Kickstarter campaign surpasses goal

The Enchanted Highway has become synonymous with the state of North Dakota.

A sketch drawing shows the proposed design of Greff’s next sculpture for the Enchanted Highway. (Courtesy Photo)
A sketch drawing shows the proposed design of Greff’s next sculpture for the Enchanted Highway. (Courtesy Photo)

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor |

The Enchanted Highway has become synonymous with the state of North Dakota.

But recently the famed metal sculptures have garnered attention past the state’s borders. Last year the television network FX aired promos for the show, “Fargo,” that featured the famous landmarks. The Enchanted Highway also caught the eye of The Huffington Post and a video documenting creator Gary Greff and his story was recently posted to their website.

It takes Greff about $60,000 to complete a sculpture, and for his next project he looked at an out-of-the-box idea and turned to a new age method of fundraising.

Greff’s last sculpture was the Fisherman’s Dream, a project that was completed in 2010.

The next feature of the Enchanted Highway will be a 70-foot by 70-foot spider web. The web will be strung together with three-quarter inch cable and be braced by brackets disguised as a wild flower garden. His inspiration came from string art.

“They used to do pictures with string, so basically I wanted something on that concept,” Greff said.

The project is unique in that most of it will need to be assembled directly onsite, because cable cannot be cut and re-welded.

He recently spoke at a conference in Fargo. He told his story and talked about building his sculptures and what that entails, including the struggle to find funding.

“I told them how I really struggle to get funding,” Greff said.

Someone stepped in with an idea.

Jackson Ridl, a special project intern with Emerging Prairie of Fargo was referred to Greff and together they set up a campaign with the crowdfunding service Kickstarter. Crowdfunding is a method of raising money through a large amount of people, usually over the internet, and the people donating—called Backers—receive something in return.

So why turn to Kickstarter?

“We felt that Gary’s story needed to be spread with a larger audience and we felt that Kickstarter would be a great way to get the word out, and also get some funds for him to move forward and create his next sculpture,” Ridl said.

The group came out and put together a video about Greff and the Enchanted Highway. It was posted to the campaign’s page for the world to see.

“They put it (the campaign) together and they ran with it,” Greff said.

The campaign opened on July 8 with an initial goal of $15,000. It closed on August 7 and the results were outstanding.

In the 30 days it was live, the campaign raised $20,793, overshooting their goal by $5,793. The campaign had 411 Backers, the most any North Dakota campaign has ever had through Kickstarter. And the $20,793 raised is the second highest raised by a North Dakota campaign.

Attributing to the success was, in part, Kickstarter. According to Ridl, Greff’s story must have really resonated with someone in the organization, because it was chosen as a staff pick and a product-of-the-day. It was also featured on their company blog, a site that is seen worldwide.

Ridl said they also reached out to local media outlets, and Greff’s story was heavily covered throughout the state.

Greff said he was happy with how the campaign turned out.

“Yeah I was, I was pretty pleased with it,” Greff said.

Before Kickstarter, Greff spent his time writing grants and asking for donations to fund his art. He also generates income for the highway projects through a gift shop he runs in Regent along with collecting donations in little boxes set up at every sculpture along the highway. Greff said the Kickstarter campaign was a much lighter workload than other forms of fundraising.

Kickstarter charges 5 percent of the proceeds raised, and Backers will get multiple pieces of Enchanted Highway memorabilia for their donations.

To further help Greff, Ridl said they will be looking into finding a grant or an organization that will match the funds raised through Kickstarter.

Now that Greff has a start on the financial portion of the project, he has to cross another hurdle—finding a piece of land.

The sculpture will need one acre of space, and right now he is having some trouble finding an owner that wants to put his art on their property.

When Greff has everything lined up—money and land—the sculpture could take two to three years to complete.

Though there is still details to be worked out with the spider web sculpture, Greff is already planning for the future. He said he wants to add two more sculptures to go with the proposed spider web, that way the art projects will be arranged for tourists to see a sculpture every three miles along the famous highway.

If anyone would be interested in having a sculpture on their land along the highway, contact Gary Greff at 701-563-6400.

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