Prints, sculptures, photographs, paintings — these are not the items you would typically find in a Community Supported Agriculture share, but a new program has mimicked the farming model, offering collectors locally-sourced bounties of art. Jill Allyn Peterson and Dianne Debicella founded the Brooklyn Community Supported Art + Design (CSA+D) and organized the first New York City art share season last fall. Brooklyn CSA+D is part of a nationwide project advancing a new way of collecting art that connects shareholders with artists and designers in their communities.
The art world is no longer a nebulous blip in the cultural sphere. In fact, the art market has rebounded since the financial crisis with global art sales reaching exorbitant new levels. Although there’s often a prohibitive price tag on artwork in galleries, Brooklyn CSA+D makes starting a collection more affordable. As interest in collecting grows, it’s only fitting that new models for acquiring art emerge. I corresponded with Brooklyn CSA+D co-founder Dianne Debicella to get the full scoop. We discussed the program’s benefits and she filled me in on the artists participating in the upcoming season.
How did you get involved with the Art CSA movement? Were you involved with similar organizations prior?
I work at a nonprofit arts service organization whose mission is to help artists and arts organizations with business tools. I had been following Springboard for the Arts as they launched the first CSA for art in St. Paul and they eventually created a replication kit for other communities to learn how to do it. For about a year, I’d been discussing the possibility of Fractured Atlas starting up a CSA for art in NYC. Fractured Atlas is a national organization and it was not a good fit for us to start a local program. So my friend (and vegetable CSA partner) and I decided to do it on our own. We purchased the kit from Springboard and started talking to other art CSAs across the country to see how they got started. We launched the first season of Brooklyn CSA+D last year.
What are some of the difficulties new collectors face in the art market?
New collectors are interested in art and collecting it, but are not sure where to begin. They’d like to own work for their home, but are either intimated by the gallery scene or not able to afford many pieces. They want someone else to curate the work for them or show them work that is new or interesting.
Is there an education component to the Brooklyn CSA+D program?
Yes, Brooklyn CSA+D engages the audience with educational information about the artists and their process. The artists speak directly to the shareholders at the event to share information about the materials they used to create the work, how they came up with the idea, and what they did to create it.
How would you describe the average shareholder?
The shareholders are interested in the community aspect of supporting emerging/up and coming local artists. In talking to some of the other CSAs across the country and based on our experience with the first season, it’s common for a shareholder to find an artist (or designer) through the CSA+D that they love and to buy work directly from the artist or designer after they’ve received their share from the CSA+D. Some of the shareholders are young professionals who have just begun to collect art. Others have been involved in collecting art for some time and recognize the artists being commissioned by Brooklyn CSA+D or are being introduced to them for the first time. They’re people who are comfortable with the price points and want to support artists.
What makes CSA+D different from galleries?
There are a few differences between Brooklyn CSA+D and galleries. First, there is no ongoing, physical space for Brooklyn CSA+D where the work is exhibited. Secondly, the shareholders do not get to choose the work they receive. They are buying a share knowing which artists were selected, but they do not know exactly what pieces they will receive or from which artists. There is a greater element of surprise (and also risk) compared to shopping at a gallery. The shareholders are taking a leap of faith since they haven’t seen the actual work. Also, by buying a share in Brooklyn CSA+D, the payment is going directly to the artists with minimal overhead costs for operating Brooklyn CSA+D. Plus these fees are not going to one artist, but are supporting a group of artists. The gallery system is typically a one to one purchase where the gallery takes a percentage of the purchase and the rest goes to an individual artist.
What are the benefits for artists participating in CSA+D?
The artists are commissioned to create a set number of pieces for a set price. Their work will be distributed to 50 shareholders, which can be great exposure for them. We also continuously promote them and the work they do. If a shareholder or potential collector contacts us and wants to buy work from one of the artists or designers outside of the work produced for the CSA+D, we connect them directly to the artist and do not take any commission for this service. For artists and designers that applied and were not selected, we passed along feedback directly from the jury so that they could work on improving their applications in the future (not only for Brooklyn CSA+D, but for any opportunity where an application is required.)
What is distinctive about the Brooklyn CSA+D group?
The artists and designers this year were selected through a 2-step process. First, a jury of art professionals selected the top 24 applicants. From there, the public voted on which 12 should receive the commission and create pieces for Brooklyn CSA+D. The jurors and the public selected a group of artists who proposed creating work that varies in materials, size, and scope. Some artists are creating unique pieces for each shareholder and others are creating editions of the same piece.
Who are your favorite artists that have been selected this season?
This is a tough question! I’m very excited about all of the artists and designers and since I haven’t seen the work in person yet, it’s hard to know which will be my favorite. If I could create my ideal share based off of the work samples, I’d choose Jenn Dierdorf, Florence Gidez, Jason Kachadourian, Jillian Rose, Rachel Burgess, and Jane Fine’s pieces.