Crowdfunding for Cuban Posters

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Julia Kahl, the managing editor of the German design magazine Slanted, wrote recently to say her next issue (#21) deals with contemporary Cuban poster art and Cuban design. The rationale is simple:

Beyond cigars, American old timer cars and Che Guevara T-shirts Cuba has a strong tradition of graphic design. From the fifties until the embargo the county has been a major center for new ideas and creative design experiments. Nowadays the contrast is striking as there is in Cuba barely any publicity billboards, packaging, flyers, stickers, brands … They have all been replaced over the years by government propaganda posters but against all odds the spirit of creativity remains still much alive. Since the nineties a new generation of graphic designers has emerged and they hold on tight to the course of history. They are unfortunately still unknown and they strive to survive in a complicated economic and political situation without any means to be recognized by the rest of the world.

“We want to give the talented young people in Cuba an international platform and share their awesome work,” she says. There will be a bilingual translation (Spanish/English) and exhibitions in Berlin, Paris, and Leipzig, Germany—as well as extra copies to be shipped to Cuba. “These are extra expenses we ususally don’t have,” Kahl says. So, to offset costs, she’s done something magazines don’t often do—turned to crowdfunding to get all the extras funded. She needs at least € 10,000 (approximately $ 13,000) pledged by February 15. This idea tickled my curiosity, so I asked Kahl the obvious questions. (For more, watch the video here).

You have a successful magazine, why turn to crowdsourced funding?

We did not start the crowdfunding to raise money for the magazine production! Additonally to the magazine, there shall be a bilingual translation (Spanish/English), expositions in Berlin, Paris, and Leipzig (probably more), as well as extra copies to be shipped to Cuba—these are extra expenses we ususally don’t have and which we cannot finance without crowdfunding.

Why did you choose an issue devoted to Cuban posters to fundraise in this way?

Well, the topic for the issue was first, not the idea to crowdfund something. We discovered the amazing power of Cuban poster art. First, Natalie Seisser, a graphic designer from Paris, came up to see us this year in April to show striking work from her Cuban designer friends. Lars Harmsen (the editor of Slanted) went to Cuba this summer and met some of Natalie’s friends—as well as other artists and photographers. All of them are creating beautiful work, more analog than digital, with a very human and warm touch. How could we create wider awareness for their amazing work and give those artists an international voice? As editors of Slanted magazine, together with Markus Lange and Falko Gerlinghoff (Burg Giebichenstein, University of Art and Design), we thought it would be great to publish this special issue: CUBAN POSTER ART – The New Generation.

Do you see this as a business model for the future?

We see that many people use crowdfunding to raise money for their projects. Here in Germany, crowdfunding is not yet as popular as it is in the U.S.—there is no platform at the moment which could be compared to Kickstarter related to its awareness. But it’s emerging. Perhaps it’s too early to say it’s a business model, but it’s definitely a way to raise money for something which would not be possibble without the support of lots of people. The future will tell us.