Four Chambers Starts Kickstarter to Fund Projects

Written by Leah LeMoine Category: Literary Issue: August 2015

Four Chambers PressIt takes a lot of money and hard work to run a magazine – we know from experience. So when we heard Four Chambers Press, the Valley's premier literary journal, established a Kickstarter to fund their projects – so much more than just the magazine – for the rest of the year, we thought it was a stroke of genius.

Four Chambers' goal: To raise $5,000 to fund the printing of their third journal, Four Chambers 03, and their literary collaboration with Welcome Diner and Welcome Chicken + Donuts, Welcome Home. They've nearly reached their goal, but hope to exceed it and be able to dedicate more funds to their slew of community-building events and projects, from poetry readings and writing groups to literary salons and collaborations with venerable arts institutions like the Phoenix Art Museum.

We asked Four Chambers founder Jake Friedman a bit about the Kickstarter, the importance of community support, and creating the kind of city you want to live in.

Have you ever done a Kickstarter before?
We have not participated in a Kickstarter or other fundraising projects. Initial funding came by way of a personal investment from our founder which, combined with some revenue from sales (and some credit card debt), allowed us to stay in operations for two years (up to this point).

What are your thoughts on the support you've received so far? Are you surprised?
I wouldn't say we're surprised by the amount of support we've received so far – we've been working in Phoenix for two years now, we think we have a pretty good sense of how many people out there follow and support us, we set what we thought was a relatively approachable goal – but at the same time, there's still something inside of me that just does not believe people are giving money to us just because we need it, because they believe in us. Like if it's a book sale or something, I can rationalize it: It's an exchange of this for that. People are still getting something when they pledge to the Kickstarter, but it's more than that, there's something intangible about it too. It's a strange way to think about money. It is an incredibly humbling experience. I'm still processing it.

Why is Four Chambers an integral part of the Phoenix arts community?
I think Four Chambers is providing a valuable service to people insofar as we give them ways to access and disseminate contemporary literature in a city where doing so might be relatively difficult compared to other art forms; I think a lot of us live in the city in order to have a greater access to arts and culture, to have a chance to participate and I think Four Chambers provides this in a material and personal way... But I think the deeper reason people are giving us support, the more human reason, is that we believe in them. Art and culture is not some kind of inaccessible force operating beyond themselves, which they are incapable of ever affecting or achieving. We think it is totally valid and reasonable for people to have artistic goals, and a lot of what we do is simply providing people with the opportunities, structures, reinforcement and support to actually achieve them – to see that this is possible, to accomplish it for themselves. for them to have artistic goals in the first place, that we think they can actually achieve them. That all the time they are spending writing is a meaningful activity – intrinsically, in and of itself – and that even if it never goes anywhere, someone is there to talk with them about it, someone is there to at least take a look.
And even if people don't have literary or artistic goals themselves – if they come from other art forms or disciplines, if they just like to read, if they're just trying to find like-minded people, if they're just looking for community – that they still feel valued and worthwhile, that they feel like they are doing something or are part of something larger, too. So when people believe in and support us, I think, they believe in and support themselves.

Have you received support from any unexpected sources?
As far as unexpected sources go, while we're consistently overwhelmed by the amount of support we're receiving from people we know, we are even more astounded by the amount of support from people we don't. Like when we are receiving these e-mails, we are literally turning to each other and scratching our heads. It's one thing to see a donation come in from someone who we've developed a relationship with – who we've known for years, who we've directly affected, who we have given something to or proved ourselves to, in an organizational sense – but when we get the same amount of money from someone we don't know, from someone we've never met, someone who just believes in us? I can't believe it. That kind of kindness is crazy.

Community-sourced fundraising is an excellent, symbolic extension of your community-building efforts. Can you talk a bit about the parallels and how each builds upon the other?
I think one of the things we wanted Four Chambers to do as an organization, from the very start, was to serve as a platform for literary activities here in the Valley – to be accessible, open, inclusive, and to really allow people to take advantage of all the resources or information we've amassed and use it to achieve their own literary goals (whatever either of those might be). Up until now, the only way people have been able to support our organization is by purchasing a magazine or participating in events, both of which are extremely limited (as the magazine only represents a small fraction of what we do, as sometimes people have other things to do and can't be present).
Doing a fundraiser allows people to take a greater claim or stake in our organization, and accepting donations allows us to keep the price of our products low and continue providing services for free (as we believe they should be). We believe that community is a given. That once you self-select – by purchasing a magazine, by taking an interest, by showing up to one of these events – you're in it. We believe that individuals have a right to participate in arts and culture. In running this fundraiser, we're essentially trying to clarify what our relationship is to the community and quantify the qualitative value we fulfill in people's lives. What we're ultimately asking is, do we want something like this in our lives, in our city, in our community? And hopefully the answer is yes.

If you go:
Get Lit – a literary salon held on the first Thursday of every month at Valley Bar
Writing Group – held on the second or third Sunday of every month at Songbird Coffee + Tea House
Limited Engagement – a musical opening act before a poetry/prose reading and interview with the writer, held on the third Friday of every month at CMOD
September 19 – Welcome Home release (subject to change)
October – Four Chambers 03 release