Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfunding initiatives

BEE THE CHANGE: "My dream is that the murals we're creating to raise awareness about what's going on with [bees] will someday have no connection to raising awareness at all," says traveling artist Matt Willey. Instead, with bees flourishing in the future, he hopes the paintings will become "monuments of the change that we've created together." Images from Willey's campaign page

Crowdfunding platforms make it possible for individuals and organizations of any size to harness social networks and raise start-up capital for projects that might otherwise fail due to lack of funding. Each week, Xpress highlights notable Western North Carolina crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd.

The Good of the Hive murals

A healthy beehive can contain around 50,000 bees — the same quantity that muralist Matt Willey plans to paint over the course of his 15-year Good of the Hive project. His stated mission is to “raise awareness about the importance of honeybees and celebrate their incredible behaviors.” So far, Willey has completed 1,250 bees in eight murals. But more importantly, he says, each of those installment sites became a meeting place for community members of different ages and backgrounds to come together in discussion (and to swap bee stories). Accordingly, he’s expanding the project’s scope to include full-on events at mural sites and large-scale, mobile art installations for presentations elsewhere. Along the way, he also hopes to capture more photos and videos to boost digital engagement, since restoring thriving bee population is a global undertaking. Willey aims to raise $50,000 by Sunday, April 30, to cover expenses for supplies and traveling, educational materials and the aforementioned project upgrades.

828 Studios

The Tannery — a warehouse formerly full of artist studios in the River Art District — was condemned in 2014 for failure to meet safety codes and other regulations. Miscommunication between tenants and the then-owner left both parties assuming the other was responsible for getting a certificate of occupancy to use the building for more than warehouse space. But Van Arthur of 828isgreat says, the current owners are in the process of obtaining that document, and they’re also working with him to draw creatives back into the space. “Imagine a huge warehouse filled with various different artists studios,” Arthur writes on his crowdfunding page. “There’s a photo studio setup, a painter’s studio and sculptural furniture, murals span the interior, music is playing while a group of friends are talking in a lounge area, and there’s going to be a public event later.” Up to 20 planned spots at 828 Studios will help meet “an unprecedented need for affordable studios, [as] artists are trying to come together in these confusing times,” Arthur adds. He aims to raise $5,000 to cover the security deposit and initial minor upgrades like installing drywall and painting the walls. Beyond that, he says rent will fund additional upfitting.

Axxa/Abraxas success story

Surpassing his $2,200 goal, Ben Asbury raised $3,044 for his band Axxa/Abraxas in October 2016. And with those funds, he’s been able to press his latest album Family Altar to purple, 150 gram vinyl with professionally printed inner sleeves and handmade (by him) outer jackets — all in a matter of months.

“If I had had to save the capital all myself upfront, well, I’d probably be done with the next two albums by the time this one even saw the light of day,” he says. Plus, “self-funding means I end up playing the roles of musician, producer, graphic designer, manufacturer, press agent and booking agent. But it also means that I get to do everything exactly how I want it to be, which, at the end of the day, is my major concern as an artist.”

Asbury’s strategy was to keep his Indiegogo project low-key by reaching out to friends, family and his biggest fans through social media. He also began campaigning after recording and designing most of the packaging, so backers had a clear idea of what they were supporting. Beyond that, he says, “I set my goal for the very minimum that I needed to do the most basic pressing — but with incentives for people to continue contributing after the goal was met. Think about how much more significant a $20 donation feels to a contributor when the goal is $2,000 compared to, say, $20,000.”

For those considering a campaign, he advises carefully weighing the different fundraising platforms and posting to the most appropriate website. His specific recommendation is to keep artistic projects on Indiegogo, business ventures on Kickstarter and emergency requests on Gofundme. Once the project is live, it’s time to start emailing a list of expected donors, he says. “Nothing will happen if you just make a campaign and let it float around in cyberspace.”

Image of Family Altar vinyl courtesy of Axxa/Abraxas

Send your crowdsourcing campaign news to kmcreynolds@mountainx.com. A limited number of campaigns will be highlighted each week, at Xpress’ discretion. Campaigns must be locally based and should represent a current project with an achievable goal. Conditions are subject to change. Read about more Western North Carolina projects here.


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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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