The art is in the mail

October 10, 2013
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Be careful when you sign up for a CSA these days: Instead of getting broccoli rabe or Swiss chard dropped on your stoop through community-supported agriculture, you might end up with some community-supported art.

Examples from 15 of the best art-subscription programs in the country are now on view at Transformer’s “A modest occupation,” running through Oct. 26.

Annual fees for community-supported art programs can range from $30 to a few thousand dollars. “I’ve been long interested in different types of models that artists are using to support themselves,” says exhibit curator Abigail Satinsky, of Chicago arts organization Threewalls, whose CSA program starts at $400 a year for six pieces, mailed to your door.

Subscription-based programs create a consistent funding stream for artists, and help art lovers venture into the world of collecting at a less daunting price point, says Eleanor Hanson Wise of The Present Group, an arts think tank in Oakland, Calif., which has several pieces in the show. The Present Group’s pilot program, which ended in 2012, cost subscribers $150 a year for three or four pieces.

“It’s fairly under-the-radar,” Wise says of the model. “But it’s definitely growing in popularity.”


‘Universal Paramount,’ 2010, top: Eric Fleischauer (ericfleischauer.com) created the digital image print — a critique of media culture — in 2010 for Satinsky’s first community-supported art collection for Threewalls in Chicago. Fleischauer says his piece got a lot of exposure from that, ending up in the collection of the city’s Museum of Contemporary Photography. “You don’t always know what you’re going to get,” the Chicago-based artist says of the subscription model. “It’s like a goody bag.”

‘I want you to have this,’ 2011, above left: Everyone has stuff they don’t need but can’t bring themselves to throw away. That’s the idea behind Beacon, N.Y.-based artist Steve Lambert’s (visitsteve.com) edition for The Present Group of 80 birch boxes and four cardstock hang-tags silk-screened with the text “I want you to have this,” intended for odd, unwanted items. “It’s like your own mini thrift store,” Lambert says. He’s tried art subscription programs himself. “I have some stuff I really like and some I don’t know what to do with.”

Earth-Kiln-Bay-Kiln-Bay, 2007, above right: Presley Martin’s (presleymartin.com) piece for The Present Group, based in Oakland, Calif., was part sculpture, part performance piece. In the spring of 2007, Martin discovered a bunch of weathered bricks washed up on a Berkeley, Calif., beach. He collected, glazed and fired them in his studio, then arranged them on the beach again. He allowed the tide to move them along the shore naturally before collecting them again. “I was interested in inserting myself in the natural process that was happening,” Martin says.

Other CSAs on View

Alula Editions;
Community Supported Art Chicago;
Community Supported Art Minneapolis;
The Drop;
Regional Relationships;
The Thing Quarterly.

Transformer, 1404 P St. NW; through Oct. 26, free; 202-483-1102. (Dupont Circle)

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UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

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UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

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