Last year, a Rochester arts group sought to raise the profile of local artists by borrowing a page from local farmers who home-deliver fresh produce.
The “buy local” campaign worked so well in uniting local artists and their work with the art-buying public that the group is launching a second round.
Community Supported Art is a subsciption-based program: People buy a share in the program, and those shares in turn employ local artists to do commissioned work. The program works as a two-way street: Artists get paid for their work, and the collectors receive new, locally produced works for their homes or to use as gifts.
“There are so many artists in Rochester and nobody knows about them. It’s a way to get the connection to happen,” said Cassandra Buck, the program’s organizer.
Last year, Rochester’s art-consuming public purchased 15 shares at $250 per share in the inaugural program featuring local artists, who did one piece of work for each buyer. This year’s season will include new artists, ceramists, sculptors and jewelers, Buck said.
C4 — Concerned Citizens for a Creative Community, the group that sponsors the program — has upped the ante by making 20 shares available at $325 per share to the art-buying public. So far, nine of the 20 shares have been sold.
Amara Vercnocke, a Rochester fiber artist, is one of 16 local artists to participate in this year’s CSA project. Her specialty is making 3D sculptures and figures from wool and needle felting.
Vercnocke’s fiber art started out as hobby eight years ago, but within the last several years, it has become a business, allowing her to quit her nursing assistant job. Verncocke said she is excited to expose her art to a wider audience.
“As a soft sculpture, it’s an art form by itself, but a lot of people go, ‘what in the world is that,’ Vercnocke said. “But it gives a great way to show people what I can do. One of my biggest things I do is customer 3D portraits of people’s pets.”
The art is presented to the buyers in “art crates” in quarterly installments. The crates can include pottery, hand-crafted jewelry, runs of screen-prints and photographs, small- to medium-sized original paintings and letterpress editions of poems or short stories.
In addition to the artwork, the crates can contain wine and recipes to enhance the art experience. The crates is delivered on four pick-up evenings that are meant to be “events in themselves,” Buck said.
Local artists don’t get rich from the program. Last year’s participating artists were paid about $150, or $15 for each piece of art, and this year’s sculptures and potters will get get $350, or about $17 for each piece. But the program’s value goes beyond dollars and cents, Buck said.
“We do want to pay the artists. We don’t want to say to the artist, ‘Can you do this for free?’ Because that happens all the time,” she said. “One of the main things that they’re gaining from this is connection with the people.”
Those connections begin to pay dividends when a person is looking to commission work and they know through the grapevine or through some prior experience an artist who can do the work.
“It’s kind of in all who you know when it comes to getting commissions,” Buck said.
The program was first started by Minneapolis-based Springboard for the Arts and spread to other cities across the country, including Denver and New York. The buy-local impetus behind it is the same as the one that animates Community Supported Agriculture programs, which encourage local consumers to buy food directly from local farms.
But here the goal is to support local emerging and mid-career artists. CSA subscribers in turn have the opportunity to develop relationships with local artists and the art community, discover new artists, and stimulate development of the arts community.
“The money (supports local artists), and it also gives the collector, the person buying it, a way to connect with local artists, to build relationships,” said Cassandra Buck, a member of Concerned Citizens for a Creative Community. “It’s an economical way to become an art collector.”
The selling of shares began on Sept. 20 and the hope is to have the full complement of shares sold by Dec. 1.