Buy Local, Collect Local - Art In A Basket
What does a basket of art look like?
Dozens of metro Detroiters subscribers will find out when the distributions of Community Supported Art (CSA), a new model of buying art, take place over the next three months.
Traditional CSAs – where the "A" stands for agriculture - are familiar. In spring, people sign up to receive weekly baskets of farm products, from garlic to greens, throughout the growing season.
ArtServe Michigan will bring a fresh crop of art to art collectors using the same idea. A dozen artists will create nine original works. The first three will be delivered late this month, including jewelry made of shattered auto glass, a paper helmet (some assembly required), and a music box.
Fragments of auto glass as wearable art? Emily Linn and Alana Bartol met at Wayne State University. They launched the Detroit Diamonds Project in 2007 with other artists. The project uses broken car window glass, collected on the streets of Detroit, in gallery installations, as objects and now, in handcrafted vials, as jewelry.
Each necklace has a pendant filled with tiny, shimmery pieces of broken glass in a silver finding on a silver chain, Linn says. Although intended to be a necklace, it could also be used as a small ornament or hung in a window.
After the CSA pieces are completed, she and Bartol plan to keep making jewelry and larger ornaments. They'll be offered to other retailers and sold online and at City Bird
, the Midtown retail store owned by Linn and her brother, Andy.
"Taking this material that's so abundant in the streets and transforming it into something beautiful while cleaning up the streets - I'm thrilled to be included," Linn says.
Linn and Bartol plan to donate part of proceeds from website sales to local neighborhood watch organizations to try to minimize car break-ins, Linn says.
ArtServe's CSArt is an offshoot of a Minneapolis/St. Paul program being colonized with the help of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Knight Foundation is bringing the program to eight cities, including Detroit.
Other communities are going it alone, says Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts in Minneapolis, where CSArt originated.
"The Knight Foundation is helping us write the toolkits and supporting the CSArt program in all eight Knight target cities. There are also a lot of communities replicating it on their own. We think there are about 30 cities with their own CSArts programs," she says.
Springboard for the Arts launched the Minneapolis program three years ago. After some experimenting, it's found that nine artists and 50 shareholders is the sweet spot, a scope that is being echoed in Detroit.
"The first time we sold out in seven hours. Last year we sold out in five minutes. It's been incredibly popular here - that's what's made it interesting to other communities," Zabel says.
The take-up locally hasn't been quite as fast, says Cezanne Charles of ArtServe Michigan. As of early May, ArtServe was halfway through its sell-through for 50 shareholders.
ArtServe's director of creative industries, Charles heads the CSArt program
"I remember reading the applications even before I knew who the artists were," ArtServe's Charles recalls. "They had a quirky and colorful style, a really good crop of art. (The jury) picked things that we love. They are rich, beautiful detailed."
There were 99 local applicants in a long, detailed process. It included an artist's statement, resume, and proposal. The jury chose projects by asking if they are achievable for the $1,000 stipend in the time frame - what are the great ideas and are they implementable, Charles explains.
Metro Detroit artists are receptive to the CSArt idea, Laura Zabel says. She can tell by the large number who made proposals. In Minnesota, artists have been excited to build relationships with subscribers.
"Those people have gone on to commission or collect their work. We see the CSA program as an on-ramp for people who are new to the art community," Zabel says.
"They get a sense of the artists in their community, fall in love with some of their work."
The works featured should represent the community and echo the program's farming roots, Zabel says.
"Across all the programs, there is work that reflects farming and agriculture because of where the program came from. It ranges on how edgy it is. In Detroit, it looks like they've hit a perfect balance of work that has a broad appeal and also will show people some unique work," she says.
The paper helmet
included in the first basket of works is indeed unique. The creation of Jessica Frelinghuysen, the helmet will be furnished as a flat print to subscribers.
"It will be able to be constructed by the art recipient if they so desire," Frelinghuysen says.
"I'm excited to see what comes out of it - how many people that don't know my art work become familiar with it. I'll definitely make more paper helmets in the series and make them more accessible to people - and (hope they) actually wear them."
Frelinghuysen teaches art at the University of Michigan and at College For Creative Studies.
"I like teaching a lot - the classroom is kind of a test arena," she says. "The CSA itself is unique because it's bringing nine artists together to spread their work - it's hard to do (that) as individual artists. The format is unique."
Artist and musician Wesley Taylor and rapper Invincible have collaborated on the third offering in the initial CSA basket, an ornate music box that plays a song by Invincible when opened. Taylor was recently profiled in Metromode's
sister publication, Concentrate
Who are the Motown subscribers for community supported art?
Long time art supporters Rebecca and Alan Ross for two. The Rosses are such dedicated art consumers that they've built a free-standing gallery next to their suburban Detroit home to hold their ever-growing multi-media collection.
"We are contemporary collectors with internationally known artists as well as Detroit artists and student pieces (Cranbrook, CCS). We don't confine ourselves to one medium -- we have paintings, sculptures, ceramic, glass," Rebecca Ross said in an email.
They average around one new piece a month, Alan Ross says, a pace they plan to continue for the foreseeable future.
"It's a passion. We have a love affair with everything we own. We don't see ourselves ever stopping. We'll continue to buy, continue to look. It's made an impact on us and an impact on the artists," Alan Ross says.
The Rosses met Cezanne Charles at an arts event and signed up for a CSA share as soon as they heard the project details.
"It's exciting to see people who are new. They look at things differently," Alan Ross says.
"Detroit's a pretty good art scene right now. There's a tremendous amount of space available, not encumbered by the cost of real estate. It's a very adventurous city and we like it."
As for the CSA, it's the random access that excites him.
"When you go to an art show, you pick out what you want. You know what you're getting. You do the research. Here, you don't know what you're getting. It's like a birthday present. The artists involved are all great. The program is in its infancy and I think it's going to be great," Alan Ross says.
Subscriber Debra Polich comes to the CSA as an insider and arts management professional. She's president and CEO of ArtTrain USA
and on the board of ArtServe Michigan. Polich's husband, Russ Collins is executive director and CEO of Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater.
"Obviously I'm a supporter of the arts. It's also my first year of doing a traditional (agricultural) CSA. I decided I should do it for the arts as well. It's an experimental year for me both ways," she says.
"As a curious person, I want to see what actually develops from the arts CSA."
Polich and Collins have an art collection of mostly contemporary pieces but Polich says they don't consider themselves serious collectors.
"For the longest time, Russ and I have said if we were really smart, we'd invest in the arts world and we'll have it to enjoy in our home as well. (The CSA) gives us an opportunity to add to our collection, support the arts and look at a different kind of model for creatives," she says.
"The CSA is doing something at a relatively low threshold and something we've talked about doing. I want to be a relaxed consumer about it, see what's there and take it for whatever it might be -- totally a journey."
All Photos by David Lewinski Photography