Bloomington’s new nonprofit organization, Community Supported Art Bloomington (CSAB), applies the concept of Community Supported Agriculture, or CSAs, to the work of local artists. In a typical food CSA, people buy subscriptions to receive produce from local growers every week. With CSAB, a $300 share lands a subscriber three pieces of fresh, locally made, original artwork from three different artists. Only 30 shares are available each go-round, and they plan to run the program twice a year.
Subscribers can check out the first set of artists — printer Jeremy Sweet, ceramicist Stephanie Galli, and painter Erik Probst — to see the three styles of artwork they’ll receive, but the subscribers’ specific pieces will remain a surprise until the pickup date. There is no theme or guidelines, so artists are free to produce whatever they feel like creating, and each of the pieces will be unique, though similar. A painter, for example, will paint 30 original paintings, one for each of the shares.
The launch date and inaugural pickup will be on the evening of November 6 during the First Friday event in downtown Bloomington. Shareholders will meet the artists during a VIP cocktail hour at 118 N. Walnut, which will then be followed by a public “pop-up” art show starting at 7 p.m. with additional local artists hanging their work as well. The next event has not yet been set.
CSAB is ultimately a collaboration of many, but it began with a two-man brainstorm in January 2015. After serving on several art boards around town, IU law professor Mark Need met with friend and cohort Shaun McDermott to think up new ways to bolster the local art scene. Of the several concepts they considered, they knew the CSA-style program had proven successful in towns like Portland, Oregon, and Madison, Wisconsin, and just seemed the most feasible and fun. In terms of making money, the visual arts function much differently than, say, music or theater does, as visual artists are often expected to host art shows with free food, drink, and admission in hopes of attracting a few big spenders. McDermott and Need knew there must be a way to tweak this model, and they approached it like a game — Need says he likes to “gamify” his projects to keep them engaging and dynamic.
They played around with the numbers and figured that if they could get 30 shareholders to commit to buying art before it’s even made, the artists would agree to sell it for a lower price because that income of 30 pieces would be guaranteed. So they called a few friends to spread the word to possible investors and art collectors, and they received a great response. Many Bloomingtonians are interested in buying local work and supporting local artists, but often they feel intimidated or just don’t know where to start. CSAB tries to make that connection between collector and artist, and it helps the artist by organizing and promoting the shows as part of the partnership.
While there is no theme and no exact science or curation to the artist selection, Need says the additional artists showing at the accompanying pop-up shows are certainly candidates to be future CSA artists. Three original artworks for $300 is a good deal for all involved, and if by chance shareholders don’t love what they get, they are still supporting local artists. And, hey, there’s always the re-gift!
CSAB plans to grow into an umbrella organization for many arts-related happenings in Bloomington with a focus on helping local artists. For more information, head to their Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.