Saturday, August 4, 2012

Houston Kickstarter Projects for August (plus one non-Kickstarter project)

Robert Boyd

So what new crowd-funded art projects are happening this month? Here are a three that caught my attention.

Beyond the Bayou is a documentary by Pavel Petrov and Ken Woodall about the Houston bayou system. The project has its own website, and is in line with other documentaries the pair have produced in the past. Their funding request is pretty ambitious ($20,000), but they are giving themselves plenty of time to reach it. So far, though, they have only gotten a few hundred dollars.

Making Art After War is a sculpture project that sends up a bunch of red flags.
  • First, he is asking for $130,000.
  • Second, the person behind the project is named "Shannon W." You know, if you're going to ask strangers for $130,000, you should at least give them your full name--and a bunch of other information about who you are.
  • Third, Shannon W. won't even tell you what the project is. It's a sculpture, but beyond that, it is "classified." It is "a sculpture made by veterans that will be revealed and completed if the project is funded."
  • Fourth, there is no sculptor (unless it's Shannon W) named. Instead, it will be created by "veterans" working with "NASA engineers" and "industrial designers," which suggests it may be designed collectively. OK, I can imagine a bunch of folks getting together and brainstorming a project--that seems like a reasonable piece of participatory art. But frankly, you shouldn't ask for money until some of this work has already been done! And you should identify some of the participants--what expertise or experience are they bringing to this project? Otherwise, why should anyone trust you with their donation?
  • Fifth, "proudly." Shannon W. won't tell you what the project is, but he'll remind you over and over that it will be one done "proudly." It reminds me of the great Austin Lounge Lizards song, "Another Stupid Song About Texas," with the lines "By God we're so darn proud to be from Texas - yahoo! / Even of our pride we're proud and we're proud of that pride, too / Our pride about our home state is the proudest pride indeed"
  • Sixth, related to "proudly", the mindless appeal to patriotism. The "Thank you America!" at the end of the proposal, the big American flag. We're given no reason to trust that Shannin W., whoever he is, is capable or even willing to actually execute this project--but look! An American flag! You know what the say about patriotism being the last refuge of scoundrels. I don't know if Shannon W. is a scoundrel or just terribly naive. And presumably, others have the same reservations. As I write this, he has raised precisely zero dollars.

A Statue of Bill Hicks by David Adickes. I saw this on Reddit and followed the link to this page. Here's the project:
Houston sculptor David Adickes has agreed to build the statue of Bill.  If you've ever seen his work, you know he is the best man for the job and that the statue will be nothing short of amazing.  A Houston legend sculpting a Houston legend - It doesn't get better than that. The family and estate of Bill Hicks has given their blessing to this project and will be on hand at the statue's unveiling.
This is where you come in.
You can directly support the building and placement of the statue to honor a hometown hero by clicking the PayPal link below and donating money to the cause.
This made me even more suspicious than Shannon W.'s project. They were asking for $70,000, and yet the page gave no indication of who was behind this request. Who was getting that Paypal donation? A con man? Or someone who was sincere and competent? So I wrote to them and asked. The response came from Omar Afra, who some of you may be familiar with. If not, let the man introduce himself.
My name is Omar Afra and I am the publisher of Free Press Houston ( publishing 10 years now) , where this idea was initially hatched. I am also president of Greater Houston Entertainment PAC, advisory board member of HPFF, producer of FPSF ( Houston's largest outdoor music festival, 2012 was our fourth year ) and a managing partner at Fitzgerald's since 2010. But most importantly, I am someone who feels strongly about this project. We have begun the process to become a 501c3 yet have also partnered with the Hicks family and the Bill Hicks Foundation for Wildlife, who will receive any donation beyond cost.
So that's comforting. And the Free Press has already given $10,000 to the project. It's easier to give to something if you know the people behind it have already committed some of their own money. And we know they can put something like this together--the Free Press Summer Press is a complex, expensive undertaking that they have successfully done for several years. You can read more about this project here and here.

But David Adickes? I kind of like the gargantuan busts he makes just for the sheer out-of-scale-ness of them, and he has some counter-culture cred for running Love Street, but really? My friend Scott Gilbert suggested that Mel Chin would be a better choice, and I agree! Plus, OK, Bill Hicks has his Houston connection and everything, but where are our monuments to Lightnin' Hopkins and Donald Barthelme? Well, maybe honoring one artist with Houston ties will encourage us to honor the rest. I hope so. Therefore, I'll give them a few bux.

How did last month's Kickstarter projects fare? The Postcard Story clearly captured people's imaginations. Asking only for $400, they got $3,206. The Wild Mural still has 10 more days to go but is a long way from its $7000 goal. And Help Texas Hobbits easily reached its $18 goal and got $366.


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