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Kickstarter connects artists with cash

Mary Bue plays an album release show Aug. 2 at Teatro Zuccone. Photo by Ryan LeMahieu1 / 2
"Musculus," by Justin Sinks, is one of the featured portraits from his "Bound" exhibition that opens at the Duluth Photography Institute on Aug. 3. (Photo by Sinks)2 / 2

Now that Mary Bue's album is completed, she can attack the to-do list that goes along with releasing "Apple in the Ocean." Things like: baking homemade pies, hand-signing thank-you postcards and writing personalized songs for strangers.

She's got some time before the house show she promised to play while wearing a puffy-sleeved vintage wedding dress.

These extras were offered as incentives when Bue waged a Kickstarter campaign, a crowd-sourcing fundraiser that asks fans to contribute money to help an artist create a project.

Bue is one of two local artists to successfully reach a goal and unveil the project for friends and financiers in the next two weeks. Her album-release show is 7 p.m. Aug. 2 at Teatro Zuccone. Photographer Justin Sinks, who also hit the money-mark, will show 25 new portraits from his "Bound" series at 5 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Duluth Photography Institute.

"I was kicking it around for a long time," Bue said of using Kickstarter. "It partially felt like begging to me. I felt like it would be really annoying. But they're actually getting stuff. They're just pre-ordering it."

Kickstarter is an online, all-or-nothing fundraising platform. Artists ask for a certain amount of money to complete a project and offer incentives to those who give. After a designated period of time, if the artist raises the money they get to keep it. If they don't meet the goal, they don't get the money and the backers don't pay.

Bue's album

It has been five years since the singer-songwriter-piano player released "Boat with No Oars," and in the meantime she has moved to Seattle and back. She played a few shows here and there, but mostly was focused on studying yoga.

"That took a lot of focus and kind of grounded me to be able to go on," Bue said.

"Apple in the Ocean" is a 45-minute, 11-song mix that includes songs she has been sitting on for five years. Bue describes it as less stream of consciousness, more cohesive narratives. There also are touches of humor in the album that was recorded at Sacred Heart Music Center.

"It's going to be more poppy than my other releases," Bue said. "My other releases have had a melancholy feel to them. This is more upbeat."

The musician known for a minimalist approach -- just a piano and vocals -- has added a full band on most of the songs, and Charlie Parr makes an appearance.

An early review by Amy Clark of KAXE-FM says of the album: "It drifts on a platform of piano; rises and swells like waves. ... Rife with metaphor and masterful melodies."

Bue launched her Kickstarter campaign in mid-April with the intent of raising $3,300 by June 1. In a short video on her website, Bue wanders around in a vintage wedding dress -- a play on the word "proposal" -- and talks about who she is and what she wanted to do with the album.

She also included a breakdown of how the money would be spent: $2,000 for recording and $1,500 for CD duplication, as well as money for paying musicians, the making and editing of a video and promotion. Bue took into consideration a grant she received in 2011 and said she would eat the remaining $300 not covered.

By the deadline she had exceeded her goal by about $1,400 -- a surprise to Bue, who at times wondered if she would succeed in reaching the goal. She had 104 backers, which included people she had never met.

"After this long break between albums, it was really validating," she said.

Bue recently received the completed albums and was in the first stages of making good on the incentives she offered. One fan is getting a personal concert at a conservatory in California and has requested that she write a song about the board game "Clue."

Sinks' photography

For the past few years, Justin Sinks has been interested in the way rope knots look against bare flesh. It started with a photograph he saw on Facebook of a friend who was tied into a body harness.

"It was just the look of it," he said. "I loved the lines of it. I liked how it looked and how it meshed with the person themselves and followed their curves and their lines. It was a melding of two things in one. It was surreal."

He began working with a knot expert, but eventually learned to do it on his own. In the past three years he has had men and women pose for him and he has made black and white portraits that reveal the mix of flesh and rope.

His first "Bound" exhibition was more than a year ago and featured 15 photographs. A lot of people, he said, offered tips and donations during the show. This time around, Sinks turned to Kickstarter to make a bigger show with larger prints.

"I don't sell this work," Sinks said. "It's not something I'm trying to market to the public. It's a personal project I wanted to share."

He went in to the fundraiser July 2 with a goal of $750 and by July 21 had hit $900. One backer pledged at least $150 and will get a "Bound"-style photo shoot with Sinks.

Sinks planned to go through with the exhibition -- an abbreviated version -- if he didn't reach his goal.

"To do it justice, it would have to succeed with Kickstarter," he said.

Sinks said 21 percent of his 35 backers are strangers who stumbled on his project while browsing Kickstarter.

"To me, that means that as small as I am and as small as my reach is, it's worth giving money to," he said.

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