Society6 Brings Microfinance to the Art World
Looking to democratize the grant process, Society6 has launched a new patronage system based on micropayments.
“When one of our artist friends was invited to show her work at a prestigious art show, but wasn’t able to secure the funds to go, we knew there was a very real problem to solve”, said co-founder, Justin Wills. To do this, “we started to look at the existing support infrastructure for artists and other creative people,” said co-founder Lucas Tirigall-Caste, and “realized that it was particularly bureaucratic, exclusive and wasn’t designed for scale.” So they re-imagined the process as a meritocracy—one where the crowd calls the shots, not a handful of donors or curators.
Through their “open grants system,” individuals and organizations can easily issue money or opportunity (free products and services) grants to artists from around the world. Artists and other creative people apply to these grants, and the community nominates applicants to create the list of finalists. The grant giver chooses one applicant from the finalist list to award the grant.
Beyond just paying the bills, Society6 hopes to network the entire artistic process. On the site, individuals and groups can have one or many “Studios” that let artists showcase their original work or find someone to collaborate with. “We thought we’d enable the narrative behind the work, so that the otherwise passive relationship between the artist and supporter is participatory and active. We wanted people to feel like they were sitting in the studio next to their favorite artist”, said Wills.
The goal of Society6’s global micro-patronage system is to ensure that no one who is doing good work remains undiscovered and without opportunities. “In spite of the significant contributions that artists make to the vitality of our communities,” said co-founder, Justin Cooper, “there hasn’t been an adequate support structure in place to empower artists to realize their best work, on their own terms – until now.”