On Thursday night, Amanda Palmer brought her traveling art party to Los Angeles' Pop tART Gallery. One of only six such events Palmer was throwing in the United States and Europe, the party was exclusively for people who donated at least $300 to her wildly successful Kickstarter campaign.
Holly Rushing was one of the handful of fans who donated to attend the event. She pledged the $300 for herself and then an extra $150 so that she could bring her husband. The couple drove up to Los Angeles from San Diego to attend. Rushing says that, before she pledged, she wondered if she could pull together a $5,000 donation for a private house party with Palmer.
"I don't think Amanda Palmer would be cool with me taking on credit card debt and paying money to the man," says Rushing. "That's not really the spirit of this."
Back in May, musician/artist Palmer made a splash when she eschewed the proper record label system and took to Kickstarter to crowdsource funding for her forthcoming album. She smashed through her $100,000 goal and, by the end of the month, raised more than $1 million. The idea wasn't to give Palmer all your money, it was to do what you can. Even donors who pledged $1 will receive a digital download of the album with bonus content exclusive to the Kickstarter campaign.
Much has been written about Palmer's phenomenal success, about her early adoption of social media and crowdsourcing platforms (this wasn't her first Kickstarter campaign), and how that's empowered her to move forward without the traditional backing of a label. But Palmer's success has little to do with the fact that she's really good at using Twitter. If you have seen her live, then you know Palmer is popular because she's downright inspirational.
"Her team is really dedicated to the show, which is inspiring. Really inspiring," says Phyliss Navidad, owner of Pop tART. "It makes me want to go and do more things back to back."
The gallery owner refers to Palmer's work as performance art. "This is probably the most accomplished art piece we've ever done before," says Navidad. "It's the most accomplished of its time, of my time anyway."
Incorporating an entire gallery filled with visual art created by Palmer and her friends, all connected to the forthcoming album, with live performance and lots of interaction with the crowd, the event did appear to be one giant art project. And the message wasn't simply that Palmer has a new album on the way and it's going to be awesome. It's that you can create, too. In her song "Ukulele Anthem," which she played at the end of last night's acoustic set with her band, the Grand Theft Orchestra, Palmer sings, "Stop pretending art is hard." That's the gist of everything she does, from her music to her Sharpie drawings to her tweets.
Before the venue opened, Palmer came out to talk to the crowd in line and pose for a few photos. She encouraged people to take lots of photos and to tweet from the event. She also announced that Kickstarter donors would be receiving a special gift bag containing art books. Most of the books were selected by Palmer herself, with a few picked out by her husband, author Neil Gaiman. She told the fans to go ahead and trade the books with each other. The message was clear: Take these presents and get inspired.
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Among Palmer's many talents is her innate ability to get everyone around her to create. She had more than 30 of her friends create works based on her new album. The results, from the likes of Shepard Fairey, illustrator Molly Crabapple and musician Robyn Hitchcock, among others, will be published in a book for Kickstarter backers. The pieces are also on display at Pop tART through July 25. She had music duo Die Roten Punkte, bellydancer SuperKate and Grand Theft Orchestra member Jherek Bischoff play at the Thursday night party.
However, the moment that solidified Palmer's message came after her own performance, when she stripped naked and allowed fans to come on stage and paint her. It was an amazing act of trust, but also symbolic of what Palmer preaches. Anyone can make art -- stop making excuses.