Community-supported agriculture (CSA) has long been a fixture of many of the more enlightened communities in the United States. By selling “shares” of a season’s crop ahead of time, the practice generates a predictable income and demand for agricultural products, allowing many smaller-scale farmers to remain fiscally viable and strengthening their community relationships. Five years ago, an arts nonprofit in Saint Paul, Minnesota adapted the concept to create the first community-supported art program in America, a project that has since been replicated in 40 different cities and states nationwide, as detailed in a recent New York Times story about the phenomenon.
This fall, New York will be receiving its first community-supported art program, called CSA+D (the D stands for “design”), with 100 shares available from 12 different artists culled from 300 applicants to an open call earlier this summer. Dianne Debicella, a co-founder of the project, told Hyperallergic that the intent is for the CSA to be a “launchpad for emerging and up and coming artists.” The shares, which are offered at $500, include 6 artworks; half-shares are also available. Each participating artist or designer receives a fixed commission of $3000 to produce a series of 50 pieces, so there are many possible permutations for each share.
Each share will contain a mix of artworks and “design items,” which according to Debicella will include “functional items that you could use in your everyday home and some things that you display but have a high design element.” The participating artists and designers will eventually be purely New York-based, but the first two “seasons” of the CSA will feature some artists from outside of New York in the mix. The contributors to each season will continue to be selected by a rotating cast of jurors, who are paid an honorarium for their curatorial efforts.
Overall, the idea is laudable in its intentions — a not-for-profit system for generating commissions and building a paying public for emerging artists — but seems like an incongruous product for a city with so many nonprofit galleries, exhibition spaces, and other places for nascent artists to show their work and interact with the public. Debicella hopes that the “pickup events” where shareholders receive their artworks will function as swap-meets of sorts, whereby artworks are traded and a community of buyers is created. Such a practice could make sense, especially as a means for acclimatizing those who may not have a well-developed sense of aesthetic taste or would otherwise never think to walk (or click) into any of New York’s myriad outlets for affordable art.
Roughly half of the 100 shares have sold so far for the inaugural season this fall, and participating artists and designers are also being gradually revealed on the project’s website.