Working at Kickstarter, I’ve seen a great range of projects from Chicago, but they’re just a microcosm of the community’s creative landscape. The Windy City makes incredible things. Below you’ll find some tips for creating a project of your own, along with a collection of some exciting Chicago-based projects, from public art installations to collaborative comics. (See more great projects here.) Projects come in all shapes and sizes. Taken together, I hope these tips and projects will inspire you to make your crazy, loud, imaginative, world-changing idea a reality.
But first, let’s talk structure. Every Kickstarter project should include the following components: a project video and description, rewards for backers to experience or receive, and updates that share the creative process as it develops.
Your project page is where you’ll share your story. Use your project video to clearly and concisely describe your idea. No need to get fancy, just show the world why this project is important to you and explain why you would like to share it with the community. Use rewards to invite your backers to engage with your project. Ask yourself: what will my community be most excited by? Updates are how you keep in touch with backers once they’ve pledged to your project. Share updates that build momentum, show the process of creation, or celebrate your successes.
After you’ve pulled each of the components together, check your project page for tone: does the page match the spirit of what you are creating? Ask a friend or teammate to take a look at the page for feedback. Once you’ve developed your project page, be sure to share it. This is incredibly important! Figure out who might back your project and brainstorm a strategy to reach them. Who will be most excited by your idea? Where do these people congregate? Where do they receive their information? Create a community around your idea.
Here are just a few of the most imaginative, creative projects from Chicago.
Andersonville..You Are Beautiful
The You Are Beautiful project began with one hundred stickers featuring messages of positivity. It has since expanded across the globe with large-scale installations in the city and nearly two million stickers, which have reached every continent in the world. For this iteration of the project, eco-Andersonville and artist Matthew Hoffman teamed up to share their message in Andersonville and beyond. Their project feels closely grounded in the city of Chicago, and more specifically, in Andersonville. Both their video and their text description share a sense of the energy of the city and portray the project’s aesthetic through photographs of what has been created already and designs of what is to come. eco-Andersonville and Matthew invited backers along for the journey with rewards that gave supporters a physical piece of the project, such as a laser cut versions of the messages or an intimate opportunity for engagement, such as a walking tour of the installations.
Pablo Garcia and Golan Levin created the first portable camera lucida to be manufactured in nearly a century. Originally invented in the 19th century, a camera lucida allows artists to trace what they see. For Pablo and Golan’s campaign, their core reward was relatively straightforward: to receive a NeoLucida, in a few different iterations. Their highest reward tier, at $3,500, was a NeoLucida workshop at any school in US, further expanding the NeoLucida community and offering a unique opportunity for supporters of the project. Pablo and Golan employed updates throughout their campaign, sharing news about shipping and delivery, guiding those who had received the device through using it for the first time, and announcing the next generation of the product. The pair used Kickstarter to share their vision that using a camera lucida could be groundbreaking and change the ways in which people both create and engage with art.
Let’s Be Awkward Together
Elaine Short created a collaborative comic anthology of awkward moments. Short, funny, and, yes, occasionally awkward, Elaine’s video is simple and to the point. She uses the video to share an honest and open portrayal of her project. Elaine’s rewards are scaled with respect to level of engagement from her supporters. For example, she offered a soft cover copy of the comic for $30, but if you donated a story to include in the comic, you could receive a copy of it for just $1. Elaine’s highest reward tier was $75, for which she would create a custom comic for those who pledged. Her project invited supporters to be involved by sharing their own awkward stories and becoming a part of the comic’s content. Elaine brought together a community of strangers to laugh alongside her.
He Said She Said That’s What She Said
Musician Jeff Harms created a two-part indie rock album. His video is quirky, funny, and engaging. He streams text on toilet paper and cuts both his tie and a banana in half, all in the first thirty seconds. The eccentricity of the video draws the viewer in, while Jeff’s rewards invite backers to engage with him and learn more. Jeff’s rewards reinforce the diversity of his creative practice, from customized songs for backers, to wooden sculptures and eight hours of entertainment (really, Jeff offered backers eight hours of pratfalls and mishaps). What is most compelling about Jeff’s project is how, through every element, he shares a bit of himself and his sense of humor with the people who are interested in being a part of his project.
Victoria Rogers is the Art + Photography Outreach Lead at Kickstarter. Previously, Victoria was a Helen Rubenstein Curatorial Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She’s worked with art organizations such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Peggy Guggenheim Museum, and Sperone Westwater Gallery. Outside Kickstarter, Victoria is on the board of the Robert F. Kennedy Young Leaders and Creative Time, and focuses on establishing art programs in unexpected communities. A Chicago native, Victoria moved to Manhattan after graduating from Yale University.