About this project
Our mission is to provide a free visual arts education for everyone. We have a finished prototype of our online educational platform that features:
an on-demand structure • short-form video tutorials in drawing, painting, printmaking, & sculpture • a visual encyclopedia of art supplies • trusted advice from the Art Prof and Teaching Assistants • interactive video critiques • interactive audio forums • detailed assignments & comprehensive lesson plans • professional development resources and listings • a diverse, international artist community • audio critiques of user artwork • galleries for user artwork to be featured • contemporary art & art history references
All we need now is action from you to make ART PROF free for all!
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing format. Backers are only charged for their pledges if we reach our goal. If we don't reach our goal, our project receives no funding.
The more we raise in this campaign, the longer ART PROF can be free!
When ART PROF is in full production with all site features active, and 60 min. of new video tutorials created each month, our costs are:
One of our top priorities as a team is that we consistently and reliably maintain a very high, professional standard of quality throughout every feature of ART PROF. We have an amazing staff of top notch, highly experienced professionals lined up and ready to go: producers, photographers, designers, editors, staff for video production on set and post-production, editors, web developers, editorial staff, publicists, teaching assistants, production assistants, accountants, content developers, talent, and more. $35,000 may sound like a large monthly budget at first glance, but when you put together a staff of about 15 professionals working at the top of their fields, investing numerous hours into a project like this, the costs add up very fast.
Our $30,000 Kickstarter goal is a bare bones budget that would make ART PROF free for just 2 months. During this period, only a few parts of the site would be active, and no new video content could be produced. Our hope is that releasing a limited version for 2 months would jump start the project, and hopefully build enough enthusiasm and momentum which could lead to opportunities to develop long term financial sustainability. More details are in our "Risks and Challenges" section below.
We want ART PROF to be free for all, for as long as possible. We need your help to make that happen!
Today, I am a visual artist and Adjunct Professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, where I have taught for the past decade. However, I will never forget the loneliness and frustration I experienced on the way to where I am now.
I loved my elementary school art teacher and savored every minute of art class. So it was very upsetting to discover that the visual arts program at my high school was always underfunded, and that the art teachers were overworked. For many years, I was isolated, angry, and depressed. The opportunities and resources to rigorously study the one subject I was passionate about simply did not exist. Despite my struggles, I was lucky-eventually, I made it to art school in 1994.
Hearing My Story From Others
In 2013, I began teaching for RISD Project Open Door, a free college access program for urban teens. These students expressed their frustration about the scarcity of teen art programs to me. I saw my 16 year old self in their stories. When I began my Ask the Art Prof column for Huffington Post, I thought only art school students would be interested. I was surprised that people of all ages and backgrounds started contacting me. Listen to their stories:
“I'm a stay at home mom. I am desperate to pick up my painting again now that my kids are older.”
“I would really love to be your student."
"I can’t go to art school since I don't have the money, is there any way I can learn art on my own?"
Clearly, the need for accessible visual arts education was so much greater than I ever imagined. Chronically underfunded, or non-existent in many schools, visual arts education is simply not available to most people. I saw an aching void that I realized I was in a position to fill. I started thinking about how I could make a difference.
A Partner and a Team
In early 2015, I met Thomas Lerra, the manager of the Research and Development Prototype and Innovation Team at WGBH Boston. Thomas is a digital strategy & production leader, who has had two successful decades leading projects and people to overcome challenges in the digital/interactive ecosystem and beyond. His leadership and expertise has provided invaluable insight to ensure that our platform is user-friendly and accessible for all.
I assembled a team of 6 Teaching Assistants and 10 Interns. The Teaching Assistants work closely with me to initiate and generate, site content, review user artwork submissions, create audio critiques of submitted artworks, provide contemporary art and art history references, and respond promptly to user questions with professional advice in our interactive audio forums. Our Interns concentrate on brainstorming and development of site content and are devoted to creating innovative outreach strategies.
Collectively, our Teaching Assistants and Interns are an amazing team of artists and art students who work in textiles, illustration, painting, drawing, comics, sculpture, ceramics, architecture, furniture design, jewelry, drawing, graphic design and more. Their tremendous artistic range brings a great diversity of perspectives.
Creating the Prototype
The prototype was an immense feat that our team has worked very hard on for the past year and a half. Many months of research, brainstorming, content development, usability testing, focus groups, staff meetings, hours on set, post-production sessions, and countless revisions led to a prototype that is now finished and ready to go.
Even though our prototype is finished, if our campaign is successful, we would still need a few months to make sure that all of the technical aspects and web development on the site have been completely resolved and gone through a comprehensive and thorough QA (Quality Assurance) process and testing before the site becomes public.To ensure a smooth, professional launch of the site requires this time period in order to maintain our high professional standard of quality.
ART PROF is a personal undertaking by Clara Lieu and Thomas Lerra that is not supported, sponsored, or endorsed by the Rhode Island School of Design.
Risks and challenges
The greatest challenge for ART PROF is long term sustainability. Our $30,000 Kickstarter goal would allow us to create a slimmed down version of ART PROF that will be free for all users for just 2 months. Only some features could be active, and no new video content could be produced. We decided that if we set our Kickstarter goal for $420,000 (which would allow ART PROF to be free for 1 year), the risk of the campaign failing was far too high. At this point, we feel it is more critical to get ART PROF started, rather than wait 10 years to raise $420,000.
When ART PROF is in full production with all site features active, and 60 min. of new video footage being created each month, our production costs are $35,000 a month.
After the 2 months of a free, slimmed down version of ART PROF are over, to continue production, we would have to switch to a subscription model to achieve financial sustainability. We really don't want to, as we feel that even the lowest monthly subscription fee compromises our mission. However, the reality is that without a subscription model to meet our monthly production costs, ART PROF could not continue.
If we switched to a subscription model, we would make a monumental effort to build a subscriber base robust enough to allow for the monthly subscription fee to be as low as possible. With our production costs being $35,000 month, the numbers change drastically depending on how large our subscriber base is.
For example, if we had 12,000 subscribers each month, we could make the monthly subscription fee just $3 a month. If we had only 1,000 subscribers, the monthly subscription fee would have to be $35 a month. The more subscribers we have, the lower the monthly subscription fee could be. This is why it's so important that our following continues to grow, even at this early stage before ART PROF has launched.
Long term sustainability is our greatest challenge. Our ultimate goal is to make ART PROF free for all, for as long as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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