A Bushel of Inspiration
What does a bushel of locally-cultivated art look like? How locavore can you go?
Dozens of local subscribers to a new model of buying art will find out when the distributions of Community Supported Art (CSA) take place over the next three months. It is summer after all.
Traditional CSAs - where the "A" stands for agriculture - are familiar. In spring, people sign up to receive weekly baskets of local or organic farm products from garlic to greens throughout the growing season.
ArtServe Michigan will bring a fresh art crop to art collectors using the very same idea. A dozen artists will create nine original artworks. The first three works will be delivered late this month, including jewelry made of shattered auto glass, a paper helmet (some assembly required) and a custom-made music box (music and box harvested locally).
As of early May, ArtServe was halfway through its sell-through for 50 shareholders. ArtServe's director of creative industries, Cezanne Charles, heads the CSArt program
"I remember reading the applications even before I knew who the artists were," Charles recalls. "They had a quirky and colorful style, a really good crop of art."
Participating artists receive a $1,000 stipend to create a 50-piece edition of their proposed work. They have three months to complete their works.
The program is a good introduction for novice art collectors. The works represent the community and echo the program's agricultural roots.
Ann Arbor 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."
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.
"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.
Constance Crump is Concentrate's Senior Writer. She's also an Ann Arbor-based writer whose work has appeared in Crain's Detroit Business, The Ann Arbor News, The Detroit Free Press, and Billboard Magazine.
Debra Polich of ArtTrain USA at The Yellow Barn
Russ Collins at the Michigan Theater
Cezanne Charles of the CSArt Program
Alan and Rebecca Ross
Invincible, Wes Taylor and Waajeed work on their CSArt project