Okay, y’all. It’s time for some real talk.
We — creatives, friends and family of creatives, and overall do-gooders — are bombarded by requests for attention and funding. And we are tired.
“Donor fatigue” is no longer a term reserved for the wealthy donors who support large organizations. Individuals at all income levels, especially those in the arts and non-profit realms, have been hit hard with a two year (or more) wave of revolving crowdfunding requests. The same dollar gets passed around and around and around; I give him $10 for his film, and in turn he gives me $10 for my album release. Yes, this system is great for fostering local pride and for artists to get a single project off the ground, but at what cost?
Creative networks are now beginning to feel the emotional strain of these requests, leading to new phrases such as “Kickstarter shame” and “Kickstarter fatigue.” Those of us who choose to share our lives with passionate people do so because we find immense value in them as sources of inspiration. So how do we navigate these murky waters of guilt when we can no longer afford another $10 to a friend’s project?
We use our talents to lift each other up. We collaborate on projects. We give our time. We loan our expertise. And we understand that all of those things hold as much (if not more) substance and value as a financial contribution.
There are artists around the world tirelessly applying their talents to make their communities a little bit warmer, a little bit safer, a little bit more compassionate, a little bit more creative, a little bit more aware. This project was inspired after watching street artists in Cape Town give their creativity selflessly and be lifted up by the communities in return. And so this project begin with two simple (but broad) questions: How do artists improve their communities? What can other artists learn from them and implement in their own communities?
I don’t have programming skills or a non-profit organization or independent wealth, so how could I spark this dialogue? Well, my talent is talking to people, assuring them that their voice has been heard, and using my connections to support them. [And a willingness to sleep on just about any surface.] After being so inspired by the artists around me, I decided to use the few talents and resources I do have to uplift inspiring artists who are not internationally renowned and to disperse their wisdom to the benefit of artists everywhere.
Even though I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign in the past, I consciously decided to allow these artists, my friends, and my family to show their support in ways that they chose rather than launching a crowdfunding campaign. This project isn’t about me or even about a tangible project. It’s about building stronger connections between us. Even the slightest risk of straining the relationship between us was NOT WORTH IT.
[This is not to say that crowdfunding is bad or that it isn’t a great solution for many projects. This is just to say that not all independent projects are necessarily appropriate for the pressures of a crowdfunding campaign.]
The breadth of “in-kind” donations – free magazine advertising, a couch to crash on, coffee, groceries, home-cooked meals, colored pencils – have shaped the direction of this project. These generous gifts serve as continual reminders that we all want to support one another. Encouraging a “give what [things] you can” mentality opens the door wide to everyone and can actually provide an even deeper sense of connection and gratitude to the “donors.”
Ultimately, this project is a labor of love. There is no guaranteed return for me, and life certainly is not all puppies-and-rainbows with a grueling travel schedule and uncertain funding. Nonetheless, this project is worth all the sacrifices I have made (and will continue to make) because I wholeheartedly believe we can all benefit from sharing our expertise and resources.
Artists astound me everyday with confirmation that sharing their stories is worth all that I can give. Click the links below to read the stories from:
Grupo Garabato in the Dominican Republic that uses public murals and installations to engage their community in a discussion about change.
Maximo Ceballo in the Dominican Republic whose paintings surpass language barriers when it comes to matters of passion and inspiration.
Beverly Nadius in Seattle who extrapolates from witnessed experience to create art that connects neighbors to one another again.
Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg where artists use cultural projects to promote socially-conscious economic revitalization.
Village Unhu in Zimbabwe where artists offer free art classes in rural areas to empower a new generation of creative and critical-thinking youth.
There are so many more stories. Check out the Creative Leaders interviews, or select a country from the menu at the top of the page to begin exploring the stories of the artists there.
The final take-away is this: please participate in this project in a way that inspires you.
Want to share your story? Wanna collaborate? Have an idea for how you can contribute your time or talents to this project? Have an extra set of colored pencils or books to give to the children I will meet? Have a couch I could crash on later this year? Bring it ON!
What can I do to help you on your projects? Who are you looking to connect to? What are your questions are you looking to have answered? Send me an email or leave your thoughts in the comments.
If you are feeling especially flush today and want to give this project a little boost of a few extra dollars, you can sponsor a part of the process – such as interviews, parties, and signed collector’s editions – or simply drop a few dollars in the donation bin. (If you cannot or do not want to, don’t you dare feel an ounce of guilt. You hear me?)
Thank you for your attentiveness, persistence, and openness. Thank you for all that you have done today, for all that you did yesterday, and for all that you will do tomorrow. It is an honor to empower you in your endeavors to bring creative change to your community.