Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfunding initiatives

“My vision is to create T-shirts that have complex, detailed images, like those you might find in a gallery or a tattoo, but on a simple tee,” says Rich O'Keefe, creator of 19th Latitude apparel company. “The inspiration behind Piano Man is simple; remember what you love,” he says. “When life breaks your leg, go find your piano. The leg will notice.” Image of Piano Man design courtesy of the artist

Crowdfunding platforms make it possible for individuals and organizations of any size to harness social networks and raise startup 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.

19th Latitude T-shirts

There’s not much action or adventure involved in the months of healing that follow the shattering of an important bone. But there is ample free time. Ashevillean Rich O’Keefe’s answer to just such a situation was to funnel the potential boredom into drawing. Now, after recovery, his black-and-white artwork — often intricate, body-inspired sketches of humans and animals — has become more than just a time-filler for the artist, who has launched “a new genre of T-shirt for those who speak in images,” based on his drawings. 19th Latitude, he says, will source shirts from two eco-conscious companies and provide a functionality beyond the typical tee. “My greatest hope is that when you wear one of my designs, it evokes a feeling in you or someone else,” O’Keefe says. “Maybe an image sparks a conversation with that person you’ve been dying to talk to. Maybe a design makes you feel unique, strong, or just more ‘you’ every time you wear it.” O’Keefe aims to raise $7,000 by Friday, May 22, to hire a web designer to upgrade his current problematic website and to place bulk T-shirt orders to keep unit costs down.

Hadaya Toy Baskets

“Last year I traveled for two months to the Lebanese-Syrian border to document the daily lives of Syrian refugees, most of whom are women and children,” says Ashevillean and Hadaya founder Jennifer MacDonald. “One thing really struck me — the kids had nothing to play with, no toys at all. But that didn’t stop their creativity. They made wagons out of fruit crates, kites out of pieces of rope and plastic shopping bags and played catch with rocks.” MacDonald’s “(DIS)PLACED” exhibit at the aSHEville museum depicts some of these stories, but the activist also founded her nonprofit Hadaya (meaning “gift” in Arabic) to provide creative stimulus to “feed the soul” of these youths. MacDonald aims to raise $5,000 to help fulfill an initial shipment of 200 gift baskets to individual Syrian families in need.

Joe Trufant’s album

“Some time ago, it was placed in my heart to make music that’s a positive alternative to the destructive music that we hear daily,” says Brevard musician Joe Trufant, noting that it’s taken him two years to write and record his first album at an Oklahoma City studio. Now nearing the post-recording phase, the young hip-hop artist is raising funds to have his forthcoming free EP and full-length debut mixed by a multiple Grammy award-winning engineer. Trufant aims to raise $6,000 by Monday, May 25, to pay for these services.

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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