Conversations: Anne Krinsky
After tentatively reaching out online to a random selection of Crowd Funders asking to speak to them about their experiences, Anne was one of the first artists to get back to me. It probably helped that her crowd funding project was actually to raise money for her exhibition and events celebrating the Women's Art Library at Goldsmiths, where I am currently studying and it was less intimidating to start the interviews speaking to someone with whom there was already a sense of connection, even if a rather tenuous institutional one. We met at the achingly trendy Canada Water Café, situated, as the name suggests a stones throw away from Canada Water station. I had a white hot chocolate and a croissant whilst I waited, (I was early as usual), and an earl grey when Anne joined me and ordered a semi-skimmed Latté.
Chatting with Anne Krinsky, Wednesday 4th February, 2015
Zara Worth I understand that your Kickstarter campaign was looking for partial amount of the overall cost of the project as you already had support from the Arts Council. What was it that drew you to crowd funding to bridge your funding gap?
Anne Krinsky Basically, the fact that the Arts Council England likes you to have funding from other sources and not just from them. I had gotten some ‘in-kind’ donations for the project already, but I felt that my chances of having a successful Art Council application would be improved if I also planned to run a crowd funding campaign for the remainder of my budget.
ZW So, was the Arts Council funding dependent on your Kickstarter campaign’s success?
AK Not really, I think they took me at my word that I would be able to do it. They sent me the money before I had actually started the crowd funding campaign. I understand that with perhaps larger amounts it might be the case [that Arts Council Funding would be dependent on demonstrating existing sources of funding success], I only asked for £5000 from the Arts Council. I think that with larger amounts, grants over £15,000, they want to see other money raised first.
ZW How did you promote your project? Did you just depend on the Kickstarter website or did you also circulate your project and promote it yourself?
AK I have a large emailing list, both of people in the UK and living in the US, where I’m from, and I sent out an email saying that I was starting a project and funding part of it on Kickstarter and asking for people’s support. There’s no question that you have to have your own base of support. I think what happens is, when you first launch your campaign, if you get a significant portion of funding right away then they [Kickstarter] promote the page more. Whereas if you launch it and nothing happens, they don’t promote it.
ZW So was yours’ a project also promoted by Kickstarter?
AK It was, I would say almost the entire time it was live it was the top of the list of ‘Art in London’ campaigns, and then later on, and much to my surprise, they made it ‘Project of the Day’ for 24 hours. And that took care of it for me. At that point I started to get more contributions from people that I didn’t know and also get larger amounts.
ZW Did you think that attention was because you have backing already from institutions? Your project already being associated with institutions before you started your Kickstarter campaign.
AK Well I think it certainly couldn’t hurt, to show that your project has already received funding. It was, in my case, a project which was designed to bring attention to the Women’s Art Library at Goldsmith’s College, so it was a project that was not just about me, it was about something else and I think that may have had something to do with it having been made ‘Project of the Day’.
ZW I noticed that you had nine ‘Reward Bands’ on your project page, and by large, your donations were grouped around the lower end, between £10-£50. Why did you decide to group the reward bands in these ways and do you have any idea why the donations were weighted towards this area and how this related to the reward bands?
AK I think that those smaller amounts; £25-£50, (I have heard some advice actually after I launched it), you should have rewards at those levels.
ZW The lower levels?
AK The lower levels, but not under £10, because it’s not worth your trouble. And, that these lower levels tend to be the area that most people can afford to donate, or feel comfortable donating. In regards to the larger donations, I would say it was a mixture of donations from strangers and acquaintances. I have a dear artist friend in the States who is very supportive and we try to boost each others practices, and she pledged £350 for a print. So that was great, but then when they made it ‘Project of the Day’, then I had a £200 donation from a banker in London who I had never met. When I started out I wasn’t comfortable with the whole thing, but as it went on I realised that you aren’t just asking for money, you’re building an audience. And, so then it became a much more interesting project.
ZW How did you feel about the process of asking for money? I think as a culture we feel very uncomfortable talking about money, especially asking for it and especially in the arts.
AK I felt at first that it was outside of my comfort zone, but as it went on and the project got some attention, I realised that bringing attention to it was a good thing. And that it wasn’t just about the money.
ZW It became more about building an audience?
AK Yes, and then I felt much more positive as I went along.
ZW Would you use crowd-funding again, as a source of income?
AK I would, but not right away, because I don’t want to burn-out my supporters. I would maybe use it in a year or two for another project and for a larger amount. I started out very conservatively, asking for £1000, and I raised £1500. Of course then there’s the commission and there’s the cost of producing a video. So it’s not like you are really receiving £1500, but it was gratifying to go over my goal.
ZW Yes, to have raised 150% must have made it a very positive experience.
AK It was, and when they made it ‘Project of the Day’ that helped, and that was also a very positive experience.
ZW The sense of a project's success develops much more gradually through Crowd Funding, it isn’t based entirely on the judgement of an end product or exhibition. Instead you are able to measure the accumulation of support.
AK I think the whole undertaking of any funded project is much more weighted up-front. If you are applying for a grant you have to do it months in advance, it is the exact same way with Kickstarter. I’m not used to working this way. I’m used to making the work, going into the studio, making, then being able to define ‘it’ after I’ve made ‘it’. Then saying this is the thing I’ve made and now I’m going to publicise it and exhibit it. In this case, defining the project and fundraising for it came so far in advance of actually making the work, that it completely made the process opposite to how I have worked before. It was very strange.
ZW Do you think there was any negative effects on the artistic process because of using crowd funding? Because you are forced into having to set out very clearly what you are intending before making the work.
AK I don’t think of it as a negative process, I just think that it’s a little risky, because well, what if you don’t pull off the thing you’ve said you’re doing!
ZW And what if you don’t pull it off?
AK Well you’ve gotten the money already, after the campaign ends you receive the money. I think it wouldn’t look good for you and your future projects if on any funding project (Arts Council, Kickstarter, etc), if you ask for funding, receive it, and then don’t do it. The next time you propose something people are not going to look positively on your effort. So it is certainly in your interest to complete the thing you propose.
ZW Would you recommend crowd funding to other artists?
AK I would, but, like other kinds of fund raising, it’s a huge amount of work. Launching a Kickstarter campaign, writing for a grant, doing all kinds of publicity, I think all these things are very necessary at this point for artists to do. But it really does take you away from the studio.
ZW The way that Kickstarter is presented, it seems very effortless. There is the webpage with a bit of a blurb, maybe images or even a video, but actually was the preparation more than expected?
AK I knew that there would be a lot of preparation: making a video is time consuming, writing is time consuming, deciding what the rewards are, etc. It’s like any other piece of marketing or publicity. The better your prepare it, the better it works. I’m glad if it looks like it’s effortless but it’s not.
ZW As I mentioned earlier you were seeking a partial amount of your overall goal on Kickstarter, do you think the whole of the project could have been funded on Kickstarter?
AK I think that would’ve been a stretch. If I had no other support from the Arts Council, or ‘in-kind’ support, I would have had to raise more, making the overall goal £7200 for the project. I think for my first time on Kickstarter it would be too much of a stretch. I think I would rather have done it the way I did; starting out with a conservative goal and other forms of funding. Rather than starting with an overly ambitious goal and falling short of it. I think for me, I like the idea of combining different sources of funding, and I think that I would try to do that again.
ZW I think one of the other aspects of crowd funding which is making it more popular is that it enables smaller projects by emerging artists, without the existing network that a more experienced artist might have, to realise their projects. Do you think it is more democratic?
AK Sure, I would definitely say that. Because people can give small amounts, and plenty of people that I didn’t know gave anything from £1 - £10. I think it’s a lovely idea. As to having the institutional support, I guess I do, but having that is like anything else, it’s a question of asking for it, developing a project that has some interest and then trying to find a venue, get it backed etc. I don’t think there’s a magic formula to it, I just think that it’s a lot of work.
ZW Were there a lot of people like that, that you didn’t know - across the reward bands, just wanting to support your project, donate and say, ‘yes this is a really good idea!’?
AK There were quite a few people like that, it could’ve been about half and half of people I did know and people I didn’t know. There are also people that get in touch that actually are trying to ‘make a buck’ off Kickstarter. You would get messages from people saying, ‘we can help you raise your Kickstarter project profile through our website, or through social media’ and things like that. Obviously I wasn’t going to go for that, but it brings out the hucksters.
ZW Do you think that’s a downside of Kickstarter? Your project clearly has existing institutional support, which helps legitimise it. But a smaller project might not, and might get overlooked or viewed with suspicion.
AK Being on Kickstarter definitely attracted people ‘phishing’, offering to promote your project for a fee. My feeling is that you are focusing mainly on relationships you have developed previously and then people that respond to the project itself. Whether publicising it through some list, or social media algorithm that has nothing to do with the project per se would increase the funding, I don’t know.
ZW Do you think that Kickstarter made the funding process easier?
AK I think it makes it easier, I also received a few contributions offline. From people that had seen the Kickstarter campaign and wanted to support the project, but who were people who didn’t really feel comfortable parting with the money online. Which was fine with me! Because I didn’t have to pay a commission on those contributions if they wanted to send me a cheque.
ZW Do you think it becomes a medium which is more geared to the generation of people that just accept ‘Terms and Conditions’ without reading them, and don’t have any fears about moving money around online? Is it exclusive in that way?
AK Not really, whether we like it or not, most people have to engage with computers, with the internet and social media. And I think as an artist, there are a few people who don’t, but I don’t think you really have a choice anymore. It’s a tool, and whether we like it or not we have to use it, because that’s how we publicise what we do!
ZW Do you think this is the future of how art projects will be funded?
AK I don’t really know, I’m not a forecaster of trends. I just think we are sort of forced to use these tools. You really have to be an ostrich not to.
ZW Would you have preferred to have been able to have been funded entirely by funding bodies like Arts Council? Or were you happy with the balance of funding sources?
AK Yes and yes. I would like to have more institutional and private business support and build that. On the other hand you are generating an audience through Kickstarter. I had several people pledge £50 for note cards, but also to come along and have a tour of the exhibit. So these people are now engaged with the project and are going to follow it. And that is a very good part of Kickstarter; reaching out and building an audience of people that otherwise would not know you or your work existed.
ZW How did you decide upon what you would include in your reward bands?
AK The note card part was very easy. A gallery I used to be with in Boston worked with a law firm and every Christmas the gallery would produce a seasonal card from one of the artists. In addition to being paid for reproducing the art work, the artist would get a lot of cards that were blank inside, so they had your reproduced image, then a description of you and no other message inside. So I had a stock of two different cards, so for my lower price range it was easy, I already had the cards.
ZW So it was quite pragmatic decision making?
AK It was in that case. That was fairly easy, then for higher levels, I had been to India last year on a grant and had made printed papers, and I used that for one of the reward levels, and then a monoprint and then a digital print. Actually the digital print, which I haven’t made yet, was chosen by a print dealer I know who has shown my work, who pledged £100 for that. I haven’t made it yet but she’ll get it at some point.
ZW Has it been at all hard to deliver your reward scheme?
AK The note cards were easy and the printed paper was easy; I had a nice meeting with the banker, I met him and he’ll bring his family to the exhibit. I still have to get some work to the States and print the digital work, but it’s not stressful.
ZW Your reward scheme was made of nine bands but obviously you can make much more complicated reward schemes. How did you decide upon the structure?
AK I heard some advice that you should concentrate on moderately priced bands that people can afford. You don’t want to go under £10 in the reward scheme because it’s not worth your trouble to have to post something beyond sending a thank you email. I guess it depends on what you are promoting and who your audience is.
ZW It is very interesting how the Kickstarter page is developing an audience and ensuring an interest and commitment from the people that are backing the project. Would you say it is a form of networking?
ZW Have you stayed in touch with any of the people that have pledged money?
AK I have, afterwards I sent everyone an email asking if they would like me to add them to my mailing list, and I’d say 98% of them said yes. So I’ve grown my mailing list and they will see the updates of the project.
ZW It ensures a greater engagement with your project.
AK Exactly, I do think when people give money toward the project they are literally more invested in it.
ZW Do you think crowd funding is a better way of encouraging people to engage with the arts, by enabling them to invest in projects like this?
AK Not necessarily better, but definitely another way of getting people engaged. I think you do need to still be doing as many different things as you can, whether it is meeting people in person, or social networking, or Kickstarter.
ZW Did a lot of the donations, despite being made online, lead to some sort of more direct contact with people you hadn’t known previously.
AK So far I have had one face to face meeting, but there will be other people that will come to the exhibit that I have emailed but I haven’t met them in person yet.
ZW Looking back on your experience of using crowd funding, was there anything else that you would like to add about the pros and cons of using this form of fund raising?
AK Probably just that I was lucky, actually, the project was promoted by Kickstarter, so, it ended up being quite a positive experience, and I would do it again. Just, not right away.
ZW Do you think there is a limit to how much you could use Kickstarter as a form of funding?
AK I think it’s like anything, you don’t want to constantly ask people for something. These things are all about relationships, so when people support you, it is often the case that you have supported them in some way, or would one day if they came around and asked, and not just in money terms.
ZW Have you supported other crowd funding campaigns?
AK Only one, and I received advice that if you are going to use Kickstarter that you should get on Kickstarter and start supporting other projects before starting your own. I’ve only supported one project, and I don’t really have time to be trolling through Kickstarter and looking for projects to support. The problem with all these things is that they take up so much time that you can end up not making art anymore. That was the danger.
Summary of Anne's Project
- Project Title: An Art Project Celebrating the Women's Art Library in London
- Crowd funding platform: Kickstarter
- Initiator: Anne Krinsky
- About the Initiator: An independent, professional artist
- Associated with other institutions: Yes
- Arts Council Support: Yes
- Goal: £1000
- Actual: £1500
- Date successfully funded: 13th November 2014
- Total number of backers: 53
- Number of Reward Bands: 9
For more information on Anne Krinsky's work please check out the links below:
Research conducted by Zara Worth
To continue the conversation on Crowd Funding drop me a message on Facebook!