Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

About | Summary | Events | Media | Backers | Contact/Sign Up | Donate

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

C-ville Kickstarter Interview

Among many other things, the Kickstarter campaign funded the Faces of Monticello Road, a community slideshow that ran for a week in July.

On Tuesday, July 31, the C-Ville Weekly ran a story by Katy Nelson about Kickstarter with several references to and quotes about Monticello Road, which had a successful Kickstarter campaign. Monticello Road is a great example not only because it used crowdsourcing to raise funds but because it is for and about the community as well. It is a tool that’s well suited to aid the project’s mission.

It was a short piece that touched on many things. I wanted to focus on the aspects that relate to art’s role in the community, so for greater depth, here is the full text of our conversation.

Nelson: Can you tell me about how you used Kickstarter to fund Monticello Road?

Krebs: Everything about my project is about removing barriers between people and there can at times be an invisible wall keeping too many people away from the arts. So if the project was to succeed in the way I wanted, it was important to make the art itself completely accessible to everyone--far beyond the usual suspects who go to openings. I wanted the art to be incredibly affordable. And so it was: everything was either free or pay-what-you-can. Yet, it all cost money--alot--so I wanted to find a way to fundraise that was completely optional (and mostly invisible) and that would allow people with little means to make small contributions and have it be really meaningful.

Kickstarter made a lot of sense because it's focused primarily on social networks (as is my project so there's a natural overlap) but it's not geographically limited as a donation box would be for example. The whole thing is about community and this allowed really wide participation and everyone to feel like their contribution (no matter how small) would be essential. And that turned out to be the case--we made our initial goal by just $6. As I see it, communities are interconnected webs of interaction and sharing. This created another layer, which was great.

The other thing that's good about Kickstarter is that the user controls the schedule (as opposed to grants which have their own cycle which can be very, very long) and there are no strings attached except those that I determine with my community, the contributors. So in my case, the campaign coincided with the show at the Bridge and the goal was to raise all the funds required for the exhibition, the many associated events, plus production costs for the free and subsidized stuff I gave away.

In the end, not all my backers wanted to participate in kickstarter but they wanted to donate so I got a second and unexpected wave of private donations afterward and those paid for the exhibit and public slideshow at the Local and a little seed money for the next project.

Nelson: Before crowd funding, how did you and other local artists finance your art exhibits? Has Kickstarter made it easier to find funding?

Krebs: Artists depended mostly on sales. By taking the whole selling business out of the equation work can be more mission- (as opposed to acquisition-) oriented. It provides a new channel for funding but it's one of many ways and I only used it because it made sense--not because it's better than any other.

Nelson: Were a lot of your backers people that you knew personally? Or were they simply people who discovered your project online?

Krebs: The vast, vast majority were people I already knew. The onus is on the person with the project to recruit funders and it requires a very concerted effort to reach an ambitious goal. Still there were a few pledges that came came through kickstarter, which was neat, but it's more about mobilizing your existing network than growing it. Because it's about your network, the donations will reflect the geographic distribution of your circle of friends.

Nelson: Do you know a lot of local artists who are using Kickstarter?

Krebs: Yes, I know a few and I've made some donations. Because it's connected to social media though, I've also discovered a bunch of my old friends who live far away are up to cool things and I've donated to them too.

Nelson: A lot of people have called Kickstarter a sort of social movement--a way to democratize the art world. Do you agree? Or do you see it simply as a convenience?

Krebs: Yes, I think that's true--especially because it's so quick and easy to make a small contribution. We have to be realistic, though, when we talk about democratization. The digital divide is very real and I think it coincides with the Art World barriers. This doesn't touch that at all--it might make it worse.

Nelson: Most importantly: How do you think Kickstarter is changing the arts community in Charlottesville?

Krebs: Yes--I think it does in several ways.

First, it creates a more participatory model of art where the community (even if it's virtual) has an ownership stake in the art.

Second, it allows people to become patrons of the arts with very small contributions. Patronage is influence and I think it will broaden artists' ideas about who is in their audience--and I think that's a very good thing. I really believe that the best thing for the arts is a larger overall pie, meaning more people involved and invested.

Third, it will be an incentive to do art that is project-based. A campaign that says "buy my art because it's great" will not work. It needs to DO something. That's a mixed blessing.

Because it's not limited by geography, artists will be able to reach outside of the local area for support within a broader non-physical community, which creates interesting possibilities.

Finally, it allows artists direct access to funding and gives them a new business model.

It gives artists alot to think about!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer on Monticello Road

The StoryLine kids visited many of our favorite neighbors, including Virginia Industries for the Blind.

We had a very full Spring on Monticello Road but we’re also having a fun summer.

Story Line
Last week, we had an amazing week with the kids of the Story|Line project. We spent a morning at Monticello; then the next day we visited Lazy Daisy, Virginia Industries for the Blind and had lunch at Mas. After a Wednesday clinic at the Bridge we brought all their experiences to fruition on the Free Expression Wall. This was the best year for Story|Line and we are deeply grateful to everyone who helped make it happen.

Learn more | Pictures

Photos at the Local
The photography exhibition has moved to its summer quarters at the Local. Twenty photos, including ten that have never been exhibited before, adorn the walls of one of our favorite restaurants. Stop by and check them out. The exhibition will remain on view through July. [More]

Community Slide Show
This coming Sunday and Monday nights (July 22-23), there will be a slide show in the storefront window next to the Local (the Beauty Shop). It will be a rotating display of about two hundred images, the faces of Monticello Road. Projected from the inside, it will fill the storefront window and be visible from the street. [Preview]

Rewards on the Way
I have received a shipment of books and if you pledged and have not received your copy (or your print) I thank you for your patience and please know that it is on its way. If you do not have one or would like to obtain, please email me (peter-at-culturecurrent{dot}com) and I’ll get it to you. Thanks to our generous backers, subsidies are available for those in need.

Thank You is always a good way to end an email or a conversation. I am deeply grateful for all your help (so far) and I am honored to be your friend and neighbor.

See you soon!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Story|Line comes to Monticello Road

We met some old friends along the road from Monticello, including one that was very old indeed.

It's as if two of my favorite people just got married.

Obviously, by now you've heard all about my Monticello Road project, which uses photography to celebrate the people and place along one of America's most interesting streets.

For several years, I've also been fortunate to be involved with Story|Line, an innovative multi-partner program wherein 30 kids (ages 10-13) from the Parks and Recreation summer camp take a series of urban hikes and then make a mural about it. Story|Line uses art in much the same way as my own project--to build connections to place.

Last year's trip was all about waterways and two years ago it was change and transformation. This year, the kids visted Monticello Road and it is literally the case that the two programs fit together like hand and glove. Indeed, as I was dreaming up Monticello Road, I had Story|Line very much in mind.

On Monday, kids visited Monticello itself and hiked down the mountain along the magnificent Sauders-Monticello Trail. On Tuesday, they met some of our favorite characters along Monticello Road, including Sonny and Novella at Lazy Daisy Ceramics, Virginia Industries for the Blind, and Tomas at Mas Tapas. On Wednesday, they refined their drawing skills at the Bridge PAI in preparation for Thursday's big activity: a mural on the Free Expression Wall.

Story|Line is an amazing experience and I'm grateful to be a part of it for the third time. It's a terrific group of kids, very motivated and insightful and totally inspiring. I always feel like I'm getting back so much more than I'm putting in.

It's been extra-special this time to walk with these fabulous kids along the road from its germination to its terminus and to introduce them to friends and neighbors along the way. Their presence, their questions and their drawings lift us all up.

Story|line is a collaboration between the Piedmont Council of the Arts, the Bridge, Charlottesville Parks and Recreation, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, Siteworks Studio and many, many volunteers.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Monticello Road at the Local

Jeff and Travis work across the street from the Local, at the heart of Monticello Road.

The pictures of Monticello Road are back on view, this time at the Local.

Twenty images, including ten never displayed before adorn the walls of a restaurant that is at the geographic and community heart of Monticello Road.

There will be an accompanying public art display outside. The People of Monticello Road slideshow will project on the storefront window of the neighboring building, a former beauty shop, and visible from the street. Preview highlights from the slideshow here.

The slideshow will be on display Monday July 23 from 7:30-11:00 to coincide with Local Singer/Songwriter night. The exhibition runs through the month of July.

Four photos will also be on display at McGuffey Art Center through Sunday August 19. Opening reception Friday, July 6. Copies of the 80-page project catalog are available at the gift shop there.

The Local is located at 824 Hinton Avenue, Charlottesville, VA. They are open for dinner seven days a week, until 10:00 p.m. Su, Tu, We, Th; 11 p.m. Fr, Sa, Mo. Telephone 434.984.9749.

McGuffey Art Center is located at 201 Second Street NW, open Tues-Sat 10-6, Sun 1-5.

For more information about the Monticello Road, visit www.monticelloroad.com; email peter@culturecurrent.com or call 434.465.9869.