorship more attainable for most. I received many well wishes on my fund raising, my project, and my goal. The project was beginning to take on a huge positive vibe.
For everyone who emailed me and said “give me a print of A-4 and B-6” I would send them an invoice via PayPal that outlined exactly what they were paying for. Once the invoice was paid, I saved it on my computer in order to refer back to once the art was finished, photographed, and the prints were made.
All of my sponsorship funds went into my PayPal account. All of the fees for shipping and printing the giclée’s went out of my PayPal account.
Roger McNicholas at RT Art here in Orlando prints my giclées one at a time with fantastic color and quality.
He printed all of the 12x12s I ordered, stacked them in his studio and called me the day I needed to come down and sign them. Once signed, Roger put each print in a cellophane sleeve and drop shipped them for me all over the country.
The Bottom Line
In the end, I raised enough money to cover the following:
- Entry fees for ArtPrize
- Shipping the work to Grand Rapids
- Roundtrip airfare to Grand Rapids for opening weekend
- Printing 5,000 postcards promoting my work and voting for me in the contest
- Accommodations at the Amway Grand Hotel
- Spending money to cover food and incidentals
I can envision expanding this fundraiser to include multiple levels of sponsorship opportunities.
What if I offer the print as the entry level and raise the stakes from there? What are some things that might motivate patrons to purchase more than giclée prints?
Perhaps . . .
- Sketches from initial concept for the work (a la Christo and Jeanne-Claude)
- Hand-made collage postcards from the trip to Grand Rapids
- An original 8×8, 10×10, or 12×12 koi collage inspired by the ArtPrize piece
- Acknowledgment as a supporter on my blog and Facebook page
- Handwritten letter about the experience of ArtPrize with photos from the installation
- T-shirt with koi art on front and ArtPrize Seal (with approval from ArtPrize)
There are so many possibilities and I am most excited about building stronger relationships with my followers.
What ideas/items could you add to this list?
What would motivate you to sponsor an artist in achieving a project that they not only dream about, but one which would help them to grow as an artist both professionally and personally?
Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson is an Orlando-area artist who creates painterly, impressionistic collages from teeny, tiny, torn tidbits of hand-painted papers. Follow her work and daily studio happenings on her Facebook page.