Community-Supported Artists

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In some cities, artists are taking a cue from locavores to create community-supported art models, not unlike the increasingly popular CSAs that establish a relationship between farmer and consumer. Next American Cityreports on a number of volunteer-run arts organizations–Brooklyn’s FEAST, Chicago’s Sunday Soup, Portland’s Stock–that are working to boost local art from both sides. In the case of FEAST, “locals pay admission to a volunteer-cooked dinner in exchange for the chance to vote on a set of artist proposals,” according to Next American  City. “The winning artist takes home the proceeds and presents the resulting work at the next dinner.”

Like a community-supported farm, FEAST uses its recurring dinners to create a cycle of production and consumption, a reciprocal relationship between artists and their community. FEAST gives emerging artists access to cash and a captive audience, and in exchange for its investment, the audience is granted the power of the patron, a role traditionally reserved for the wealthy.

“There’s something kind of crazy about art fairs where maybe 1,000 or 2,000 very wealthy people get to essentially decide what’s being consumed as artwork,” Jeff Hnilicka [cofounder of FEAST] observes. FEAST creates a marketplace in which the bit players in the mainstream art world–emerging artists and the ordinary public–become the primary actors. In New York, you can pay $15 or $20 just to consume culture at a museum. At FEAST, you can pay $10 or $20 to help create it. “There’s an untapped market of families and people in this neighborhood that go and drop $20 or $100 at the bar or $40 on a babysitter and a movie,” says Hnilicka. “We’re tapping into a market that isn’t asked to fund an artwork.”

Happily, it seems these models are popping up from coast to coast: There’s a version of Sunday Soup now operating in Buffalo and a FEAST going strong in Minneapolis, with more in the works in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Source: Next American City

Image by Kramer O’Neill, courtesy of FEAST Brooklyn.

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