A partial history of how artists, cultural producers, and content providers have experimented with funding and support models during the Internet Age.

As a result of the reaction and conversation that happened as a result of Art Micro Patronage, Oliver and I had been talking a lot about how the struggle of the net artist to get paid for their work is not unique.  The internet and the development of technology in general has generated a whole new class of cultural producer, yet very few people have figured out how they can possibly make money off of the work they produce.  From giant newspapers to the casual instagrammer, no one seems to have a solid plan to make it work.

This idea was a good fit for Nora O Murchú as she was putting together a publication for Run computer, Run, part of the GLITCH Festival at Rua Red in Ireland: exhibitions, a symposium, and a publication that focus on the current economic, political and cultural factors that are shaping the Internet.  The festival will discussed and explored how the practice of the digital artist is transitioning, not only with the growth of digital technologies, but are increasingly being informed by offline factors that are affecting how the Internet as a creative platform is being developed.  So Nora asked me to gather some of my thoughts together along these lines and contribute something for the publication.

a snippet of the timeline

In the process of trying to write about and chronicle these changes, I decided that the best thing to do was to create a timeline in order to look at these pieces of information in context during the past ~15-20 years as the internet progressively became integrated into our daily lives.

In this timeline, I’ve tracked lists of how :

  • Net Artists have Tried to Make Money
  • Alternative Funding Models in the Arts
  • Technology Advancements have Facilitated Giving
  • The Media has Experimented with Paywalls
It’s fun to look at, especially if you’re a nerd like me. It’s fun in 3D too (lower left corner).  If I’ve made any glaring omissions, please contribute points to add in the comments.


Know when to fold em.

It is with a simultaneously heavy/proud/appreciative/relieved heart that we’re announcing the end of our little project, our subscription art service. With your help, over the past six years we’ve channelled over $34,000 into artist payments, critic stipends, and the production of new artwork. We’ve supported the creation of 21 artist projects (over 1400 individual art pieces) that may not have happened otherwise.

Six years ago, we were newlyweds with a dream, no business experience (or training for that matter), no connections, and no cred. Since then, we have learned an enormous amount, met and worked with some really wonderful people, and have no regrets. When we started there weren’t any active art subscriptions that we knew of. Now there are over 20. (In fact, we made a list! If you need an art subscription fix in our void, this is a good place to find the right one for you: thepresentgroup.com/ArtSubscriptionDatabase)

Over the years, The Present Group has changed its focus from solely an art subscription to a place for experimental projects focused on new ways to support artists and by extension cultural producers of all stripes. Over the past couple of years, our two major projects have shown quite a bit of promise. Art Micro Patronage gave people a chance to experience group shows of online artwork and donate to artists simultaneously. The Present Group Hosting has now given away $2324 to artists working in underfunded areas of the creative landscape.

We will continue this trend of being both a place for our own experimental systems and a place that helps to facilitate others’ experiments. We will continue making things, perhaps even create editions once in a while, and hope to begin collaborating more extensively with partners. We now know how to make a lot of things (like view master reels and transparent silk screened vinyl sticker sheets!) and hope to help others make things. We will continue to explore the area between art, activism, philanthropy, and commercial endeavors. If you have a project that may be a good fit for this type of collaboration, please get in touch.

Why are we stopping? We’ve never been able to pay ourselves, we work other jobs to keep it going, and after six years of burning the candle at both ends, the flame has started to flicker. We love this project and it has been hard to make this decision, but it is time to let it go. We’ve met many of you through the fairs, speaking engagements and shows we’ve been able to be a part of. Some of you have been with us since the very beginning or close to it and by that we’re extremely humbled. We would never have been able to accomplish any of this without all the people who placed their trust and faith in us.

At this time of Thanksgiving, we’re especially  thankful for the enormous generosity and community of people we have had the privilege of working with, amongst, and for. Whether you decided to try out art collecting on a whim, worked with us as an artist, writer, or vendor,  or helped spread word to your friends, co-workers, students, or family members, we’re enormously grateful for every one of you.


Oliver and Eleanor

P.S.  We’re celebrating this end and 6 year anniversary with a giant sale!  Check out our back issues for savings of up to 20 – 80% off. 

Artists from this month’s AMP show + curator Dena Beard talk! March 22nd. @ProArts


Inverse Internet Operating Manual Live Artist Talk

7:30 p.m., March 22
150 Frank H Ogawa Plaza  Oakland, CA 94612

Join the artists of Inverse Internet Operating Manual and curator Dena Beard to reverse engineer the World Wide Web. Cycling between physical and virtual states, they will impart daring instructions for browsing, poaching, crowd-sourcing, misusing our favorite non-site. Finally, exasperated, they may ask: how do we look at art online?


This talk will be broadcast live at http://artmicropatronage.org/talks.
Pose your questions in person, via the website, email (info@artmicropatronage.org), or twitter (@AMPatronage).

Hosted by Art Micro Patronage, a project of The Present Group.




Bad at Sports: Hyperjunk Response

Nicolas O’Brien, one of the artists in the current Art Micro Patronage show, “Can’t Touch This” curated by Karen Archey, also writes a column entitled Hyperjunk on the Bad at Sports blog.  He was kind enough to include us in his most recent post, ”Hyperjunk: Observations on the Proliferation of Online Galleries,” a thoughtful survey and analysis of current online galleries.

However, there are a couple of points in the article that caught our attention, specifically in regards to our project.  In the spirit of keeping the conversation going, we’ve included some responses below:


If an ideal environment of an artists working online lies within the personal computing web-browsing experience, then why the need for relocating these works into another specific website/framing? What is “more accessible” about an online gallery then an artists personal website? Are the tropes from the traditional gallery system still playing too significant a role in the way in which net-art is being presented?


With Art Micro Patronage the idea of the curated group show is central.  We’re trying to encourage criticality about what is happening online by hiring curators to bring together artists whose work explores similar themes.  The internet is incredibly diverse and far flung which makes the process of synthesis and curation that much more important.  I trust some institutions and curators to do the research and outreach to bring to my attention artists whose work I may not have been exposed to otherwise, but also to highlight what is happening more broadly.  So maybe it’s not the works themselves that are rendered more accessible, but rather the connections between them.

To favor one system over the other, or to underscore the supposed ignorance of major cultural institutions for not having more net based art, can position the artist, work, or community as having ingrained entitlement due to its novelty.


I’m not sure I agree that it deserves entitlement due to its novelty.  In the late 90′s and early 2000′s there were quite a few institutions that were collecting and attempting to show net art.  But most gave it up.  At that point there was an exuberance about the novelty of anything and everything that was happening online.    However now I believe we’re at the point where the technology has caught up and the novelty has died down, and because it is so ingrained in our culture, the work that is happening online in a cultural context deserves critical attention.  It was in part the recognition that artists working online isn’t novel at all that motivated us to do this project.

Further, we hope to continue expanding the idea of what is considered “netart”.  We intentionally found curators working in diverse parts of the artworld in order to cull different works and types of shows.   For example, our next show curated by Dena Beard highlights the work of primarily social practice and conceptual artists who use the web to document their more ephemeral practice or as a site of exchange.  While these may not be “net artists”, the internet is an important part of their practice.

AMP: 0-Day Art Response

You took it down, but we put it back up. You locked it up, but we broke it out. You are the gatekeepers, we are the gatecrashers. Expect us. -@0DayArt

We were recently sent word that 0-Day Art had downloaded and torrented all the videos in our first Art Micro Patronage exhibition “Material Motion” curated by Sarah Klein. Here is their statement from the .NFO:

0-Day Art supports artists being paid for their work. However, we do not
believe in approaches to the monetization of art that result in the works
being taken offline or access to them being restricted. We have archived
these videos so that they will be available to the widest possible audience
in perpetuity, freely distributable to all.

This is wonderful and a testament to the beauty of the internet…. And it only took 1 day!

I’d like to use this as an opportunity to think through a few of the questions we’re dealing with in this project. First off, I hate to disappoint, but AMP is not really locking up these work from the internet. A quick google search shows that all but 1 of the videos are freely available on video sites or the artists personal websites. It is not a requirement that works in AMP shows be “exclusive” content (whatever that even means on the internet).

For us it’s a question of respect. We feel it’s important that artists have control over their work. As artists, we have a hard time accepting an ideology that takes that control away from creators. We all know that you can infinitely reproduce a digital work of art but the question is should we? I can imagine an artist trying to encourage donations by presenting an exclusive work on AMP. And if the exclusivity was successful, wouldn’t torrenting it hinder that artist’s ability to support herself via her work? Is it enough to simply command a downloader to “PLEDGE”?

I worry that the desire to make all online artworks forever available to everyone is just another manifestation of the idea that “exposure” or attention is all artists (or any of us producing online content) should really want. This is an idea promoted by people who are already making a living off that “sharing”, the Facebooks, Googles and even PirateBays of the world. Are we all unpaid workers for these entities?

Whether or not you agree that restricting access to works online is a good practice or not, I think we can all agree that there is a real scarcity for artists working online. It’s a scarcity of money and time to continue creating. The truly precious resource for artists is their potential for future work, thought, and experimentation. AMP is a system designed to address that very real limitation by putting dollaz in pocketz.

Art Micro Patronage is LIVE!

What started as a few vague ideas about the possibilities of micro-donations mixed in with questions about “collecting” digital artwork is now a full-blown, beautifully designed, web application for supporting online artists.

Art Micro Patronage is an experimental online exhibition space enabling you to view and support artwork that is ideally experienced on the internet. Built on the generosity of people like you, AMP is a vehicle for a new generation of art patrons, who are willing to associate their appreciation of great work with

actual dollar amounts, no matter how small.

We’re extremely proud, and also curious if anyone will use it.  So please, check it out. Each month we’ll present a new online exhibition.  And while you’re there, become a micro-patron of the arts by giving a small donation to the artists who pieces you like.


Call for Curators: Shows of Internet Art on Art Micro-Patronage

This fall, Oliver and I will be debuting our new project: Art Micro-Patronage.  It’s an experimental exhibiiton platform that tries to figure out good ways to both display and fund artwork that is ideally viewed online.  As visitors navigate through the monthly exhibitions, they will be encouraged to become micro-patrons of the arts, associating their appreciation of the works with small monetary values. Only patrons will be able to view the exhibitions once the shows are over and they will receive a link and image as recognition for their generosity.

And we’re looking for curators!

Here are the specs:

What are we looking for?
We seek tightly curated shows of works that are ideally experienced on the internet.  Shows can be organized thematically or formally.  Some possibilities include (but are not limited to): artists working with twitter and facebook, digital artwork, video, sound, animated gifs, interactive works, web-based campaigns, physical works that address or involve the web in some way, documentary websites of artists working with intangibles.  We would like these to be group shows of between 7-15 artists and we would like the curator to write 400 – 600 word intro to the exhibition.  Shows will last 1 month.

How does it work?
We will encourage visitors to the shows to donate small amounts ($.50, $1, $5) directly to the artists as they navigate from piece to piece, similar to a “like” button only with pledging and a navigation element: if they press a donate amount, they are moved forward to the next piece in show.  AMP will take a small administrative cut from the proceeds in order to cover the transaction fees and to sustain funds for the next set of 6 (we have secured funding for the first set of 6 shows). Only the patrons will have access to the show after the month is over; the general public will still have access to the written piece by the curator and see the list of artists that were involved with the show. Patrons will also be given recognition and links on a donor’s page for each show (and each piece while the show is up).  Curators will receive a stipend of $200 upon completion of their project.

We have also set aside money for web development with each show, so we can work with you to figure out the best viewing experience to suit the artworks’ particular needs.

Please explain your proposed show and give 2-4 examples of pieces along the lines of what you’d like to highlight.
Submit your contact info and proposal to:  submit [at] artmicropatronage.org

Web hosting that supports artists.


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Lego Hello World
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