C o l l e c to r s, CSA s , and the Culture of Art W.G. Beecher
incoln, Nebraska, gained 50 new patrons of the arts this summer. So did Fargo, North Dakota. In Philadelphia, there were 100. More than just purchasing museum memberships, these people were participating in one of the fastest growing movements in art collecting: Community Supported Art. Often referred to by its abbreviation, community supported art is a movement that connects artists to a local buying audience. Modeled after the community supported agriculture—the original C.S.A.’s—these programs sell a limited number of “shares” to members of the community, who then receive “harvests” periodically during the mid-summer and early fall months that generally comprise the C.S.A. season. Rather than receiving farm fresh tomatoes and carrots, community supported art provides its members with small artworks made for the
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occasion by local artists in a limited edition. The participating artists are chosen by a jury and employ a wide variety of media and styles. For artists who do not work in editions, such as painters and ceramicists, the C.S.A. programs generally require that they create a series of very similar works that function as an edition. A party is often held on these pick-up days, giving the members a chance to meet the people whose artistic careers they are supporting. The first Community Supported Art program began in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2010 as a joint project by Springboard for the Arts and MNArtists.org, with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The program was an instant success, and this new form of C.S.A. began to spring up all over the country. Now in its fifth year, the St. Paul program’s 50 shareholders will each receive work from all nine of this season’s
artists. St. Paul’s C.S.A. program charges $350 for a share, and prices in other cities tend to vary between $300 and $400 for a season’s worth of art. Some charge more for the opportunity, such as Brooklyn’s CSA+D, which sells its 50 shares for $500 each. Photography is a natural fit for community supported art programs. Not only are works easily printed in editions, but photography is a medium that is comparatively easy to display and understand. Because most C.S.A.’s seek to ensure that shareholders receive a wide range of media however, photographers represent only a small minority of participating artists. An exception to this trend is the Crusade for Art’s C.S.A., which exclusively presents photographers and targets a collecting community rather than a geographic one. (Full disclosure: the Executive Director of Crusade for Art,
Published on Sep 8, 2014
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