What Crowdfunding has taught me about Art and Value (so far)

What Crowdfunding has taught me about Art and Value (so far)

Recently, we launched a fundraiser to help ensure the longevity of ArtHole, and provide a more substantial program of community-focussed activities for Illustrators in Cardiff. 

I was very scared to launch a fundraiser. My primary concern came from the pure cheek of asking people for money. Pride plays a big part of it, but in a time when the cost of living is astronomical, other businesses are struggling locally, and a certain Genocide means there are people with far more need for financial aid than us, what right have we to ask people for their hard-earned cash? It shouldn’t have to be on people to financially make up for Government decisions, funding cuts, and the sort of genocidal complicity that have allowed these issues to occur. 

There’s no doubt that crowdfunding has become a measure of success for many businesses, as it’s increasingly been used to launch new products, services or campaigns. Having a bar that shows you how much you’ve raised, and how far you still have to go doesn’t help, and is perfectly designed to set off the compulsive tendencies of someone with a debilitating addiction to social media. In the same way I am guilty of checking for likes and conflating them with success, I knew that fundraising would offer similar emotional pitfalls, except with the added anxiety that comes from involving money. 

These points highlight the issues with our value system, and its relationship to artistic practice. It’s also reinforced my long-held suspicions that quantifying artistic value is a bullshit task, and that introducing money into the conversation of creating and sharing art is a deeply-rooted, yet unfortunately necessary act of perversion. Running a shop, a lot of people have asked me how they should price their work. It’s a universally dreaded question for the emerging Illustrator, and I still don’t know how to answer it properly. However anyone chooses to price their work, they’re placing themselves amongst a framework that encourages comparison with the work of other artists. Our reliance on social media for exposure works in a similar way, with its system of likes and shares creating competition for priority in the various algorithms they employ. These things ultimately serve to dilute an emerging artist's practice.

Unfortunately, launching a crowdfunding campaign requires you to not only place a numeric value on what you do, but also relentlessly frack social media for engagement. It feels almost entirely at odds with what I believe, and yet has helped me reframe the value of what we’re doing. Community-funded arts projects exist at the intersection where social, monetary and artistic value meets, and would appear to be the most logical way of working as a grassroots artist in an increasingly cruel economy. Regardless of how much a person gives to a cause, each individual donation, message or share is an endorsement- an act of reassurance and solidarity that has been empowering me to keep making things.  

Reaching out to the community for support has helped show me that it truly is the power of people on which Illustration as a practice is built, not money, although it’s still far too easy to get carried away with looking at numbers and using them as a basis for comparison. A symptom of necessity, unfortunately. Most importantly though, crowdfunding has served as personal evidence that for as long as monetary value is widely upheld as the most important, creative people and social ventures will always have to struggle to survive.

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