CSA model’s artistic transformation

By Matt Watson

Emerging and established artists alike have been brought together by a growing scene across the U.S. that applies the idea of community supported agriculture to artwork. Sculptors, painters and photographers who have been featured everywhere from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to the Art Institute of Chicago now have a unique platform to sell to customers that previously wasn’t available.

Threewalls gallery, 119 N. Peoria St. in the West Loop, is hosting Chicago’s first community-supported art collective, a new concept where people can support local artists by purchasing shares in a subscription service. Each share cost $350, and subscribers receive six works of art delivered every two weeks between April and June. The opening ceremony was held on April 30 at the gallery, where patrons received their first pieces.

Abigail Satinsky, director of programming for threewalls, said she looked for a wide range of artists to represent the collective.

“We’re looking for a spectrum of emerging to established artists who have national exhibition profiles but don’t have an extensive local collector base,” Satinsky said. “We’re also looking at artists who consider themselves Chicago artists and represent the spirit of the community.”

That way, Satinsky said, everyone who buys into the group receives multiple mediums of art, such as sculptures, collages and photographs, among others.

Threewalls chose 12 artists in January to create 50 editions of one of their pieces. The gallery offered a total of 100 shares to the public, and subscribers receive six works of art for each share.

The artists were given creative freedom to choose what to produce, with some creating 50 identical pieces and others taking the concept in a different direction.

Sara Black, a sculptor featured this year, said for some forms, such as screen printing, it’s easy to copy the work. However, she said creating identical sculptures wouldn’t work, so she decided to put her own twist on it.

“My work reflects how materials exist in various environments and how they transform throughout time, and this basically points to the relationship of materials to various social environments,” Black said. “I wanted to think of the original not as artwork but an event.”

She took materials like concrete and steel from a building demolition site and created 50 pieces from it, calling it “Excerpts from a Demolition.”

Another featured artist, Eric Fleischauer, who works with film and photos, said this style of presenting art gives artists a chance to have their work added to a collection. It also introduces local collectors to emerging artists.

“Community is always an important role in anything like this, be it art, music or agriculture,” Fleischauer said. “I think other people are noticing [CSA] as a great model to spark this kind of thing.”

The CSA model helps Chicago become a viable place for artists to prosper, Satinsky said. Many artists have a difficult time getting into galleries and selling their work, she added.

According to Black, CSA gives people who normally couldn’t afford art a chance to enter the scene. Currently, she said the way the market works emphasizes buying art as a luxury, with many limited edition pieces costing more than $1,000. The CSA model changes that and broadens the customer base for professional artwork.

“It opens up the market for people who want to collect art and can’t afford to get into the high-end scene,” Black said.

While other cities have started their own CSA scenes, Black, who worked in the Pacific Northwest for years before coming to the city, said this type of support has a unique Chicago feel to it.

“It’s a very Chicago thing to do,” Black said. “The art community here has been really good at being mutually supportive. It’s great to have a more intimate relationship with the audience where they have it in their home instead of going to see it in an institution. ”

To buy a share, visit three-walls.org.