Supporting our local artists

Sep. 21, 2013 @ 11:33 AM

When I was a kid, the term “kickstart” referred to how you started your motorcycle. You’d climb on, place your right foot on a spring-loaded lever and press down on it … quickly. It turned over the engine … like the crank that was used to start a Model T. Okay, I’m not that old.

I will plead guilty to being old enough to find simple amazement at what a “Kickstarter” can do. It’s a website ( that makes possible a new age thing called “crowd funding” where people from all over the world chip in a few bucks and give a project – you guessed it – a kickstart.

If you’ve ever been to church, you won’t find crowdfunding so new … it’s just passing the plate. Here’s where Kickstarter is different and amazing. Let’s say that you have a group of artists who want to put together an art festival as happened recently with Durham’s “Art of Cool Festival”. The organizers put their proposal on Kickstarter with a goal of raising $25,000 to cover the cost of multiple performance stages and various expenses related to the festival. They raised over $27,000.

A similar effort funded the Carrack Modern Art – a nonprofit exhibition space on West Parrish Street in downtown Durham. They raised over $12,000.  What’s different about Kickstarter is that those who elect to back the project (accomplished electronically through Amazon) will only see their money donated if the project gets enough pledges to make the project happen. If the goal is $10,000 and there are only $7,500 in pledges at the end of the pledge period (usually 30 days, but it can be longer), then no money changes hands and the project is not funded.

My daughter-in-law, Jamie Hagenberger, is an amazing artist. Her studio, Blue Nandina, is a regular at Durham’s Centerfest and will be out there rain or shine this year, too. Her art includes a process that uses very old photographic technology to create photograms. She places leaves, flowers and natural material onto the paper in the darkroom and the magic happens. Crowd funding via Kickstarter paid for her equipment.

My sons, Brian and Robert, are teaching me all about this as they are now in the midst of their own project offering – “The Z Deck” is an open source card game platform. So you can take this deck of cards they designed and make up your own games with them or enjoy the games that they’ve invented so far. Of course, I was happy to have them invite people from Sweden, Australia, the UK, Canada, Brazil and Raleigh to back their project. It takes some pressure of Mom and Dad.

What has amazed me, of course, is that they have backers from all of those places! Yes! Raleigh! They have also produced interesting videos that explain the project and how the money (their goal is $7,000) will be spent as well as demonstrating the games. I never got this kind of disclosure on their allowance.

It is encouraging, though, to see so many artists and creative people of every possible stripe using this approach to raise money for their causes and to help their neighbors. It’s a soothing counterpoint to the cynical nonsense to which we’ve grown sadly accustomed.

Lately, they end every conversation with “pledge today” and remind their friends, our neighbors and those who walk too slowly to escape that they should race to the nearest computer, go to and look up “The Z Deck.” I’ve already pledged, but my job now is to support the project in other ways … like clearing out a room for all those decks of cards that they’ll have in a month or two – ready to package and ship all over the world just in time for Christmas.

Pledge today!

Jean Bolduc is managing director of Pen & Inc Communications in Chapel Hill. Follow her on Twitter @JeanBolduc. Her email is