There’s been an explosion of interest in direct-to-consumer, farm-to-table, community supported agriculture in the last couple of decades. I’d lay odds a fair percentage of Knight Arts readers are farmers market regulars, or even subscribe to a CSA and pick up boxes of fresh produce directly from an area farmer through the growing season.
A couple of years ago, staff at Springboard for the Arts – a Knight Arts grantee – got to chatting with colleagues at mnartists.org, another arts organization in the area (full disclosure: one I work for), about the uptick in public attraction for the locavore movement. Betsy Altheimer, then a staffer at Springboard, writes: “We couldn’t help but wonder: Why couldn’t we tap some of this ‘buy local’ enthusiasm on behalf of local artists and cultural workers? Surely selecting the cultural products we consume every day is as deeply personal and distinct as the food we choose to prepare and eat with our families.”
And so, here in the Twin Cities, Springboard and mnartists.org partnered to found what has become a wildly successful Community Supported Art (CSA) program that operates in much the same way as the farm-based model that inspired it. After an open call for submissions, selected artists receive commissions to create 50 “shares” of original work for the program. Would-be collectors are invited to purchase those shares at a flat rate; in return, “members” receive several boxes filled with a variety of work by local artists, delivered at a series of meet-and-greet events.
The fruits of each season offer a mix of both familiar and unexpected creations: previous art-box shares have included screenprints and collectible vinyl records, tiny original paintings and functional ceramics, textiles, photography, letterpress, poems and stories.
The Community Supported Art program that began here has since spread around the country. Springboard continues to offer toolkits for individuals and arts organizations the world over who are interested in starting similar programs in their own communities.
The public response has exceeded all expectations: here in the Twin Cities, available shares for each of the three CSA seasons thus far sold out in a matter of hours. And no wonder: if you’re interested in a low-risk, affordable introduction to art collecting and a well curated, diverse sampling of locally-made work – what’s not to like?
As far as artists are concerned, the hope is that by bringing arts lovers and makers together in this way, the program might foster ongoing relationships between them that extend well beyond the “farm box” art subscription, over time developing a broader base of grassroots patronage for local artists’ work.
This week, mnartists.org and Springboard are launching their fourth season: member shares in the spring/summer 2012 Community Supported Art program will be available for purchase beginning promptly at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 3. Shareholders will receive one piece of original work, created especially for the CSA, by the following artists:
• Visual artist Alyssa Baguss
• Painter Tara Costello
• Visual artist Steven Lang
• Photographer Andy Mattern
• Photographer Stefanie Motta
• Collaborative team of photographer Louisa Podlich and writer Christian Dahlager
• Ceramicist Alex Reed
• Visual artist Krista Kelley Walsh
• Lunalux Letterpress Studio will partner with CSA and Northern Spark to produce work available in their studio the night of the nocturnal festival, Saturday, June 9.
Word to the wise: If you’re serious about landing one, don’t dawdle, the available shares will surely sell out quickly.
Community Supported Art member shares cost $300 for the season and can be purchased by going to www.springboardforthearts.org/csart. Sales of member shares go on sale at exactly 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 3 and will only be available by making a reservation on the website.
To find out more about the participating artists, visit http://www.mnartists.org/article.do?rid=312864.