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Local Groups Pin Hopes on Kickstarter Campaign

Kickstarter is a website that allows people to raise money for their favorite cause, and two Virginia groups have gone online, hoping to save historic art forms using this 21st century tool. 

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. “

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven - inspired several artists to illustrate, but some of the most compelling works have been hidden away in Richmond’s Poe Museum, where curator Chris Semtner hopes they’ll survive a little longer.  Over time, the cardboard is getting darker and the ink lighter.

“And we don’t want them to meet in the middle somewhere.”

All total, there are 43 drawings by the little known artist James Carling.  He produced his works on the streets of Liverpool before coming to America as a teenager - making his name on the Vaudeville stage.

“He billed himself as the fastest drawer in the world.”

But he took his time in illustrating the Raven, with works that reflected his affinity for Poe.  Semptner says they were two poor but gifted artists who died young.  Anyone who’s visited the Poe Museum’s Raven Room in Richmond is likely to remember the disturbing drawings Carling made - illustrating the poem, line by line.

“He described his drawings as stormier, wilder and more weird.  They were originally done in the 1880’s, bu t they weren’t published.  They were a little bit too intense for the 1880’s.”

To protect Carling’s original work, to publish a book and prepare a traveling exhibit, Semtner is hoping to raise $60,000 thru Kickstarter by mid November.  It’s an approach he believes Poe would approve.

“He had this dream of starting his own magazine - to do things his way.  He’d been making other people rich by editing their magazines, and towards the end he had finally found a financial backer.  He was traveling from city to city, selling subscriptions.”

In Charlottesville, another group is completing its unique literary creation thanks to Kickstarter.  Kevin McFadden is with the Virginia Arts of the Book Center, a community of artists, writers and designers intrigued by books, paper and print-making.  

“And what’s kind of held this group together is a passion for making things.  Every year we challenge each other, we trade tips and we make a collaborative project.”

This year, they decided to think small - to produce a set of 15 tiny books -- each two by three inches.  Twenty-seven people took part, providing text, design and illustration.  To produce them, they needed some new equipment, so they put the word out, hoping to raise $6,000, and by summer’s end they had ten.    Four people pledged a thousand dollars apiece to get one set of 15 books including an ancient treasure map, carefully folded inside a beautifully crafted cover.

“It involves an ancient text that was found almost like the Dead Sea scrolls were found.  It is both a text that says where this box of silver and gold is buried in the dessert.  It’s got some sort of vellum overlays that look like desert dunes, and it’s really intriguing - a cloth bound book ultimately called 3Q15.”

Another book -- The Gray Goo Problem - explores nano particles that wreak havoc on organic matter, reducing it to gray goo.  Then there’s a volume called How to Draw a Cloud, and a Pop-Up Book about two poisonous plants.   There’s even a tome that doubles as a puzzle:

"One of these books is a non-adhesive binding, all put together by cuts in paper and folds.  You could basically take the book apart and then put it back together.”

McFadden says individual books and sets will be sold * at what the Arts of the Book Center calls its Raucous Auction. 

The Virginia Arts of the Book Center's  annual Raucous Auction is tonight from 5:30-8:00 PM. The evening will be complete with a silent auction, raffles, drinks, and catering. There is no admission fee, but a donation of $20 or purchase is suggested.


Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief