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August 19, 2010


Why Is MoCCA's Forthcoming Al Jaffee Exhibit Being Funded Via Kickstarter?

It was one of the more curious announcements to stroll down the comics news highway in quite some time. That the Museum Of Comics and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) was doing an exhibition featuring the work of Al Jaffee shouldn't surprise: Jaffee's a much-beloved, well-regarded, recent Reuben winner with a dollop of name cachet due to his years of work for MAD Magazine. His more general and traditionally little-discussed wider comics industry background has increasingly come to light with the growing attention paid to Jaffee during these lion-in-winter years. An exhibit at the museum's New York City-based space would be right in line with a rediscovery and appreciation of all things Jaffee. It would fit the museum's mission statement and tendency to do well with cartoonists featuring a New York creative and/or publishing hook.

imageWhat seemed strange is that a museum that's been around since 2001 would choose to employ a Kickstarter page on the exhibit's behalf. Launched to come to an end on September 15, the page has of this writing raised 445 of 3000 hoped-for dollars, to be employed in a variety of ways on the show's behalf. While it's not unheard-of for a mature organization to use the fundraising mechanism, and a search for museums making use of the site yields a healthy number of similar projects, Kickstarter tends to be used in comics by smaller organizations such as self-publishers. As the Museum was recently criticized by con organizer Dustin Harbin for the high table costs at its fundraiser comics show the MoCCA Festival, the appearance of the Kickstarter page for the Jaffee show brought to the forefront questions as to why the museum felt it necessary, and what that choice might mean as to the group's overall financial profile.

According to current MoCCA chairman Ellen Abramowitz, a variety of factors came to bear on their decision to use the fundraising site. "The opportunity to do this show with Al Jaffee was brought to us with an abbreviated time frame," she explained to CR. According to Abramowitz, this made traditional fund-raising options such as soliciting from members and grant applications less attractive than working what she termed "the very exciting, very populist Kickstarter fundraising platform." Clearing up some potential confusion regarding the dollar amount and the Museum overall role in organizing the Jaffee show, the Chairman said that the Kickstarter page was not the entirety of their efforts on behalf of that particular show, and that if the goal isn't met they plan on doing the exhibition, only perhaps in an abbreviated form and perhaps even at a later date.

Asked about the potentially troubling spin that a Kickstarter page could put on the museum's overall financial picture, Abramowitz again cited the short turnaround between pitch and opening night on the planned exhibit and the site's ability to fulfill that need. "As mentioned above, each exhibition has its own fundraising plan. This show was presented to us on relatively short notice and Kickstarter is an ideal vehicle for raising funds for small, popular projects in a brief time frame," Abramowitz said. She then went on to cite the museum range of programming options including a long list of offerings in the museum's recent past, including the organization's Master Classes, and several events such as Keith Mayerson's NeoIntegrity: Comics Edition show.

Future uses of the Kickstarter mechanism by MoCCA will depend on how this one succeeds or doesn't, and the circumstances regarding its potential employment down the line. "Potentially, if the opportunity presents itself," said Abramowitz of the possibility. One area where the on-line funding tool could be used without the museum having to make a decision first is if a curator were to include the site in plans to launch a show as a way of convincing the museum to get on board. Abramowitz admits this possibility, but characterizes it as not likely. "We are alway interested in hearing new ideas for exhibitions projects and events," she told CR. If they already have funding attached to them, that is very helpful, though it is the overall quality of the proposal that matters most. Many exhibits do not have any funding."

More on September 15.
 
posted 8:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
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