Concrete Nests: Funding Bird Habitat Art Sculpture on Kickstarter

Concrete Nests on Kickstarter

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My first kickstarter attempt

Back in 2012 I won an award from Wisconsin's Aldo Leopold Audubon Society and the City of Stevens Point for my Chimney Swift Bird habitat tower sculpture sketch design. I built the 8000 lb. habitat sculpture with the help of many hard working volunteers and am proud to say it still stands at the sculpture park today!

As an artist, it has been my lifetime goal, to make a career out of making my art. As any artist will tell you, it's a challenge! What's more, making sculpture out of concrete, is quite an undertaking. Concrete is unforgiving, nearly immovable and at times, dangerously heavy. It's not the same as a graphic designer's work, I can't make a handful of concrete sculptures and then cram them into a zip drive. Once built, they're pretty much there to stay.

Many people have suggested trying kickstarter, as an option to fund more of these concrete sculptures. It took me several months to finish my campaign and I had to make some difficult choices before I launched it.

Probably the most difficult choice, was the goal amount. Most art campaigns have goals of a few thousand dollars, a couple have around ten thousand and I have seen at least one that had a goal of a few hundred thousand. I chose an amount that would afford me the ability to work full time for a year building 3-5 more sculpture towers, and an amount that would allow me to hire at least one assistant to rely on, since volunteers aren't always available. I debated for a long time to try to just fund one more habitat sculpture, but to do that wouldn't get at the heart of my goal, which is too launch my art career into a permanent business.

Chimney Swifts and Vaux's Swifts and habitat sculpture

Chimney Swift birds and Vaux's Swift birds are both beneficial birds in that they eat mosquitoes, moths and beetles, human pests and agricultural pests. These are amazing birds that fly through the air in incredible ways, once you notice them you will never forget their acrobatic flight and their pleasantly eery repeated chirps. I have always felt a deep connection to animals and I've found that they speak to me spiritually, holistically. I am not an ardent animal rights activist, although I admire people that are, it takes a lot of fortitude to stand up for all animals. I find myself in a place where I might be able to help these birds, which have been in decline since a least the 1960's since businesses and people have been covering up their chimneys and cutting down old snag trees, both places these birds nest. I wish for all animals to be treated better, and this means gaining a higher consciousness in all our human activity from our urban and rural development, to our agricultural use to our pets. I am very grateful to be in a place where I might be able to help some beautiful animals but I am not trying to create any illusions about my goal, which is to build sculptural art habitat towers. In other words, I am an artist first, and an advocate for animals second. I claim to be an expert of the former not of the latter.

Swift Nesting Wing at the Stevens Point Sculpture Park

This is the swift habitat sculpture tower in the process of being made, wine bottles are inbedded in the sides.
This is the swift habitat sculpture tower in the process of being made, wine bottles are inbedded in the sides. | Source

Permanent versus temporary habitat

One of the challenges of gaining funding, as I can see it, is that it may be difficult to perceive how tough it is to build concrete habitat sculptures. They are labor intensive. As I put it to one friend, "If I meet my goal, I will have gained one year of hard labor!"

These aren't wooden habitats, these aren't paintings of birds, these are durable, permanent concrete structures that weigh around 4 tons with a foundation at least as heavy! For these animals, and for any other animals that may benefit as well such as bats, it will be a sanctuary they can depend on to come back to year after year, unlike temporary habitats made of wood which may only last a year or two.

One time when I was back in the park, I was relating the story of how incredibly tough it was to build my sculpture, that it was very hard, back breaking work. The man looked at it, and said,"Huh, you wouldn't know it to look at it!"

I understand the sentiment. I think people look at so many concrete things, highways' and buildings, that why should they think building them is difficult? They're everywhere! But building a unique form and mold that will hold up to the weight of concrete is a challenge, pouring the concrete just right is a challenge. Working with a boom to place 2000 lb concrete slabs into a a square foundation slot certainly presents a challenge worthy of a good hard hat. All of these challenges I take on with glee, but they are time consuming, exhausting and at least a little expensive. I paid the boom truck driver $200/hour to help me move the slabs. Myself and my volunteers weren't paid anything. Building the first tower was pretty trying on my family, being away and working on a high risk kind of project. This leads back to my kickstarter project Concrete Nests. Again, it is my goal to be able to build animal habitat sculptures at least for a year and hopefully indefinitely! I am aiming for a permanent career, not a temporary task.

Students working with artist Ben Zoltak

Students and members of the community came out to help artist Ben Zoltak work on his bird habitat sculpture
Students and members of the community came out to help artist Ben Zoltak work on his bird habitat sculpture | Source

What do you think about art funding?

Do you think artists should be able to use kickstarter to fund projects that further their art career?

  • Yes! Artists do not have many financial venues to promote their work, of course they should use kickstarter!
  • No! Artists should only sell their wares at galleries and seek out wealthy private patrons
  • No! Kickstarter should only be used for funding small projects and should be entirely altruistic
See results without voting

Custom built concrete molds

These are two custom built concrete molds artist Ben Zoltak created for his unique sculpture
These are two custom built concrete molds artist Ben Zoltak created for his unique sculpture | Source

My goal for Concrete Nests

Just to be clear, my goal for my kickstarter project Concrete Nests is to build permanent animal habitat sculptures. They are durable, tough, colorful, beautiful and not cheap! But to me at least, they are very worthwhile. I am not looking to get rich from my kickstarter project, I am looking to find a way to continue my work. The human side of that, the reality of the situation for this artist, is that while I love to make paintings, drawings and sculptures, I still have to work several other jobs to support my family. If Concrete Nests takes off, I will be able to afford to solely work on the habitat sculptures, and hopefully all my art, for the rest of my life. It's just a little bit selfish, to want to be able to do, exactly what you want to be able to do! I can't deny that! For me, making beautiful things is my passion, helping animals in the small way that I can is good too, and working with communities to enrich their environments with public art is great.

Swift Nesting Wing located at the Stevens Point Sculpture Park, Wisconsin, USA

8000lbs of public art animal habitat
8000lbs of public art animal habitat | Source

One of the rewards for Concrete Nests is original art or prints from artist Ben Zoltak

Here is an original oil painting available as a reward for pledging to kickstarter's Concrete Nests. Many more original paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints are also available.
Here is an original oil painting available as a reward for pledging to kickstarter's Concrete Nests. Many more original paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints are also available. | Source

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6 comments

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 15 months ago from Stillwater, OK

I would love to see this take off for you. It is a good project, as habitat is harder and harder to come by. Thanks for your sentiment and work on helping animals.


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 15 months ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

Thank you aviannovice, I would love to build one in Oklahoma, I've heard your state has wonderful wildlife and Native American culture, why not a swift habitat sculpture to boot!

Ben


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 15 months ago

I heard of Kickstarter a few years ago and it is good to hear how they are funding artists. Love your project idea and hope you continue to find success.


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 15 months ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

Very kind of you teaches12345, unfortunaetly I did not meet my goal amount. I am hopeful though, that I may be able to fund my next animal habitat sculpture some how, some way. I have a few leads, waiting to hear back from, and I will continue to be proactive in my artmaking. I've recently taken my show on the road in Wisconsin and I've been setting up and hand selling my art on the go. It's a refreshing take on what I've been working on for years.

Warmly,

Ben


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 14 months ago from England

Hi Ben, I always wanted to know how artists funded their work, especially their big projects, it seems really hard! good luck with it, its well worth while you are a great artist, so keep on going, nell


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 14 months ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA Author

Thank you Nell, very kind accolade. I am still trying with all I have to fund these bird habitat sculptures, but sadly yes, it is very trying! I would love to build one in England, perhaps in the moors?!

Cheers!

Ben

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