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Art Tue Apr 05 2011
We know that Chicago is full of great art. We've got a bunch of internationally-renown educational institutions, attracting artists from all over the world. On top of that, we've got almost as many exhibition spaces as we've got artists and perhaps even more journalists who are just dying to write thoughtfully and comprehensively about the work being made. So why do artists keep on moving away to New York and LA? Money. Artmaking is not a viable sole source of income for most Chicagoans. Many artists have to work two, three, maybe four jobs at a time to get by. And that doesn't leave much time for sitting in the studio, staring at blank canvases, trying to come up with ideas.
The brainy people over at threewalls have come up with a brilliant idea, however, to start to solve this problem: Community Supported Art-- an art subscription service much like the increasingly popular community supported agriculture programs, in which shareholders invest in a local farm and receive a monthly payout of fruits and vegetables.
The program offers a reasonably priced way to support local artists and and receive limited edition contemporary artist projects in return. Each share costs $400 ($350 if you subscribe before April 30) and subscribers receive six signed and numbered artworks over three months, from April to June 2011. Each artwork is a limited edition of 50 (although each is unique) and shareholders receive a selection from participating artists. The works range from hand-made collages and drawings to small-scale sculptural objects to photographs. They all are the kind of things that could hang on your wall or be displayed on a shelf-- think of it as a collector starter kit. Shares are a curated mix of mediums, disciplines and conceptual projects; each one will be unique.
"While Chicago doesn't have the commercial art markets of New York or Los Angeles, we do have a vibrant groundswell of art activity that is connected through apartment galleries, independent art spaces, university venues and commercial galleries supporting local work", explains Abigail Satinsky, program director at threewalls. "CSA Chicago is part of connecting collectors to this local network. I see the program as one step to making Chicago a viable place for artists to build their careers and to show appreciation for those that have made this an exciting and creative place to live and work. I know there is an enthusiastic audience for local art but the means to actually buy it an an affordable level is not a clear and transparent process."
The project was curated by Satinsky and Shannon Stratton, the Executive Director at threewalls. "We had three major criteria in the selection process," Satinsky explains. "First, we chose a group of artists who make conceptually engaging work to guarantee a great product for our shareholders. Second, we wanted those artists to represent a spectrum from emerging to mid-career and who would be excited to be called a Chicago or regional artist. Third, we asked artists who would think of the prompt as an opportunity to stretch and experiment with making an editioned work."
This year's artists include Conrad Bakker, Sara Black, Edie Fake, Eric Fleischauer, Jesse Harrod, Jessica Labatte, Jason Lazarus, Laura Mackin, Aay Preston-Myint, Pamela Fraser, Steve Reinke and Dan S. Wang.
"We have two major goals with the CSA program," says Satinsky. "One is to support artists directly with commissioning fees and new audiences for their work, the other is to develop a new fundraising tool for threewalls so we can keep doing the work we do. I'm sure a lot of people know this but most small to mid-sized visual arts nonprofits have a pretty precarious financial existence. A lot of nonprofits fundraise by asking artists to donate work for auction, which threewalls does as well at our annual gala in May. And those artists participate for a number of reasons; they want to support the nonprofit or they know that collectors frequent auctions, but they usually do not get compensated directly in the process. This structure works rather well but these large auctions can stretch both artists and organizations thin. And so in looking for more ways to move our organization and our artist community towards sustainability, I'm excited to say that we are trying out a model that hopefully could operate in addition to those other fundraising strategies, where artists are compensated in the creation of new work and we get to educate a larger public as to how to get involved with their local art community."
Join threewalls for the CSA launch event on April 30, in conjunction with Art Chicago/NEXT Art Fair from 6 to 9pm. The event will feature the first box of the season, hand-crafted cocktails by the Hornswaggler Bar, food and performances by Tamalli Space Charros Collective, live music, the first editions of all 12 works for auction and a chance to meet participating artists.
If you like the CSA idea/art but would prefer to have more control over the pieces you receive, make sure to attend the launch event. All 12 editions will be for sale individually through a silent auction that night, or you can buy a "friends and family share" (all 12 works in the series) for the special rate of $650.
Click here for more information about the program, the launch event and the participating artists.