A range of locals tap innovative Kickstarter website to chase their creative dreams.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
A college student seeks just enough money to film a mini-documentary. A photographer pines for publishing funds. An arty nonprofit venue needs a reboot. Unfortunately, the struggling artist’s life isn’t so romantic.
That’s where Kickstarter.com comes in. No giving up, no selling out. And a number of locals are taking advantage.
The innovative website, launched in 2009, touts itself as “a new way to fund and follow creativity.” With projects ranging from iPhone applications to cookbooks, creators upload their projects with detailed descriptions of what funding will go into. The world’s innovators get projects off the ground; sponsors, in turn, gain a sense of contribution and ownership.
“Word’s gotten around,” says recent CSUMB grad and film student Ralph Blanchard. “A lot of us are using it now.”
It was only with 15 backers and $360 that Blanchard had enough to scratch out A World of Her Own, his capstone project, a short documentary film about his sister’s struggle with paranoid schizophrenia.
“I wanted to make a narrative film,” he says, “but I decided that I should do something that matters to me and that more people should know about.”
Blanchard’s choice meant interviewing his mother, his sister, and her husband and son, who cope with the illness on a day-to-day basis.
“When I watched the film, I was experiencing this relationship that we all have together in a different way,” he says. “Her reality is different than ours. Through making the film, I have learned to understand that more.”
The Kickstarter funds fed his camera crew, covered traveling expenses, and provided some camera equipment. With extra footage that didn’t make it into the five-minute short, he hopes to expand the project and interview additional families coping with the condition, ultimately turning it into a feature film for the film festival circuit.
In the process, Blanchard wants to challenge the media’s depiction of schizophrenia. “There is this belief that schizophrenia is conveyed as something scary, not understood, to be feared,” he says. “Yet there are millions who have it. [My sister] has a family that loves her. I wanted to show a realistic side of what schizophrenia really is.”
For little nonprofit Henry Miller Library, financial survival has always been an adventure its namesake could appreciate. But when double landslides this spring blocked off traffic on Highway 1, things quickly got grim – revenues plummeted, taking hopes of restoring the stage the summer concert schedule depends on with them.
Fortunately, Web-savvy library assistant director Mike Scutari had an idea.
“My friend made a Christmas album [using Kickstarter],” he says, “and I thought, ‘How about the stage?’”
Kickstarter helped find 84 backers, who chipped in more than $11,000 in 40 days.
“We were blown away,” Scutari says. “It’s a testament to the emotional attachment people have to this place. People love our work and want to support it.”
“It’s such a worthy project,” executive director Magnus Toren says, “having a stage as a piece of art itself, that is both functional and beautiful.”
The new stage integrates nicely with the landscape of redwoods, and can finally fit, say, Edwarde Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, an indie folk band with 10 members, that last year had to bring their own platform.
Monterey resident and fine art photographer Toni Chiapelli recently delved into an ambitious yearlong experience of soulful and spiritual exploration, turning the camera on herself to document her daily personal, artistic and meditative life. The extensive journey is now chronicled in her visual collection The Illuminated Path: a Journey of Self Love and Transformation.
“The themes explored are of an inner landscape: human psyche, identity, healing, arts, and spirituality,” she says. “It is the evolution of a soul. As artists, we must communicate the inexplicable.”
It wouldn’t have happened without a Kickstart. Its funding allowed Chiapelli to take time off from work, making the project a full-time commitment.
Pacific Grove Fine Arts will host Chiapelli’s collection in the fall, and she is currently working on a traveling exhibit that features large scale images of her photographs. Now she even has a publishing deal in the pipeline.
“It is pretty humbling to ask for support daily from your community, and get it,” she says. “I chose to become utterly transparent and vulnerable during this process in order to inspire others to do the same.”