If you missed your chance to buy a share in Station North’s Community Supported Art, or CSA, you have another opportunity. The popular program sold out within a week in its first go round, so Station North has increased the second incarnation in size and scope, but the price is still ridiculously low at $350 for six works of art.
If you are not familiar with the program, the Station North CSA is based on the same concept as Community Supported Agriculture: shareholders buy in so that local artists can produce art that the shareholders will select from. Like round one, Station North assembled a jury from the local art community to choose the artists for the program. Season two includes twenty-four artists, up from twelve in season one.
After you become a shareholder, Station North will host a series of events for you where artists give short presentations about their work. Shareholders will rank their preferred artists so that they receive art from the artists they like best and will receive work from six of the participating artists. The goal of this program, besides supporting local artists, is to create new models of local collecting and an awareness of community options for collecting. The events are an opportunity to network, mingle, hang out in Station North, and meet CSA artists.
Rebecca Chan, Program Director of Station North, and Allison Gulick, CSA Coordinator, sat down for an interview to explain what to expect and how to get involved.
Cara Ober: Can you give me a recap of last year’s Station North Art CSA? How did it go? How did it exceed or adjust expectations?
Allison Gulick: Last season’s CSA went really well! Without a local model to base our decisions on, as far as structure for both the artists and the shareholders, we had to look to the few other programs there are nationally and adjust for the unique context that is Station North, and Baltimore.
Not knowing how people would react to this new model of exploring and purchasing local art, we decided to start out small with 12 participating artists and 26 shareholders, each of whom received 6 pieces of art over the course of the season. To our pleasant surprise, the demand for shares was unexpectedly high– we sold out all the shares within a week! That definitely exceeded our expectations, but I think we also learned a great deal about what was and was not effective for both the shareholders and the artists.
Rebecca Chan: One neat thing about the CSA is that once you get past the number crunching, it’s a pretty simple program. That also means it’s relatively easy to track how the program is doing and tweak the model to improve it. Shareholder surveys revealed 100% of the group benefitted from the artists’ presentations, and that well over 90% of our shareholders would recommend the program to a friend, suggesting that the model is working in terms of introducing shareholders to artists and building a network of Baltimore art patrons. The survey also revealed that shareholders were overwhelmingly interested in future gallery and studio tours, which gave us ideas for ways to tweak the CSA and other spinoff events we could support.
CO: What changes have been made for this year? What should these changes bring?
AG: We’ve made a few changes this season, mostly to accommodate more shareholders, and to increase the number of artists that we are able to include. These changes will come in the form of a small increase in share price, and an ambitious expansion of the number of artists and shareholder spots available. We’ll be increasing the number of shareholders to 60, and doubling the participating artists to 24 to accommodate this increase.
Due to space and time limitations, and to keep the presentation events more intimate, we’ll be splitting the shareholders and artists into two cohorts– a Tuesday night group and a Wednesday night group. This change means a little more planning and organization on the back end of things, but with the potential to double our reach as far as shares and the opportunity to promote Baltimore artists.
RC: We’ll also be experimenting a little bit more with the actual presentation of the art at pickup events, and asking the participating artists to provide a bit more information with the pieces that the shareholders receive.
CO: How were artists selected?
AG: Last season artists were nominated by a jury of local gallery owners, curators, and DIY aficionados. This season we asked the artists from the first season to nominate their peers for the program. So far I would say that the diversity and range of artists has increased as result, and I’m really interested to see how these artists will do things in comparison to the cohort from the previous season.
CO: How does the selection process work? What happens if all the shareholders want the same artist? Would you then receive your second or third choice?
AG: We try our best to give shareholders at least one of their top two choices, but it’s not a guarantee. This is similar to an agricultural CSA – sometimes you get beets even if you would have preferred carrots.
CO: What’s the overall goal of this program and how does this relate to Station North’s mission?
AG: The goal for the CSA is two-fold. First we are trying to create a space where people can come together to learn about and become more comfortable with artists and buying local art. For example, the first season’s shareholders had a wide range of art purchasing experiences, and we had everything from buyers with extensive personal collections, to first time patrons looking for an introduction to the art scene. Regardless of experience, we hope to make buying art and supporting local artists a fun, affordable and educational experience for our shareholders.
The second goal is to create a platform for local artists to share their work. The CSA provides them with a captive audience of potential buyers and local art supporters, not to mention exposure to fellow artists. It’s really a great opportunity for everyone, artists and shareholders alike, to grow their professional and personal networks. The artist talks at the CSA events also provide participating artists an opportunity to reflect on their practice and think about how to distill this into a short (10 minutes or less) presentation.
RC: As far as the bigger picture, the CSA concept, as it is uniquely applied to art in this case, is directly in line with Station North’s mission of supporting Baltimore artists, and creating a sense of community around Station North as well as the Baltimore art scene as a whole. One thing we try to do as an organization is attempt to change people’s perceptions about what is possible in Station North. Often this is in the form of reimagining vacant or underutilized spaces, but in this case we’re working to change the perception that “no one buys art in Baltimore”—which is simply not true. What this program demonstrates that there are plenty of people interested in buying art and supporting local artists, and having a user- friendly mechanism, in this case the Station North CSA, is a simple yet sophisticated entry point for doing so.
Photos from the Station North CSA Season One:
Purchase your share on Brown Paper tickets by September 22 !
SEASON II PARTICIPATING ARTISTS (more artists to be announced!)
- Madeline Becker
- Matt Bovie
- Bonnie Crawford Kotula
- Jim Condron
- June Culp
- Alex Fine
- Quentin Gibeau
- Christina Haines
- Sara Havekotte
- Andrew Liang
- Melissa Moore
- Adam Nelson
- Molly Colleen O’Connell
- Melody Often
- Allison Pasarew
- Nick Peelor
- Ben Piwowar
- Margaret Rogers
- Amy Sherald
- Flannery Silva
- Kyle Tata
- R.L. Tillman
- Stephen Towns
- Tedra Wilson (aka TT the Artist)