By Kayla Lunden

In May of 2013, 35-year-old Jack Conte founded Patreon, an online crowdfunding platform that aims to connect artists and their patrons through a monthly subscription model. In an episode of the podcast Hannahlyze This, Conte told listeners that Patreon began because he wanted to “see if I could just make money by being creative and making a bunch of stuff.” He used Patreon to promote his music, and set up “perks,” or things to send to people who consistently supported him. The perks’ style range based on the artist, from jingles written specifically for patrons, to access to private email lists, and beyond. Now, with more than 3 million patrons supporting more than 100,000 artists, Patreon is changing the way young artists can support themselves.

My generation of artists are largely defined by their entrepreneurship, finding creative ways to support their art (i.e. crowdfunding). Patreon makes accessible for artists just starting out what otherwise has always been a mystery: how to build a following, connect with other artists, and get your work out to an audience that hopefully buys it. By facilitating a direct artist-patron relationship and taking out the middle men (i.e. agents, gallery owners, etc.) the pressure of how to support oneself is lessened, leaving more time for making art.

Maria Licciardi is a Painting and Drawing senior at SUNY Purchase who, through Patreon, will make you 1-3 small unique pieces of art per month for a $10 monthly subscription. Licciardi’s senior project involves making comfort items: life-sized and smaller stuffed animals made from recycled leather. Licciardi incorporates a lot of recycled “garbage” into her work, something of a signature of hers. In working with leather, Licciardi has discovered things she shares with the material. “The skins are scraps that have been deserted because they’re ‘not good enough,’ or damaged. I identify with this leather; its being abandoned and with this idea in society that to be sensitive is a flaw.”

Brand new to Patreon since July of 2019, Licciardi already has 3 consistent patrons and is still figuring it out. She shares that it has been a bit intimidating, but mostly, she is excited to learn more about the platform and its malleability. “Patreon has the potential to fuel my art whatever it is; whether I’m between painting and drawing, sculpture, or if I go into, like, knitting scarves.”

Licciardi doesn’t always feel the pressure of mass creation the way many of us do. Instead, she finds in it a sense of purpose. “I think (pressure) is extremely necessary for me to function and be the person I really need to be. I love helping people and being of use.” In regards to keeping up with perks, she’s always creating for class, exhibits, fun; if she’s not selling something on one platform, they become perks through Patreon.

There are ups and downs to having clientele who consistently expect new work. “I need to follow through. I need to be consistent. I need to make this (Patreon) something that is a priority.” Licciardi loves that Patreon isn’t short-term, like a project on Gofundme, but career-based. “The goal is forever,” she said referring to the support network she intends to build. Licciardi believes in not being frugal when it comes to supporting fellow artists. “It’s like how classical radio stations say ‘we depend on you.’”

Although a Creative Writing major on the poetry track, I also write fiction, paint realistic pictures of breakfast tables, and sing jazz improv that has brought grown men to their knees. SUNY Purchase artists do not want to shy away from double and triple branding themselves, and this is not because we don’t have a passion for anything, so we choose everything. Rather, we have a passion for creation and connection that manifests in manifold ways. Thanks to sharing this passion with Jack Conte, Patreon has materialized as a new and effective way of sustaining our art and all that comes with it.

Check out Maria Licciardi’s Patreon here:

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