Kickstarter LogoKickstarter raises more money for individual artists that the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts). That’s the big news out of the Aspen Ideas Festival via the Washington Post (article here). The topic came up when the Aspen Institute‘s chief Walter Isaacson interviewed Kickstarter’s founder Perry Chen.

Chen said that Kickstarter has raised over $600 million for arts projects. Last year, the NEA had an appropriation of some $146 million (80 percent of which went to funding projects). In the same time period Kickstarter funded about $323.6 million in projects. That includes design and video projects. That’s really revolutionizing and arguably democratizing the arts world. Though Kickstarter, potential donors are able to find out about projects that they might never have discovered if it had not been for the power of the Internet.

In the past, many arts projects were underwritten by wealthy patrons or those lucky enough to find out about them. Kickstarter also brings together the power of numbers. My $10 donation might not have much of an impact on its own but combined with others, it becomes quite a powerful force. It’s also democratizing in another way, projects are being voted up or down by the masses. If a project is perceived to have value, it will find support. If not….

The crowdfunding of ideas is an idea that holds appeal for both sides of the political aisle. For Republicans, it removes the arts from government and the perceived “ideological taint” of the liberal elite. They might now like what they see, however, but that’s too bad. They don’t have to finance it. For Democrats, it provides a way to supplement the NEA. It also provides a way to ensure that projects deemed too “radioactive” for NEA funding are able to find an outlet. For both, it provides much needed funding and support for the arts while enabling the government to deal with the federal deficit.

For what it’s worth, I have long been a proponent of government funding for the arts. However, I also believe that something must be done about the federal deficit. Cuts do have to be made. I’m afraid that in my own personal calculus the need for helping those who can’t help themselves comes before federal funding for the arts. That’s not saying that I don’t believe in arts funding. In a world of tough calls, I just believe that there are priorities. The fact that Kickstarter is very much alive and kicking provides relief while also doing much to remove art from the world of politics.

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