Shares for Community Supported Art on Sale Thursday

The program includes work from nine local artists and three fall events
Courtesy of Arts & Science Council
Two shareholders from the spring season show off paintings by artist Mark Stephenson.

Thursday morning, John Horne will anxiously wait in front of his computer. He'll watch the clock. At 10 a.m., he'll click on the link and hope he's clicked soon enough to purchase a share in the Community Supported Art Program's fall season.

Horne is on the inside. He's program director for cultural and community investment for the Arts & Science Council, which puts on the program. But that position means nothing Thursday morning. He'll be one of many loyal fans the program has earned in its first year.

"Even though I'm sitting here online, I think I was the 10th or the 11th person to purchase in the last go-round," Horne says.

The program sells 50 shares for $500 each. Community Supported Art, CSA for short, is modeled after community supported agriculture programs where participants purchase shares that entitle them to boxes of produce at various intervals. Instead of tomatoes and squash, the Arts & Science Council's CSA offers assorted work by local artists at three scheduled pick-up events.

The nine featured artists represent various styles and media. The list includes painters, digital drawers, ceramic sculptors, printmakers, photographers, and mixed-media artists. (For the full list of names and links to artists' websites, click here.) A panel of people involved in the local arts scene selects the artists from a pool of applicants.

Much like an agricultural CSA, every piece doesn't appeal to every member. Brussels sprouts might not be your favorite, but you love tomatoes. Similarly abstract painting might not suit your tastes, but you adore ceramics. The range of artists is intended to guarantee something for everyone and expose the shareholders to styles they might not have paid attention to before.

During the past two CSA seasons, spring 2014 and fall 2013, about half of the shareholders were experienced collectors and arts patrons, while the other half were new to the arts scene.

"It's been very balanced," Horne says. "It's a great way to get the word out about local artists."

The three pick-up events, in September, October, and November, take place at different venues. The council tries to select places that are new, out of the way, or underexposed. The spring events brought patrons into LaCa Projects gallery, The Charlotte Museum of History, and Theatre Charlotte. The theater installment included a sneak peek at the dress rehearsal for Hair

"We want it to be a happening," Horne says. "It's great, too, because the artists meet one on one with the shareholders. We really love that aspect."

Each pick-up event includes food, entertainment, and distribution of the work from three of the featured artists. The council encourages the artists to bring additional pieces to show and sell, and to relax and enjoy interacting with the shareholders. Birdsong Brewing Company signed on as a sponsor again this season and will donate beer for all three occasions. The events go a long way in furthering the mission of the program to develop relationships within the local arts community.

The program encourages creativity in all aspects, from the art itself to the packaging. One past artist created the entire Catawba River Valley and then divided it into 50 pieces. Each shareholder received a segment with GPS coordinates of the portion and a description of its characteristics. Another artist created mixed-media prints of fish native to North Carolina. She then wrapped the prints in white paper like you get at the fish market, complete with the name of the fish, weight in pounds, UPC code, and recipe.

"It's almost like a feeling of Christmas or a birthday," Horne says. "It creates a lot of excitement."

And the excitement is spreading. During a meeting unrelated to the CSA Program earlier in the week, Horne talked to a past shareholder who insisted he be first in line this time. But as Horne will tell you, the program has no presales, VIP opportunities, or line jumps. The only way to make sure you get a share is to be on the CSA page at 10 a.m. Thursday with your finger ready to click.

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