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Art imitates agriculture in CSA system


Andrew Galland is all in favor of buying locally. That’s one reason he purchased a share in a CSA: a community-supported agriculture program that, for a few hundred dollars, will deliver a box of fresh Massachusetts vegetables each week of the growing season to a drop-off near his house in Somerville.

CSArt, a new project of the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, is modeled on a wildly popular Minnesota art CSA, which has inspired groups in Chicago and Frederick, Md., to create their versions. And some glassmakers in Burlington, Vt., independently adopted the CSA form last year.

The success of the Minnesota program is due in part to the fact that it’s based on something people understand, said Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts, one of the groups that developed it.

“We pretty much took that model wholesale from community-supported agriculture,’’ she said.

Springboard has found that just as shareholders in produce CSAs are curious about who grows their basil, art share buyers like to have contact with the artists whose work they are getting. They want to understand the process, too.

“It gives them a different appreciation for the end product,’’ Zabel said.

It also alleviates the intimidation that the art gallery scene creates for some people, she said. And if the interaction leads shareholders to commission pieces from artists they’ve come to know, then there’s a tangible impact as well.

As of yesterday, when the Cambridge center hosted an event billed as an IPO party for the 50 shares being offered, nine shares had been purchased.

The event was also a reception for the nine artists chosen to create the works, all from Cambridge or Somerville: Grace Durnford, Kate Martens, Judith Motzkin, Anne Peramaki, Christopher Poteet, Richard Sabin, Bryan Smith, Ed Tekeian, and James Zall. By the end of the three monthly deliveries, each artist will have sent one work to each shareholder.

CSArt aims to nurture artists as small business owners and to tap into the burgeoning enthusiasm for the local and the handmade.

“It’s in the zeitgeist,’’ said Susan Hartnett, the center’s executive director.

The contents of the monthly CSArt boxes will be entirely up to the artists who make the work, just as the harvest in a traditional CSA is up to the farmers and the weather. Unlike art collectors who buy work that suits their tastes, shareholders will have no say in what style or form of art they receive.

Boston Globe


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