From crowdfunding to crowd engagement

The yearly Forum Kultur und Ökonomie took place in Bern, Switzerland on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 March. This 16th edition’s theme was Liaisons dangereuses oder gegenseitige Inspiration? Modell Wirtschaft — Modell Kultur: von Unterschieden und Gemeinsamkeiten.

Selfie time, Roy Cremers and Stefano Stoll. Photo Patrik Kummer.

Pro Helvetia, the government funded Swiss arts foundation, asked me to talk about voordekunst and the experience I have gained over the past 5.5 years in crowdfunding for art projects. It was an honour to have been invited and talk about voordekunst and the Dutch arts sector as a best practice. Especially since I was sharing the stage with inspiring speakers such as Stefano Stoll, Chris Dercon and Alexa Clay. In this blogpost I will briefly address the lessons some of the speakers shared at the conference.

Know your value

Under the leadership of Stefano Stoll, Festival Images has grown from a small-scale photo festival to a renowned photo biennale. One of his biggest challenges was financing this free festival. As a solution, within the business and tourist community he stressed the importance of Festival Images for the development of the region. The festival literally has become the city marketing instrument of the Veyvey district, reason for the private sector to co-fund it. It is now evident to them that the Festival Images visitor really does boost the local economy and the festival has a positive effect on the region. Stefano Stoll’s ways were successful in showing the value of Festival Images for society without having to compromise on content.

Yuji Hamada, Primal Mountain. Photo: Céline Michel. Festival Images 2014

Take your audience seriously

Highlight of the first day for me personally was Chris Dercon’s reading. He currently is director of Tate Modern and will be artistic director of the Volksbühne Berlin as of January 2017. He spoke enthusiastically about the degradation of the concept creativity, expressed his concern about the prices within the art market that have gone through the roof and the economic inequality in the city of London.

Chris Dercon. Photo Patrik Kummer.

After Spanish adolescents taking the streets as zombies and the Assemble Collective winning The Turner Prize 2015 we got to the Tate Modern’s new building opening this year.

One of the most impressive presentations in the Turbine Hall was when Tate Modern presented The Weather Project by Olafur Eliasson here in 2003/2004. What was striking was the audience taking over the Turbine Hall. They didn’t comply with the rules and wanted to come together in this space, have picnics, even stay the night. Eliasson’s installation was the starting point of friends and family using Tate Modern as a place to meet.

45% of the respondents say the main reason to visit Tate Modern is the social aspect of a visit.

A recent public survey shows this as well. What turns out to be the case? 45% of the respondents say the main reason to visit Tate Modern is the social aspect of a visit. ‘Spending time with others’ is most important while ‘To get inspired’ is the main motivation for only 11%.

Tate Modern’s new building opens its doors on June 17. The biggest emphasis will be on the visitor’s experience. I’m very curious!

Be surprised

Somehow I totally missed the book The Misfit Economy had been published. Luckily one of the authors of the book, Alexa Clay, was in Bern to give me the perfect introduction to her research on the fringes of society. For this book Clay interviewed drug dealers, Amish, hackers, terrorists and others who function in an illegal or informal economy. I found it very inspiring and I think The Misfit Economy holds quite a few lessons for the cultural sector. To sum these up in five points:

  1. Unlock resources, hustle & stay determined
  2. Hack systems in need of change
  3. Build on what is — Copy and remix
  4. Provoke alternatives, question myths
  5. Don’t be afraid to pivot

From crowdfunding to crowd engagement

Roy Cremers. Photo: Patrik Kummer

Preparing my own presentation, I thought carefully about what voordekunst’s most important impact really is. Is it just the funding? Or is it more than that? In my opinion, crowdfunding for art projects is too often still seen as an alternative or complimentary form of financing. This is partly due to the rise of crowdfunding for entrepreneurs and businesses. This type of crowdfunding, often in the form of loans or investments is mainly about funding where in the arts sector it is about engagement. Crowdfunding is much more a communication or marketing instrument in the cultural sector. This is what I tried to clarify in my 25-minute timeslot. I also addressed the unique collaboration we as an organisation have with a large number of public and private partners.

Not only did being in a new context and learning from others inspire me, Switzerland is also a beautiful country and Bern a lovely city well worth another visit.


With special thanks to Director of Pro Helvetia Andrew Holland and Hedy Graber, Director of Cultural and Social Affairs at Migros Kultur Prozent.


Soirée conviviale im Kornhauskeller, Bern. Photo Patrik Kummer

The Forum Kultur und Ökonomie is an informal association of public and private cultural promoters. Its purpose is to enhance knowledge of and interaction between economic and political dimensions in the area of culture and funding thereof. The conference is held annually in a different Swiss city and around another central theme.