Yesterday I read something from a fellow artist in the Los Angeles community that I am still processing… His words felt weary, cynical and even elitist in nature, when I read them, as he complained about the number of artists bombarding him with requests for funding through the various crowdfunding sites. I am not sure if he was joking or not, but he even spoke of filtering his mail, to keep the noise down. Here was my initial written response:
As you mentioned, arts funding is constantly in peril, and it seems times have changed and now an artist must find new paths to create art or to work in community. This includes turning over new rocks at times to support it… Even at the risk of wearing out our welcome with others, especially other artists… but there is, also, the bright side, which is promoting the democratization of funding and the joy of individual giving!
While I have spent more than 20 years working as a theatre artist, writer, producer, and teaching artist, there has never been a vehicle quite like crowdfunding for me, which has allowed for a more transparent and direct communication with potential individual funders and supporters. I am in the middle of an indiegogo campaign right now, and it has been challenging and inspiring! While I am aware that many people in the arts world are inundated with requests to sponsor a project or ten or a hundred, and I understand this can be tedious and frustrating, most of the people I am sharing this campaign with, are not even aware of crowdfunding. And while not everyone I reach out to is hitting the donate button, the response has been humbling and encouraging… Democratization. It is not easy. I suppose I would prefer to some extent to have an endowment, or to be able to rely on the NEA, and private foundations to secure my cause and programs, as has been the case in the past. But many of the marginalized communities who are my partners, have been hit harder than the rest during this economic downturn, and yet are still reaching for ways to work with MAPP and not lose the precious ground we have gained, through arts education. . I feel this campaign is a way for me and the people in my community to respond. Hope this helps to give a different perspective.
I sat on this for a bit, and then passed it by a few trusted people. I wondered whether my distress was justified and whether my reaction was a defense against my own tendencies toward cynicism and anxiety that the challenge could not be met. Through patient and frank dialogue, we found the greater purpose. The paragraphs shifted and words were edited to make the message more concise and to emphasize the beauty, optimism, and power of our cause.
Because, that’s the real message I want to convey: the beauty, optimism, and power of our cause. For many of us, participation in the MAPP program has given us great hope in our young people and each other. It has provided the opportunity to talk across generations, to break down cultural barriers, and to heal through shared experience.
I appreciate the opportunity… Thank you everyone.