Episode 313 – New Markets for Artists / In Summary

In Summary

Let’s summarize how I prepared for the MONA project on Kickstarter. I made a simple MONA website with a small text block and a few widgets. I also revamped my regular artist website with a similar look of minimal text, a few links, and the “like” and “tweet” buttons. Free from advertising and other clutter, my pages were clean and easy to navigate. My primary goal was not to share content, but to get many “likes” on Facebook, and most of all, gather more email addresses. The email signup form is incredibly important, especially if you keep it simple so subscribers need only provide their email addresses and hit Submit. Having this kind of email marketing service is very helpful. It allows all persons interested in your work to receive updated information from you in a single email blast. That is the basic skeleton and summary of what I did online, but of course to be successful I also had to consider the content of the MONA project and recruit James Franco. There are many steps to making a project like this successful and the best it can be, and we knew we wanted to broadcast it inside and out of the art world. James Franco was essential in achieving that goal because of his popular appeal, and his mind for art. He has a way of thinking and working with art that is similar to ours, and we knew he would communicate to casual and main- stream art observers as well as those outside the world of art. We were so happy that he liked our idea, and his contribution fit perfectly with our project, just as we thought it would.

The Final Statistics

The Kickstarter project for MONA ended on August 31, 2011. By the end it had raised $16,000, had 1,012 new subscribers on the email list, got 2,780 Facebook “likes,” and got 165 project backers. Those are pretty incredible statistics for a ninety-day project. It also generated over forty articles in the press and James Franco promoted the museum on Jimmy Kimmel Live! The MONA idea was a good one, of course, but tools for generating that kind of success are clearly laid out in this book for anyone to replicate. I am grateful my project created with my wife worked so well, and that I could use it as an example in this book!

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


Episode 310 – New Markets for Artists / James Franco

James Franco

We thought James Franco would be good, as he has done some very high-concept artwork himself. We decided to email him a short note inviting him to be in our video. The email was very brief, and there were no images or website link. We simply asked him if he would talk to us about being in our project. After a few days he wrote back, saying that his assistant would set up a meeting.

Arranging a Meeting

That meeting took over a month to plan, but he was and is a very busy actor and artist. Finally, we had a lunchtime meeting with him at a small cafe. He was dressed very casually and so were we. We only had about thirty minutes of his time, so after initial pleasantries, we told him our idea. We explained that if someone bought a piece of art, they would actually get a card in the mail with a description on it, which they could then put on their wall. If someone asked, or if the new art owner wanted to show the work, he or she could use the description on the card to talk about the art. James understood the idea and liked it. He told us that it made him think of film projects he has wanted to do, and maybe we could use those for our museum promotion. We liked that idea, and he told us about a film he wanted to make that never happened for several reasons. He agreed to make a five-minute video describing our museum and his movie project for our Kickstarter promotion. We were super excited.

Making the Video

After he made the video of himself describing the work, we edited it and submitted it to Kickstarter. A word of caution here: Kickstarter is not YouTube, and when you propose project to them they can accept or reject it. If your proposal gets rejected, as our first one (before MONA) did, don’t lose heart. Try again and make your rewards more interesting. When MONA was accepted, we began writing out our descriptions of the museum for our rewards. The following things we did to prepare the project for launch are things you need to consider for your own work, even if you are not fundraising or selling at the moment.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


Episode 309 – New Markets for Artists / All-or-Nothing Funding

All-or-Nothing Funding

Let’s say you are a musician and you want to make a CD, that will cost about $4,000 dollars to produce. Your Kickstarter video might be some creative form of you talking about your music and maybe playing a song. You are allowed ninety days or less to raise money. If at the end of ninety days only $3,500 is pledged, the project’s financial goal has not been reached and you will get nothing. The reason funding is all or nothing is so that the project actually gets done well. It also ensures that the donors’ money will only be spent on successful projects. The key to any project on Kickstarter is to create interesting rewards for those who donate larger amounts of money. For example, all donors will receive a personalized thank you email from you; or those who donate $5 will receive an mp3 of one of your songs, $10 will earn them a copy of your CD, and $15 gets them tickets to one of your shows. The more creative and enticing your rewards are, the more likely people are to donate.

You as a Philanthropist

The easiest way to see how Kickstarter works is by exploring the website. You will see that most projects never get funded, but the ones that do get funded all have promotional angles and good rewards that make them special.  Try funding a few projects for a dollar to see how it works. In the case of non-visible art, we wanted the rewards to be the art itself. We thought we could make a video describing the museum and raise $5,000. The rewards would be descriptions of the non-visible art. For a certain donation amount, we might describe a painting of a horse in a field. That is what we wanted to do, but the challenge was deciding how to make the videos and promote the project.

Promoting the Project

The reason project promotion is so important is because if you just post something on Kickstarter and wait for pledges to come in, usually nothing happens. You have to tell your friends on your various social networks what you are doing. And if you are trying to raise a significant sum like $5,000 or more, you may even have to make calls. Promotion is something you must tackle and manage well. In our case, we began with deciding how to make our video. Since we didn’t actually have anything to show we thought we should both talk about the museum. As we discussed that possibility, we also thought it would help to have someone else in the video who understands what we were planning to do.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


Episode 308 – New Markets for Artists / Having a Child

Having a Child

We developed different shows and exhibits over the next few years, but we also had a child and caring for him took a great deal of our time, because we also decided to homeschool him ourselves. Being able to spend so much time with our child was magical, and it influenced our work, adding a new sense of humor and playfulness. In 2010, our child was almost ten years old and could handle more things on his own. That gave my wife and I time to launch a major new project.

A New Museum

The project was almost like the non-visible wounds we were kissing before,  but this time we decided to make a museum that was not visible by describing how it would look. In other words, imagine someone is giving you a tour of a museum, only you are standing outside and there are no displays or walls with art on them. The tour guide gestures to the open air, or a  blank wall, and talks about art that isn’t there, and you have to picture what the tour guide is describing in your mind. But instead of doing a performance, we wanted to talk about visual art, like paintings, sculptures or installations, so this idea grew into a tour of a non-visible art museum. The more we thought about it, the more we liked it, because we realized the art that we described would not be limited by space or material concerns of any kind. We could describe giant sculptures that were astronomically expensive or physically impossible to build. There were no limits.

Sales  Strategy

We liked the idea but there was the issue of sales—how could we sell art that didn’t physically exist? We wanted to sell our ideas about the visual art in such a way that people focused on the art, rather than the tour of the museum. The next step in our thinking process was to develop a way to sell the art without the actual physical product. The solution we arrived at was to use the previously mentioned kickstarter.com because it is the largest funding platform for the arts in the world. Similar to YouTube in its layout, Kickstarter allows you to upload videos describing the projects you want funding for, and viewers can pledge their donations. The catch is that you do not get these donations unless you achieve the goals stated in your video.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


Episode 307 – New Markets for Artists / Art Has No Limits

Art Has No Limits

Artists can do all the traditional things like dance, sing, and paint, but they can also work, for example, with biologists or architects to enhance their work with new views and sensibilities. Everything influences an artist’s work, and that includes modes of exchange and commerce. Artists can have a personal impact on this as well. Especially now, with the web at their disposal, artists can use social networking media for their own agendas. The MONA story illustrates how many of these tools can be used for our artistic purposes, and how you can use them, too.

Non-Visible  Wounds

When we were giving out free hugs, we also gave out bandages for what we called non-visible wounds. We would ask people if they had any non-visible wounds of any kind and they would typically say no, or that they had headaches, stomachaches, heartaches, or other internal wounds of some kind. For those with heartache, we put Band-Aids on or near their hearts and give them motherly kisses on the bandage itself.


Looking back on it now, those Saturday offerings were a great way of meeting people and sharing art. Everyone who came into our small 200-square-foot storefront for a hug or bandage was also exposed to the art decorating our walls. Artists do all kinds of things to get people into their studios (like having a party and giving away food and drink), but whatever you do, getting new visitors helps you grow. If you are not meeting new people whenever possible, there will be fewer new opportunities presenting themselves. The beginning of the Museum of Non-Visible Art story has its seeds in our first event that brought people into our studio for the non-visible bandage. Thanks to having good visibility in our storefront, we made many friends new friends this way.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


Episode 306 – New Markets for Artists / How We Did It

How We Did It

The story I am going to tell is about an idea my wife and I had for a non-visible museum. We not only sold a lot of art, but we improved our art careers dramatically and got international and national media coverage. You, too, can try many of the things we did to promote this project. This chapter assumes that you understand the basics of social networks, and if you do not know how to build web pages and manipulate HTML code a bit, you will have to talk to your web designer to understand some of what I’ll be describing.

The Beginning

The idea of a non-visible museum was conceived in 1999 and 2000 when my wife and I met. We were artists living illegally in a storefront in the East. We had begun a project where we gave out free hugs, foot washings, and bandages for non-visible wounds to the public. We opened the storefront every Saturday and offered those services. People liked our services and asked why we were providing them, and we always replied that it was because we were artists who wanted to do this. That was the truth. As an artist, you can really do whatever you want. When we told people who we were they seemed to understand. People assume that artists have ideas and motives that they may not understand and give you what has become known as an “artistic license.”

Artistic License

Clearly, my wife and I were taking artistic license by offering hugs to people. Of course, the hugs were not the only art we were creating; we also made paintings, drawings, and whatever else we wanted to experiment with. For starters, knowing you have artistic license to do anything you want will help you succeed. It’s incredible how much latitude you have as an artist. My wife and I once interviewed Vito Acconci, a great artist and very interesting thinker, who told us that art, unlike science or math, is the only field of interest that is non-field, meaning that it can incorporate anything. In other fields, there are limits to what can be brought in to study and influence things within the field, but art is limitless.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.