I hadn’t heard of Kickstarter until I accidentally sat next to zeitgeist author Douglas Coupland last year at the Vancouver screening of Urbanized, Gary Hustwit’s documentary about cities and urban design. I got up the nerve to ask Coupland how he found out about the film and it turned out he had donated money toward its production through this online funding program.
Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. It has funded a diverse array of endeavors ranging from indie films, music, stage shows and comics to journalism, video games and food-related projects. Urban enthusiasts and public spacemakers are also embracing Kickstarter to gather financial support for projects that enhance city life and raise awareness about urban issues.
Here are some Kickstarter projects from 2012 with an urban focus:
No one would ever think of enjoying the space within construction scaffolding (or sidewalk sheds). But, in New York City, they are so prevalent (stretching 189 miles if lined end to end), that students from the Parsons School of Design created Soft Walks – simple DIY kits with chair pieces, a counter, a light fixture, a planter, and a green trellis that anyone can pick up and install onto the beams of their nearest scaffolded area. The initiative aims to transform nearly 6,000 construction sites, equaling 189 miles of covered sidewalk. Using chairs, planters, and side tables, Soft Walks transforms construction scaffolding from a dark, covered walkway into a rest stop for busy city dwellers to stop and have a seat, or even eat and socialize. Softwalks recently won the Student Category of Fast Company’s Innovation By Design Award.
In 2013, many movie theatres in cities and towns will be forced to get rid of their film projection technology and convert to digital projection as the movie industry stops providing movies on film. The expensive cost of purchasing digital projectors has put local movie theatres like Cinema Salem, in Salem, Massachusetts, in a financial bind. The cinema opened in 2006 and has become a mainstay of the community and local film industry. They award more than $40,000 in CinemaSalem Grants to innovative non-profit organizations; host film screenings for local filmmakers, arts organizations, and community groups; and helped create one of America’s leading all-documentary film festivals, the Salem Film Fest. Using Kickstarter, Cinema Salem reached their goal of raising $60,000 to buy digital projectors and stay open.
The tragic side of the growth in urban commuter cycling is the rise of cycling fatalities. 79% of cycling casualties occur when a cyclist is traveling straight ahead and a vehicle turns into them. Blaze Bike Light is designed to address this problem. It is an LED front light that projects a blazing green symbol of a bike into the road ahead. The green light alerts road users ahead of the cyclist of their presence, helping to prevent them turning across their path (especially the big ones like buses and trucks), making the cyclist more visible and increasing their footprint on the road.
Dubbed as your “summertime fun destination”, Photoville is a community building project that involved creating a photo village out of old shipping containers last summer in Brooklyn, New York. Occupying over 30 shipping containers and more than 60,000 sq. feet in the heart of Brooklyn Bridge Park, Photoville featured lectures, hands-on workshops, night-time projections, a camera greenhouse (an interactive art installation featuring over 3,000 fabricated “camera flowers,” with cameras blooming out of tulips, lilies, sunflowers myriads, and over a dozen other kinds of flowers), and a summer beer-garden with food trucks.
After successfully funding his city documentary, Urbanized, with Kickstarter funds, independent filmmaker Gary Husnit, along with photographer Jon Pack, is back at it again with The Olympic City, a photography project that looks at former host cities of the Olympic Games and what happens to a city after the Olympics has gone. Does all this development make these cities more livable and improve the lives if its people? Husnit and Pack look to answer that question by travelling and photographing Olympic cities like Athens, Barcelona, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Montreal, Lake Placid, Rome, and Sarajevo, Beijing, and London.
Station North is a project that will transform a former fast food restaurant, New York Fried Chicken, into office, theater, & gallery space for local artists in the Station North Arts District of Baltimore, Maryland. Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc., the nonprofit organization responsible for supporting and promoting artists in the area, already provides numerous art activations in Station North such as murals, Final Friday events and funding awards. The new space would allow the organization to have a permanent home to continue supporting local artists. They hope to serve fried chicken at the opening.
Jillian Glover is a communications advisor specializing in urban issues. She is a former Vancouver City Planning Commissioner and holds a Master of Urban Studies. She was born and raised in Vancouver.