Has there ever been a better time to be a cobbler in Berlin with a dream to manufacture shoes with the message "Ich bin Atheist" emblazoned on their soles? Or a group of environmentally minded designers and technologists who'd like to establish a community-based air-quality sensing network? Or a sculptor who creates giant interactive signs aimed at encouraging people to contemplate the impact of capitalism on their lives?
Thanks to Kickstarter, the New York-based crowd-funding website, the visionaries behind these and approximately 20,000 other endeavors have been able to attract enough financial support to turn their dreams into reality. And as Greg Beato observes, last year Kickstarter funded more than three times as many projects as the National Endowment for the Arts did, in a wider range of disciplines.