Every summer, Montana’s winter mountain snow melts and gradually flows toward the ocean. This year, Montana State University (MSU) graduates Charlie Capp and LA Hoffman will be embarking on a creative art adventure to follow that water. Capp graduated in 2004 in cell biology and neuroscience. Hoffman earned undergraduate degrees in photography and business marketing, with a small business and entrepreneurship minor in 2006 and received her MFA in printmaking in 2010.
This potent combination of science, art and business has led to a multi-faceted project. Capp and Hoffman will travel by kayak from the Capp’s family ranch on the Bitterroot River, following the course of the water all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This 1,101 mile journey through four states and a portion of Canada has aptly been titled “Summit to Sea.” Along the route, they’ll document the communities linked by the water, from the creeks of Montana, to where the Columbia River finally mingles with the sea.
“We’re not just going to be exploring the rivers of the American West,” said Capp. “We want to see how the rivers, and a precious resource like water, have affected and shaped the communities that share it.” Before Capp and Hoffman hit the river this summer, their first mission is fundraising, and they’re using a 21st-century strategy to do it.
“We’re utilizing Kickstarter to raise funds for the project,” Hoffman said. “It is a relatively new, Web-based company for getting art projects funded by a crowd of users, rather than relying on large grants, which are becoming increasingly rare. This new business model allows artists to go straight to individuals for backing.” Capp and Hoffman are trying to raise $8,500 by midnight on February 29th, and so far the Kickstarter campaign is working, though they haven’t quite reached their fundraising goal yet.
Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects and one of many new platforms and technologies that College of Business (CoB) students and alumni alike are using to make their dreams come true. This platform utilizes a concept called crowdsourcing, which is funding by a crowd of users. It is not a new concept nor was Kickstarter the first to model a business around it, but its easy-to-use structure and large community of generous patrons has allowed for more than $75 million raised for thousands of projects since 2009. It serves as a good way for participants to gauge and test demand for a particular product, project or endeavor.
“It’s a really scary process,” said Hoffman. “You really put yourself out there, and hope that others will find your project interesting, and each time you see a backer choose to support your project, you breathe a little sigh of relief, because someone else out there believes in it too.”
The Kickstarter process is unique in that projects will only receive pledged funds from Kickstarter if the campaign is successful. “It’s literally all-or-nothing,” said Hoffman. “On the one hand, our project’s backers know that their contribution will only be used for successful projects, but for us, it’s a little hard to know that you’ll lose any funding that doesn’t reach your goal.”
Capp and Hoffman, like most Kickstarter participants, also incentivize browsers of the site to become backers by offering rewards. In Capp and Hoffman’s case, these rewards can be as simple as a screen-printed postcard, or as complex as a bundle of art that includes a copy of the travel journal they’ll be publishing when their trek is completed.
“We really want to encourage everyone we can to check out the project and hopefully invest in it,” said Capp. “Whether they simply believe in the spirit of the project, or they want to get some of our artwork as a reward, we want to have as many people hear about the idea as we can.”
More information about the Summit to Sea project can be found at Capp’s website: www.lens-capp.com, or at Hoffman’s site: www.loriehoffman.com. Their Kickstarter campaign can be found at www.kickstarter.com/projects/lahoffman/summit-to-sea.