Short Takes

September 1, 2011

Kickstarter ( is a website that links creators and funders. And, as is said on their site, “Projects are big and small, serious and whimsical, traditional and experimental. They’re inspiring, entertaining and unbelievably diverse.” On the site, creators pitch projects for which they seek financial support so that patrons the world over can offer their support. According to the website, millions of dollars are pledged every week for projects from the diverse fields of creative expression. On Kickstarter, creators retain ownership of their work – the donors are patrons, not investors.

Although popular in America, it seems to be just starting to take off
in Canada (when I looked at the site today, there were 20 projects listed for Vancouver, 33 in Toronto, 19 in Montreal, etc.), and that is a reason that I am writing about it here. It is one of the most wonderful uses of the web for artists I have seen since discovering Etsy.

Kickstarter has a great Help section for you and it tells you far more than the brief overview of the site offered on the homepage. In the Help section there is a “Kickstarter School” for newbies as well as information designed specifically for different categories of visitors (Kickstarter Basics, Creating a Project, Backing a Project and Community Guidelines).

On Kickstarter, a project is synopsized, its budget is revealed and a date is set for the completion of planning and fundraising. Each project must reach its financial objective before any money changes hands – not having proposed a project myself, I am not familiar with all the ramifications of success on the site. But visit it and see how it works and whether or not it might work for you.

The new Harper majority government may try to revise the Copyright Act of Canada. They have tried twice before, in 2005 and 2008, but both attempts failed. Their objective, revealed in the previous attempts to revise the act, raised concerns in the Canadian creative community because the amendments suggested parallels with the US Millennium Act that so upset American copyright holders.

Of note to many, on the subject of copyright, was an incident that occurred in July of this year that involved a British photographer, David Slater. Mr. Slater was working in Indonesia as a photographer for the Caters News Agency when a Macaque monkey grabbed his camera
and shot a series of photos while admiring his reflection in the lens. The monkey’s photos, released by Caters News Agency that represents Slater, and the agency has been involved, ever since, in a copyright dispute with parties who have reproduced the image.

The controversy has led to a widely-circulated clarification that copyright, in Indonesia (where the photos were taken), in the UK and US (where the images were reproduced “illegally”) can only be obtained for work that is “the product of a human hand…” and that has opened the proverbial can of worms for many contemporary artists. The website Techdirt (, where you can see the sometimes hilarious simian self-portraits) is the best place I have found to follow the controversy. Their lead article, entitled, “Monkey Business: Can A Monkey License Its Copyrights To A News Agency?” is posted on their site.

Now, artists such as Cory Angel, who currently is showing at the Whitney Museum, and Nikki S. Lee are speaking out about copyright protection for their work and for the work of other artists whose work is mechanically and/or randomly generated.

Slade’s defence of claiming copyright is explained in the Techdirt article: “Photographer David Slater Claims That Because He Thought Monkeys Might Take Pictures, Copyright Is His.”

Positive News about Creative Employment: An article by Harry Bradford posted on the Huffington Post on July 11, 2011, reported on a paper released by the US National Endowment of the Arts that, in turn, was an analysis of statistical data produced by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics – bear in mind that this is an economy that produced fewer jobs nationally that did Canada in June 2011.

However, the NEA report contained a lot of good news for artists and student artists. To read more about it, search the title “10 Artistic Careers With The Brightest Futures” at – it contains links to the original sources. Here is an excerpt from the Huffington Post:
“Certain arts industries are expected to see especially significant jobs growth. Jobs associated with museums, such as curators, archivists and technicians, are expected to rise 20 percent, or ‘much faster than average employment growth.’”

Communication Frequency
I am often asked by my students, “How often should I send out a newsletter?” My answer has always been to let the content guide you – communicate when there is something substantial and compelling to report. But Clint Watson, the former owner of an American gallery, has a different answer.

He says: “You can send your newsletter as often as you like…as long as you don’t have more than 2 people unsubscribe for every 1,000 emails you send (.2%). If you lose more than 2 people out of every 1,000 emails, then you’re either sending too of-ten, or you’ve strayed too far off topic.”

I think his advice is good, given the generalized unsubscription standards of the mail order industry. His methodology provides clear and measurable guidelines, but to follow Mr. Watson’s advice you have to do your communications via a service such as Constant Contact or MailChimp that tracks subscriber response to your communications and allows your mailing list members to unsubscribe.