Projects We Loved: 27 of Our Favorite Kickstarter-Funded Projects from 2017
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2017 was a consequential year. For many people, it was a challenging year. But it was also a year in which people made art that amplified new and underrepresented voices, brought communities together, and engaged in important conversations.
Kickstarter creators were an integral part of those conversations. This year, creators made work that dealt with vital issues like the global refugee crisis, mental health awareness, and the consequences of climate change. They imagined alternative futures and possibilities for our world, from a vision of Earth in which humans have merged with robots to an exhibition revealing the New York City skyline that never was. And they pushed their practices further through limited editions, commissioned pieces, and explorations of life and culture on our planet. Over 46,500 creators launched new and ambitious projects in 2017 — and over 4 million people supported them.
As a team, Kickstarter staffers have backed thousands of projects. So as the year comes to a close, we asked a few of our colleagues to share their favorite Kickstarter-funded works that became available to read, watch, explore, experience, purchase, and play in 2017. Some of these projects launched and subsequently entered culture earlier this year. Others came about after years of painstaking work, during which time creators gave their backers a behind-the-scenes peek at the process along the way. All were fascinating and inspiring for their originality and inventiveness.
Read on to discover our team’s favorites — and let us know yours in the comments.
Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition by Ozma Records
Selected by: Nick Yulman, Curation and Content, Design and Tech
“In 1977 a team led by Carl Sagan compiled a record of greetings, sounds, music, and images representing life on Earth, and sent it into space on the Voyager probes for extraterrestrials to discover. Forty years later, the Golden Record finally got a proper release here on Earth thanks to Ozma Records and more than 10,000 backers on Kickstarter.
Receiving this exquisitely designed and meticulously researched box set was a treat. Aside from listening to the beautifully diverse range of music on the Golden Record, there's power in examining and holding on to the optimism of the project itself. It's a reminder of a time — four short decades ago — when curiosity, scientific discovery, and appreciation for human creativity in its many forms were at the forefront of our public conversation, endorsed by our leaders and funded by our government. These are our roots and we can return to them.”
A few more picks from Nick:
- Sisyphus by Bruce Shapiro
- The Ollie Chair by RockPaperRobot
- Say Something Bunny! by Alison S. M. Kobayashi
Selected by: Georgina Rovirosa, International
“2017 was the first year Kickstarter was open to creators in Mexico. It was exciting to see projects that aimed to make a positive impact on society coming from this country. Taller Nu is probably my favorite of the lot: the Mexico City-based workshop offers beautifully-designed products that empower incarcerated women in Mexico.”
The Hanged Man by Ted Leo
Selected by: Nafeesa Davis, Music Outreach
“A great album from a seasoned, well-developed artist. Plus, it's his first one in seven years, and wholly self-produced. The topics addressed on the album are important and almost prophetic: he addresses his own childhood sexual assault, his wife's miscarriage, and dealing with the aftermath of a Trump presidential victory. It isn't all trauma, though — there's a sense of resilience and eventual joy in the work.”
Pablo Neruda: Book of Twilight by Copper Canyon Press
Selected by: Rebecca Hiscott, Curation and Content
“As part of Kickstarter Gold, Copper Canyon Press sought to publish Book of Twilight, Pablo Neruda's first book of poetry, which had never before been published in its entirety in English. The first Kickstarter project I ever backed was a book, and there's still something incomparably satisfying to me about receiving a copy of a book that I had some small part in putting out into the world. I was so excited be a part of bringing this volume to English-speaking audiences for the very first time, and to be able hold it in my hands just a few months later.”
A couple more picks from Rebecca:
- Inside Pussy Riot by Nadya Tolokonnikova
- The Well-Read Black Girl Writer’s Conference and Festival by Glory Edim
Loving Vincent by Hugh Welchman
Selected by: Elise McCave, Film Outreach
“This animated feature — the first fully hand-painted feature film — funded in March 2014 and was released into theaters in 2017. It recently won a European Film Award and earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Animated Feature; an Oscar nomination may follow.”
Forward Union Fair by Forward Union
Selected by: Patton Hindle, Arts Outreach
“This socially minded info-fair brings together activists, artists, and thinkers to dialogue about the current social and political landscape. The first edition of Forward Union came together two weeks after Trump was elected as a much-needed safe space for thinking and responding. In their second year, they were able to look back on 2017 and bring a community together to take action on real issues that are affecting our country, all the while using art as a medium through which to speak.”
Flint Water at What Pipeline by Pope.L
Selected by: Daniel Sharp, Arts Outreach
“Funds from Pope.L’s project were used to purchase undrinkable water from Flint, MI, residences and sell it as an art object. The proceeds were then donated to a crisis relief fund. This project brought agency and activism to the communities of Flint and Detroit, helping them create something that raised funds for and awareness of the ongoing water crisis.”
Bright Lite magazine and Anxy magazine
Selected by: Maura M. Lynch, Curation and Content
“Thanks to the Kickstarter community, print's not dead: Bright Lite is a magazine created by (and for) girls between the ages of 8 and 15 and features articles, recipes, craft projects, and more. It's just the type of magazine I would have devoured as a kid — which is why I backed the third issue, all about space, for my 11-year-old goddaughter this year. (She ended up getting a subscription.)
Anxy, a magazine that aims to destigmatize mental illness, features important work by some of my favorite writers, like Ijeoma Oluo and Collier Meyerson.”
In a Heartbeat by Beth David and Esteban Bravo
Selected by: David Ninh, Media Relations
“This short film, a queer love story about a young boy’s crush on another boy, went viral in 2017. It melted hearts and deeply resonated with people all over the world.”
No Small Plans by Chicago Architecture Foundation
Selected by: Stephanie Pereira, Creator Engagement
“This graphic novel follows the adventures of Chicago's youth in the past, present and future, as they wrestle with what it will take to design the city they want, need, and deserve. It is a reimagining of an urban planning manual designed to inspire young people to feel accountable for the design of their city.
The original book was required reading for all Chicago eighth graders for over three decades, and this new version has a similar aspiration. It is already in thirty schools and eighty public libraries, with more to come. This project has impacted just one city, but in such a big way that I can't help but believe there will be more to this story.”
The Divine Eye on Gold Wax Cylinder by Thomas Negovan
Selected by: Tieg Zaharia, Engineering
“With this wax cylinder recording, forty-time Kickstarter creator Thomas Negovan is doing something different from any other creator. While the world is busy reviving vinyl, he went back to the Edison phonograph and published his music on a 19th-century medium.”
Tieg also picked these projects:
Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums by Maryam Omidi
Selected by: Willa Koerner, The Creative Independent
“This book documenting the culture around holidays in soviet sanatoriums is amazing. The photos themselves are beautiful, and the traditional building styles and medical procedures pictured are fascinating. The book feels like a time capsule of a very particular tradition that's dying out. It reminds me of how subjective medical care and relaxation are based on the culture in which you live, and that self-care is an age-old tradition that can take many forms.”
A few more picks from Willa:
- Take Me (I’m Yours) at The Jewish Museum
- White Wanderer: A Climate Change Soundtrack by Luftwerk & NRDC
- The Jim Henson Exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image
- The System of Systems: A Publication on the Asylum Process by Maria McLintock
crushAustin by Rude Mechs
Selected by: Jessica Massart, Performance Outreach
“Over the summer, this legendary theater company took the loss of their longtime Austin, TX, space in stride and unleashed this citywide series of events. Many small to mid-size theater companies are getting priced out of their homes around the country; crushAustin is an inspiring response to that problem. Plus, it features a participatory Karaoke Christmas Carol.”
Notes on a Case of Melancholia or: A Little Death by Nicholas Gurewitch
Selected by: Michael Stewart, Food Outreach
“Good things come to those who wait. Nicholas Gurewitch, creator of The Perry Bible Fellowship comic strip, funded his project for Notes on a Case of Melancholia in December 2014, and has been actively working on it ever since. Each page of the book was painstakingly hand-etched. It's a beautiful story, beautifully told, and the documentation of his process was incredible — easily as worthwhile as receiving the finished product.”
Nowadays NYC by Mister Saturday Night
Selected by: Lorrie Doriza, Operations
“Nowadays is this quirky outdoor space in Ridgewood, NY, with colorful picnic tables, grass you can lay on, ping pong tables, a food truck, and great music. Since it was an outdoors-only venue, Nowadays only worked as a seasonal spot and would often have to close because of the weather, even in the summertime. When they announced that they were raising funds to build a permanent indoor space, the community rallied around them and made it happen, doubling their $50,000 funding goal.
The new space just opened its doors in December. I'm especially excited to check out their Planetarium nights, an immersive music series where they surround the dance floor with their new state-of-the-art speakers so you can bring a blanket and pillow, lie down, and immerse yourself in the music.”
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