Seeding the arts: CSArt Madison to yield bumper crop

Jay Rath, Contributing writer

Madison art may soon be acquired like vegetables, thanks to a novel new program.

It’s a farm-to-table-style approach to art collecting.

In a typical “community supported agriculture” arrangement, customers deal directly with farmers, buying shares of the farm’s output. Once a week or so during warm weather months, each CSA shareholder receives a box of seasonal produce.

Similarly, CSArt Madison is “southern Wisconsin’s first community-supported art program.” It’s a CSA — for art instead of artichokes.

Starting May 1, people can purchase a $300 share and receive one piece of locally produced art from each of the program’s 10 featured artists. Half shares also will be available.

Participating artists will receive a stipend of $1,000 and promotional support to produce 60 limited-edition works of art to be distributed CSA-style.

“It’s based on a national model of arts support and distribution,” lead co-curator Max Puchalsky says. “It was developed by Springboard for the Arts,” a nonprofit arts advocacy group based in St. Paul, Minnesota. “It has been successfully implemented in over 40 cities across the country.”

“We have a unique addition to the model, which is an exhibition component,” says lead co-creator Simone Doing. “Practicing artists who are contributing works to the CSArt program also get to exhibit larger-scale works from their regular studio work, at a culminating event where shareholders will pick up their work.”

Arts + Literature Laboratory

The CSA model is intended to benefit both artists and the community and is being created by the Arts + Literature Laboratory.

The multidisciplinary nonprofit, which opened in late 2015, offers “exhibitions, workshops, book launches, craft lectures and concerts,” says Puchalsky, besides “opening ourselves up to what tend to be more experimental (works) and really run the gamut of the performing arts.”

“Arts + Literature Laboratory is all about creating new economic opportunity for artists as well as new art experiences for patrons,” Puchalsky says. “Madison lacks a sort of collector class: people who are regularly going to exhibitions for the purpose of buying artworks from contemporary artists.”

From the artist’s side, he adds, “It’s very expensive to produce work and to mount your own exhibition, especially if that involves renting space.”

CSArt will turn the old economic model on its head.

Enthusiastic response

Arts experts are enthusiastic.

“I’m excited about this new economic model for artists,” says Karin Wolf, administrator for the Madison Arts Commission. “It will benefit not only creators but the community in general, by attracting attention to Madison’s rich creative community.”

“I applaud the Arts + Literature Laboratory for starting up this Madison-based CSA. It’s an exciting idea — one that celebrates and strengthens the arts and creativity in so many ways,” says Anne Katz, executive director of Arts Wisconsin, a statewide advocacy nonprofit. “We look forward to assisting and promoting this great work.”

Qualifying artists’ works may take many forms, so long as they are unique to CSArt Madison. They may be small-scale sculptures, drawings or paintings; a run of prints; photographs; vinyl records; or letterpress editions of a poem or short story.

On Jan. 7, the CSArt curatorial board held a public informational session at Madison’s Goodman Library to discuss submission techniques and learn about other CSA projects.

The deadline for artist proposals is Jan. 16 and the final list of participating artists will be announced Feb. 15.

CSArt Madison is supported in part by funds from Dane Arts, the county arts agency, as well as by Endres Manufacturing Company Foundation, Evjue Foundation, W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation and Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.

On the web

For more information about CSArt Madison, go online to artlitlab.org.