One of my aims during this residency was to use it as a springboard to: Develop an online presence and investigate new audiences for my work.
I’ve principally done this by creating a crowdfunding campaign (through crowdfunding site sponsume) and in turn I’ve used that to promote my website, which until then few people had visited.
Crowdfunding is very a time consuming process. As it was my first time, I set a realistic target of £500. Raising this relatively small amount, meant that at times I may of questioned whether it was worth it—comparing the amount of time spent to the revenue raised. However, from the beginning, I decided to see it as a platform for creating an online audience rather than an income generator. The good thing about crowdfunding as a marketing and audience development tool, is that at all stages you are in complete control.
I made the presentation of my work as professional as possible, despite knowing that this time round my appeal would mostly be seen by people that knew me (personally or professionally) and my core ‘backers’ would be people that knew me really well and wanted to support me.
I might think of ‘the audience’ while in the process of making any work, but often in my practice this has been towards the end, when I’m in the process of exhibiting. The very nature of crowdfunding means that the audience can be ‘present’ through the process of creation. I say ‘can be’, because not everyone approaches it in the same way. Some artists are seeking funds for the production of artworks, or costs for framing completed artworks for exhibition. Also the range of ‘rewards’ offered to ‘backers’ varies.
I did a lot of research about crowdfunding before deciding what the best approach for me would be. I wanted to provide a range of quality artworks even at the most inexpensive end—not simply provide a signed postcard. My crowdfunding audience enabled me to think about ways that people could access and own a piece of my work. As an artist who thinks more in terms of installation, it became more about sharing my work with people in a very direct way, and thinking of ways I could make that possible.
I also needed to feel that my backers were more than just a means of financial support; that they would have a value as an audience as the work was being created—this may have been more important to me than to them, but it’s what I needed to feel inspired. I saw it as a trial for future work and thinking about different ways that I could involve people to participate; exploring what effect they might have.
The responses I’ve had to the work, has made me think about my practice in a different way. I’ve seen how people valued the objects they chose; how much they’ve enjoyed being part of my journey; how they’ve responded to investing in me and acquiring a piece of original artwork for themselves—sometimes for the first time.
For an individual, just starting to embark on this way of connecting with people, particularly non-arts people, I had realistic expectations. Most of my backers were friends and family, but some backers, while not complete strangers, were totally unexpected.
While many others didn’t financially support the crowdfinding campaign, they did send words of encouragement and spread the campaign through their own networks, and during the six weeks it was running it generated 1130 hits on my sponsume page.
I also saw a huge spike in regards to hits on my website. Before the residency it was an average of 20 per month, over a period of two years. For the three months (month before, during and after) that rose to 454 hits collectively.
Advice at a Q&A run by the arts council about grants for the arts, suggested that as an individual, audience development might not mean huge numbers, and that is true in my case, I’ve got a very small following of people on my website now. But it’s given me a lot to think about for the future, and how I might develop further audience development.