If you’re online looking for artistic, original gifts right about now, consider the gift of an artwork that’s not even done.
On Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other crowdfunding websites, individuals are coming together to help artists and nonprofits, along with other inventive entrepreneurial types, to collectively finance their creative projects.
These might be as simple as requesting funds for an artist’s residency or as ambitious as Spencer Tunick’s photo shoot of more than one thousand nudes at the Dead Sea. Hank Willis Thomas’s Question Bridge, the groundbreaking multimedia project exploring Black identity that’s now at the Cleveland Museum of Art, was funded through Kickstarter.
At a time when museums are making it ever easier to donate online, crowdfunding has a specific quality that makes it ideal for holiday giving—namely, you can give, give back, and get a gift in the process that goes to your friend, loved one, Secret Santa, etc.
Most crowdfunding projects require rewards tailored to each level of giving. For a dollar or more, many will give you a shout-out on their website and a place on their mailing list. As the donations rise, rewards grow from stickers to posters to signed prints, from a live online preview to a personal tour, to, for the big spenders, maybe even an appearance in the artwork itself.
Street artist Swoon offered rewards ranging from handmade notes ($10 and up) to the chance to be part of a special edition soundtrack ($100 and up) to the 357 backers of her successful $23,977 Kickstarter to transform a New Orleans cottage into a functioning musical instrument.
Marina Abramovic, who recently raised $661,452 from 4,765 backers for the Marina Abramovic Institute, offered anyone who gave $1 or more a hug. That’s 1,359 hugs she will have to deliver starting in December 2014, listed as the delivery date. The people who gave $10,000 or more get to share a Spirit Cooking dinner with the artist.
Across the spectrum of sites hosting creative crowdfunding projects, policies vary. At Kickstarter (which lets you pay through your Amazon account), projects only get funded if they meet their goals. Indiegogo lets projects keep whatever they raise.
As you’re looking for just the right gift, poke around crowdfunding sites (try keywords) and you’ll find projects ranging from community murals to one artist’s quest to create an enormous Tibetan thanbhochi in California. On Kickstarter, curated pages by groups like Creative Time and Rhizome, along with individual art schools (who often feature their alumni) offer suggestions that help narrow down the field.
And don’t forget about Donors Choose.org, a crowdfunding site where teachers post requests for materials they need for their classrooms—including art supplies. If you buy a gift card, the recipient can decide where the money goes.
Here are 10 suggestions for creatively minded crowdfunding gift options:
FOR: DAY TRIPPERS
Project: The Psychotropic House
Creator: Cross Arts Projects
Deadline: December 15
The concept: Inspired by J.G. Ballard’s futuristic tale of a mood-sensitive house, an artists’ collective will transform Yinka Shonibare’s London studio into an immersive, multi-sensory environment.
What they need: Funds for audio description (targeting the visually impaired)—and support to engage with the other senses, too.
What you get: £15 or more brings a signed digital print by Cross Arts founding member Liz Sergeant (below); for £200 you (or your designated giftee) can get a VIP guided tour.
FOR: AUDIOPHILES AND PAUL CELAN FANS
Project: The Sea is a Big Green Lens
Creator: David and Douglas Henderson
Deadline: December 13
The concept: Brothers and collaborators David Henderson, a sculptor, and Douglas Henderson, a sound artist, are having a show at Studio 10 Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, next month. It features a vast lenticular void, some 40-odd sculptures, and a 14-channel sound system streaming an electroacoustic sound composition based on a Paul Celan poem. The sensation is like that of a message in a bottle at sea, but from the perspective of the message.
What they need: Funds for equipment and materials.
What you get: $50 or more brings a limited edition CD, a stereo version of the soundtrack for the installation, signed and numbered by the artists. It doesn’t cost anything to go to the opening.
FOR: TINKERERS AND DREAMERS
Project: The Permanent Exhibition of Heath Robinson’s Life and Work
Creator: The William Heath Robinson Trust
Deadline: December 3
The concept: The British artist, satirist, and cult figure Heath Robinson, whose name has become synonymous with absurdly complicated machines, has a small gallery devoted to his work in Pinner, England. With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Trust wants to transform the space into a museum.
What they need: Funds for the permanent installation.
What you get: Give £6 or more and receive a postcard such as “Communal eurhythmics and physical jerks for flat dwellers,” an illustration from How to Live in a Flat (1936). For £35 you can give your gift recipient an e-book version of Heath Robinson’s rare 1922 children’s book Peter Quip in Search of a Friend.
FOR: CULTURE GEEKS, QUIPSTERS, AND RIDICULOUS-DISCUSSION LOVERS
Project: The Metagame
Creator: Colleen Macklin, John Sharp and Eric Zimmerman
Deadline: December 4
The concept: A deck of cards illustrating cultural artifacts ranging from the Mona Lisa to the mullet is designed to be played in various configurations that provoke thought, debate, and ridiculous discussions.
What they need: Funds will pay for illustration, printing, design, manufacturing, and shipping of a new edition.
What you get: A dollar or more grants early access to a print-and-play PDF of the entire game. A $250 donation gets donors a card. For $500, the team creates a Metagame variant to your own specifications.
FOR: THRILL SEEKERS
Project: STREB: FORCES
Creator: STREB Extreme Action
Deadline: November 25
The concept: From the Streb Lab for Action Mechanics, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Elizabeth Streb runs the STREB Extreme Action Company, celebrated for extreme performances she calls “a mixture of slam dancing, exquisite and amazing human flight and a wild action sport.” The goal is to develop FORCES, the current production whose theme is action itself, for an open-ended run.
What they need: Funds for development to move the project forward.
What you get: $50 or more gets you a poster; $100, a T-shirt. For $7,500, enjoy dinner with Streb and all her artistic collaborators. By the way, rehearsals at the Streb Lab are free to all visitors.
FOR: CRAFTERS, BASKETBALL FANS, AND ANYONE WHO’S GAME
Project: “Net Works” Instruction Manual
Creator: New Craft Artists in Action
Deadline: December 9
The concept: In an appealing, light-hearted, and stunningly effective confluence of craft, Social Practice, urbanism, and athletics, NCAA is a “craftivist collective” that assembles handmade basketball nets for abandoned hoops and teaches other people how to make them, too.
What they need: Support for a printed workbook and manual that can help communities to produce their own nets.
What you get: Hand-crafted head/sweat band for $50 or more. For $500 or more, the team will make you a net.
FOR: URBAN EXPLORERS AND FUTURISTS
Project: Hyper-Reality: A New Vision of the Future
Creator: Keiichi Matsuda
Deadline: December 7
The concept: A series of films use overlapping narratives to depict the Medellín of the future as a wired, smart city with super-social media, and ubiquitous augmented reality.
What they need: Money for production.
What you get: For £10 or more, you’ll receive a postcard from Medellín, HD wallpaper pack, and a special thank you on the project website. For £5,000 you get an Executive Producer credit in the film, and a scene designed around your business.
FOR: ART-HISTORY NERDS, AND CLASSICS BUFFS
Project: Conservation Treatment of the Winged Victory of Samothrace and its Monumental Staircase
Creator: The Louvre
Deadline: Summer 2014
The concept: The iconic statue of the Greek goddess Nike, the sculpture also known as Winged Victory that has long presided over the Louvre’s Daru Staircase, is undergoing thorough conservation treatment.
What they need: With an international team of experts consulting on every move, it will cost one million euros to take proper care of this 2,000-year-old figure.
What you get: This one is not on an official crowd-funding platform, so, as in the case with the Smithsonian’s recent crowdfunding project for its current yoga show, there is no official reward–except for the sense of being part of art history.
FOR: NETWORKERS WHO WANT TO BE SOCIAL
Project: ArtHackDay “AFK”
Creator: Jamie Allen, Anthony Antonellis, Jeremy Bailey, Darsha Hewitt, Barry Threw and TWEAK Festival
Deadline: December 13
The concept: It’s a happening. It’s a hackathon. It’s a performance. It’s a party. Following its Art Hack last fall in Berlin, the madcap team will be staging the next one in Cairo, Illinois, in May. “Basically a bunch of artists whose medium is tech and hackers whose medium is art come together to create an exhibit that’s free and open to the public,” the Kickstarter pitch says.
What they need: Funds for food, internet access, venue rental and more.
What you get: For $9 or more, Jeremy Bailey’s “Famous New Media Artist!” button. For $49 or more, he’ll make a “super important augmented reality portrait” from a photo provided by the donor. For $79 or more, a private electronics class via Skype via Darsha Hewitt.