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St. Luke’s ‘Bombed Out’ Church, Liverpool, UKvia

The creative spaces saved by Crowdfunding

We profile some of our favourite galleries, spaces and venues around the world, all of whose skins were saved by public fundraising

You can pretty much find anything on Kickstarter these days. The banks aren’t handing out money like in the hey-days of the pre-recession world (remember those times?), so people have turned to crowdfunding websites to make their dreams a reality. Whether it’s a racist billboard, a 3D printing pen, or just a potato salad, there isn’t a lot out there that doesn’t get funded these days. However, amongst all of these worth-and-not-so-worthwhile projects (who doesn’t love potato salad?), there are artistic spaces around the world that are relying on you to dig deep to help them stay afloat. Kemistry Gallery in London is the latest to save itself using donations on Kickstarter, with its Keep Kemistry Alive campaign enabling the independent exhibition space to carry on putting on free shows of up-and-coming and established designers. Although now moving locations, without crowdfunding it would have had to shut its doors for good; becoming another in the long line of establishments to lose its battle against gentrification. Here, we look at artistic spaces around the world that have used crowdfunding to save them becoming another pop-up coffee shop.


Erected just after The Second World War, 156,000 prefabricated houses (think, a home sold by IKEA) were put up across the UK to house returning service men and their families. Today, only a few hundred remain standing, and social historian Elisabeth Blanchet has managed to secure one set for demolition in Catford, South London and has turned it into a living museum; exhibiting works by photographers, film makers, illustrators, and writers, as well as archiving objects and memorabilia, that harks back to the initial post-war period in Britain. The museum was only due to be open for the Open House London weekend in September, but because of a successful crowdfunding campaign, its prefab doors are still open to this day. Fab.


After 41 years of doing their thing, the Kaji Aso Studio was threatened with a downsize and relocation after the building they resided in was put up for sale. A unique community art studio, it had been providing seminars, shows and exhibits for over four decades; and also housed an award-winning tea garden. The space turned to Kickstarter to try and raise the $10,000USD required to “fund the final ‘bricks’” of their financial plan to buy the studio’s home. They absolutely smashed their target, raising more than twice the required amount; securing their future for years to come.


A DIY artist space in downtown Atlanta, the gallery was staring down the face of closure; with rotting floors, a leaky roof, and one working toilet for the downstairs of the building, which has a capacity for 300 people. Not ideal. The gallery reached the $25,000USD goal required to make the venue capable of function to its true potential. Without a crowdsourcing platform, this is one mammal that certainly would have come close to extinction.


Not all crowdfunding projects revolve around spaces dedicated to exhibiting the latest artists or designers. There are those, like the Made in Cloister project in Naples, Italy, that used donations to “revive ancient artisanal skills through the vision of artists and designers” and restore buildings that have fallen into disrepair after centuries of neglect. Supporters included Patti Smith and Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons fame, and the campaign raised over €75,000, which has been used to restore the Cloister to its former, 16th century glory.


“A town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless its got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul.” Author Neil Gaiman couldn’t have put it any better, and for the town of Ketchum in Idaho, the future was looking bleak. Iconoclast Books had served the community for over 20 years, but, with outstanding debts of $85,000USD, were faced with eviction from their location and closure. A quick whip round on Indiegogo, and 362 donations later, the bookshop was able to pay off debtors and keep doing its thing for years to come.


A not-for-profit contemporary art venue in Berlin, Praxes has held exhibitions in cycles – each lasting 6 months – since it opened its doors in 2013. Facing it’s third set of showings, the German gallery reached out to the public to help fund its latest round of arts, events, writers and speakers. A mere €15,000 was required by their Indiegogo campaign to secure the gallery’s future, with it now gearing up for cycle four.


Another San Franciscan establishment that was facing closure was the Bay Area’s The Lost Church. Opened in 2011 as a “Rock & Roll Dinner Theatre”, the venue had found a home in a former David Ireland experimental art space. However, because of the performances it was putting on, The Lost Church was under pressure to comply with city regulations. To make the changes required, it needed to stump up $40,000USD, which is where Indiegogo came in handy. The owners managed to raise the funds required, and are now looking at reopening by summer this year.


Kemistry is not the only gallery to have turned to crowdfunding to save themselves from going under. PS: Gallery in Columbia, Missouri is another cultural cornerstone that used Indiegogo to stay alive, with original prints and paintings offered up in return for donations. Requiring $40,000 to stave off closure, the campaign was a great success, securing the future of the Missouri public art space for years to come.


All you need is love. And money. Bombed during the Second World War, but still standing to this day, you’d expect Liverpool’s St. Luke’s ‘Bombed Out’ Church to be pretty indestructable. The venue has held many exhibitions and events over the years, but came under pressure last year from developers who would ultimately shut down the cultural community centre. Needing £18,000 to secure its future, St. Luke’s took to Crowdfunder, securing the support of one of the city’s famous sons along the way. It secured the required amount and some.


Back in 2012, the devastating Hurricane Sandy tore through the United States’ east coast, leaving nothing but destruction in its path. Amongst those affected by the storm was the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. For 30 years, the parade had brought all of New York’s five boroughs together to celebrate the ancient mythology and honky-tonk rituals of the seaside. However, there was a shortfall of $100,000USD for the 31st edition, with its usual financial backers damaged by Sandy. The show must go on though, and New Yorkers clubbed together on Kickstarter, exceeding the target by over $17,000USD.