Past Kickstarter projects (clockwise from top left): Shepard Fairey’s “We the People” project (2015); Robert Irwin’s building at the Chinati Foundation (2016); Ebony G. Patterson’s “Called Up: A New Artwork for Kansas City” (2018); Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman’s artist-run initiative For Freedoms’s “50 State Initiative” billboard campaign (2018). Courtesy of Kickstarter.

Kickstarter to Allow Cultural Organizations to Crowdfund Operating Costs

Kickstarter, the popular crowdfunding platform that has helped raise crucial funds for thousands of arts projects since it was founded in 2009, has launched a new initiative that aims to help cultural businesses stay afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lights On essentially allows Kickstarters more flexibility regarding the use of funding. Instead of raising money to commission art or to create something new, they will now be able to ask for money to cover operating costs such as rent and utilities.

“The recent Americans for the Arts and Artist Relief survey showed us the bleak statistic that 62 percent of artists in America are now unemployed,” Patton Hindle, head of arts at Kickstarter, told Artforum. “We knew we had to bend our rules to help pay bills across creative industries, but Lights On can be an especially powerful tool for the arts. This is an opportunity to build a deeper bond with your network, even when doors are closed.”

The initiative was inspired by the Brooklyn heavy metal bar and concert space Saint Vitus’s attempts to stay connected with its community despite its prolonged closure. The venue set up a Kickstarter campaign, which has raised nearly $95,000 since it launched four weeks ago. Organizers are giving out various rewards to individuals who donated to the arts space, including limited-edition merchandise, exclusive set lists, instrument lessons, tickets to future shows, and the opportunity to have pet videos scored by musician Kevin Hufnagel.

Those interested in participating in Lights On can launch a project here. Kickstarter’s team is encouraging organizations and cultural producers to try to offer rewards that can be delivered to backers or future experiences that they can participate in once nonessential businesses are allowed to reopen.