Crowdfunding revisited.

After writing a guide to crowdfunding, I have been watching visual arts projects with interest to see how they’re faring.

Here’s the guide if you wish to have a look: www.a-n.co.uk/p/100291/

It seems arts aren’t doing that well. Or, I should say that it seems a lot of the arts projects looking for funding are mainly collecting from friends and family. I have given £75 to 4 projects on different CF websites in the last few months. I know none of the people I helped personally.

I gave to these people because a) I had money in my account at the time – ask me today and I do not. b) I knew of them or their work and felt sure that they would use the money to the very best of their ability and ambition c) what they were asking for in all cases seemed to be a reasonable i.e. not greedy, amount.

I saw that Artquest have launched the ‘Generator’ bursary scheme with Wedidthis for three emerging artists to receive a bursay, exhibition and mentoring. What a brilliant idea. However, I see today that it has only raised £100 of its £9,000 target and with only 15 days to go, does not seem likely to. There are a few reasons that I personally, won’t be giving money to this project, the main is that I’m massively between pay cheques and have none to give.

Other more general reasons include the fact that the pitch is a bit off-putting. It was obviously done early on in the project, so the artist talking is vague about the project and even the amount of artists involved. We don’t know who the artists are, although they have since been selected. I want to know more about each person, I want to hear from them why it will make a difference and what their plans are (I wouldn’t hold them to those though). I don’t know if you can update the video pitch once it’s on, I don’t think so, but I would like some updates on the project. I also feel, sadly, that it is not going to succeed as it is so far off target, so I don’t think there is any point in contributing at this stage. I guess with something this size, it needs a match amount or a strategic donation early on. Otherwise it seems like an ant doing a marathon.

Another thing that is difficult about crowdfunding is receiving an email asking for pledges to a project like this, when you are also an artist and already live below the poverty line. The rewards are not enough to encourage me in this instance as being an artist I know more about what’s involved. Therefore I don’t want an ‘artist-designed’ private view card as recompense for £20. Don’t most artists design private view cards?

I really do hope, however, that Artquest have an immediate load of pledges and the bursaries can go ahead.


Basically, it seems to me that artists are the wrong target audience for this fundraising. Artists’ already value art and have no money, looking at it finanically on paper they would be the last group to turn to.

I feel as if I have just waded through treacle trying to get those clumsy words out. I don’t mean to disparage the Artquest bid or crowdfunding (Artquest is actually ace), it’s just all starting to seem very difficult. How do we bring a new audience to art and replicate the ease of bands pre-selling albums and gig tickets? The thing missing most obviously is product; art’s not something everyone can necessarily have a piece of.

So I guess there has to be answer to that before art will see the same success as theatre/films/music/design in crowdfunding. Or we carry on depending on our nearest and dearest to contribute, but then projects are capped at a certain cost and ambition and things don’t always move on at the rate they should.

I’m interested whether other people would pledge money to crowdfunding arts projects and their reasons for doing so (or not). Anyone?


This is a reply to Carol Ramsey’s comment (in italics here) in my previous post – mainly because it prompted some thoughts about pop-up events and because of that old friend – word count.

I agree, The Art School is a Vital part of Liverpool though the standard of work in last few years has worried me, I always felt it was just a blip because of the move to new premises. Liverpool (Merseyside) does have a lot of talent waiting to be found but I think some of the artists are quite provincial in their thinking and if that’s what they want then that’s great but the chances of being ‘found’ here are slim, waiting around won’t work.

The quality over the last few years has been a bit worrying indeed (although I have only seen shows since 2007, so I only have the last few years to comment on!). ‘Waiting to be found’ is a big problem and I meet a fair few people who don’t seem to have ever been told that their work might not be quite there yet. It’s like X-factor when friends and parents convince their dearest to pursue their singing dreams, without acknowledging they could improve. In my opinion, there is a lot to be said being brutally honest as a tutor, it may be easier not to, but it gives people false expectations.

I think it’s important for the studio groups in Liverpool to connect more.

I completely agree with this, but I have also recently realised – by spending a bit of time in other regional cities – that Liverpool is pretty well connected, both between studio groups and also between them and the institutions. Maybe the latter more so?

The Co-operative project for the Biennial was a real success and I think more of this kind of collaboration is needed. We who do stay need to work together to make the Liverpool art scene great again, so that those artists moving on will still return to us.

Here’s the thing. I took part in the Coop project. It was a great project, but I don’t think it was entirely successful. I will also confess at this point that I didn’t send feedback because I was swamped with work – so I should have already said this. My bad.

It was awesome on paper and I think that performance programme and music delivered as it was on the tin. But, looking back, I think the art fell short. Why? There wasn’t a big enough budget to support the making of new or really ambitious work. So we ended up with people operating in pretty much the same way as they do within their studios (me included), because more just wasn’t really possible. A couple of works did seem to stand out, but these were described as commissions, so they may have had more funding. I don’t know what people got paid as there was very little transparency about the finances, but I know some performers did get paid and some didn’t. Some artists (me included) who applied for the one-week slots, got £100.

Also, more fundamentally, it didn’t operate as a Coop. This is because (as always), a few people put in all the work and others want to join in, but without working. It was the first one however, and now I have more of an idea about how it might operate, I know to be involved in a different way: I would rather help out for a few days than try and make new work under these conditions.

I think that we need to be honest about these things (Coop and others); otherwise we look at the documentation and say ‘wow that was amazing’ and everyone pats each other on the back. In reality, there were some real issues that need to be resolved before it is done again, specifically in the communication (I can’t get involved properly if I don’t know what is going on), money (it makes bad feeling if everyone gets paid differently) and the art (quality over quantity next time, please).

I’m sorry organisers; I should have said this earlier.


Times they are a-changing.

Excellent news from the Royal Standard studio group with several people (present and past) going away to study for postgrads in various brilliant places. Other artists I know in Liverpool are also looking to move away or abroad, just bcause the time has come to do further study and expand horizons. Makes me want to do my MA all over again (but please don’t make me!)

I’ve just been reading bits of Art in a City Revisited, a book about the effect of 2008 on Liverpool. It struck me how many of the people who have shaped the events of that year, and those around it, belong to my studio generation (they are in quite a few of the pics as proof!). I worry that the graduates coming out into the city do not have the same confidence or ambition, but mostly that they are not operating in clumps. You need a clump of people to start a studio/gallery space and you need to be solid and have a lot of trust.

There is a plethora of sunday painters in Liverpool. Then there are a level of artists who are serious about what they’re doing, but they’re not quite getting it. That sounds harsh, but what I mean by that is that they aren’t seeing enough or paying enough attention to the wider art world or being really honest with themselves to really make ambitious, engaged work. Then there are a number of artists who are going places, but it’s early days. It is these people that seem to be leaving, perhaps because they need a level of critical engagement that Liverpool can’t always deliver. It can at times and especially during the Biennial, but not always. Then there are a few artists like Paul Rooney and Leo Fitzmaurice who have stayed in Liverpool, but operate internationally. There isn’t much inbetween. As far as I can see, the art school is vital in this city to change this and I breathe a sigh of relief that JMU has announced that Fine Art will be taking admissions again for next year’s intake. Hopefully this year out will be their fresh start.

Personally, I feel like leaving Liverpool and going away somewhere to get my head stuck into 6 months quiet research. It’s not very satisfying when I’m trying to make the best stuff I can for YSP but it feels compromised by the need to work and make money. Art in Education projects are bringing in good rates of pay on paper, but they also drain masses of my energy. I have still not found a good balance.

Anthony Boswell also announced the end of his blog recently


and I will miss his musings, but I also thought -fair enough! Personally, I have been trying to develop a few things (and applying for funding) that will enable a more hands on approach to looking at the ethics and economies of being a working artist. This is Getting Paid in practice rather than text I suppose. With the advent of cuts and change in government, far more people are engaged in these important issues of fair pay and treatment and this blog is becoming less useful – or more commonplace, which is a brilliant thing. I want to stay away from complaining (although it is important) and spend more time looking at ways of uniting artists to insist on better working conditions as standard.

As a-n says in their comment on ACE Funding:

“a-n calls on all these funded galleries to allocate fees and payments to artists in support of the critical mass to guarantee that quality visual arts will emerge in the future.”


More of that please.

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