We brag a lot about how great the Hey, Hot Shot! panelists are, but for good reason. The panel is really made up of some pretty amazing people, including photographer Kent Rogowski. Kent recently launched Scaffold, a non-profit that gives fellowships to emerging artists. Aside from its mission, inarguably a worthy cause, Scaffold is innovative in its foundation and fundraising approach. Run by artists and launched without an endowment, Kent is using the reach and power of the web to not only find applicants but also to fund their projects. He goes into detail about the project and his goals in the interview below. If you're excited about Scaffold already, you have the opportunity to support it right now by bidding on a signed Shepard Fairey Obama Hope poster (below) on ebay. All proceeds from the auction will directly benefit Scaffold. Auction closes on January 19th, 2009. So, read Kent's interview here and see why this particular poster is so appropriate for this endeavor, then go bid! (Poster not your thing? Donate here. Or, sign up for the mailing list by emailing email@example.com to hear about the first grant deadline.)
Where/when/how did you decide to start Scaffold?
I started seriously thinking about starting Scaffold at the end of last summer. The original inspiration had been building for a while and came from a convergence of thoughts and experiences. After my book, Bears, came out last year and had such a strong presence and response online, I started to think about how drastically the Internet was changing distribution and creating opportunities for artists that did not exist a few years ago. This fascinated me, but I thought that it might influence my next body of work rather than motivate me to form a non-profit organization.
At the same time I started to think more about how the Internet was changing existing communities while creating new models and possibilities for organizations. Obama's presidential campaign is an obvious example of this, another would be a non-profit such as kiva.org that specializes in person to person mirco-lending to individuals. Both leverage the power of small donations with a large community of users. This led me to think about what opportunities were lacking for individual artists that could possibly be filled online, funding and distribution were the things that seemed most in need of innovation.
While I was on the panel for Hey, Hot Shot!, I was surprised by the number and quality of the submissions. It was then that I started to think an online organization such as Scaffold could be viable. Once it was clear that the financial markets were going into a recession, I thought that the need for an organization like Scaffold was even greater and decided to move forward.
What are your hopes for it this year?
If we can get enough small contributions, I am hoping to get the website and submission tool up and running and to announce the first fellowship deadline by early spring. After the first grant is given, I will evaluate the overall response and if successful, try to slowly scale everything up. Since Scaffold was started with an idea instead of an endowment, the number, size and frequency of the grants will depend on the number of submissions. My goal is for Scaffold to give away around $20,000 in fellowships to individual artists in its first year of operation.
Where do you see it in 5 years?
Hopefully, Scaffold will grow into a focused but flexible organization that provides a dependable and frequent source of funding to visual artists. If the community using Scaffold continues to grow, I think it could be possible to provide other services and opportunities to its grantees. One natural progression could be to offer a form of fiscal sponsorship to recipients of fellowships that allowed them to continue to raise money for their projects using the Scaffold website and base of users.
How does Fractured Atlas come into play?
Fractured Atlas is a great organization that provides fiscal sponsorship and other services to artists. They don't have a direct role in Scaffold other than acting as my fiscal sponsor. They allow Scaffold to receive tax-exempt donations to help pay for operating expenses.