Community Supported Art

NEFA Award Recipient

Cambridge and Somerville, MA

Contact Name
Terry Byrne
Project Dates
September and October, 2013
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2013
Event, Business Planning, Workforce Development
Community Supported Art (CSArt) uses the model of Community Supported Agriculture to link producers -- in this case, artists who develop a limited edition of an original work of art -- to consumers.

Nine Greater Boston artists are selected and only 50 shares are sold. The artists have 4 months to create the art and receive a modest stipend, as well as business and marketing training from Bridges to Business, credit for classes at CCAE, a gallery exhibit of their work, lots of promotional support and the names of 50 shareholders to add to their mailing lists. They also receive important peer-to-peer mentoring among their cohort.

CSArt, with the support of the MCC’s Adams Arts Grant, has been a tremendous success over the past two years, and we plan to run it again in 2013.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
In an effort to endorse art as a local commodity and integrate it into the next generation of local business development, a partnership of Somerville and Cambridge Arts Councils, Local First organizations, and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (CCAE) formed in 2011 to launch Community Supported Art (CSArt). This initiative mirrors Community Supported Agriculture programs; makes art more accessible by “delivering” it to widely attended public events; and connects artists to their communities by positioning them in the mix of small business owners, from shoe stores to ice cream shops. The initial program included nine artists and 50 shareholders, and was so successful, with the help of a second round of funding from the MCC’s Adams Arts Grant program, CSArt was repeated this past fall. Both rounds had people on the waiting list to buy shares. The partners believe that by bringing together the innovative efforts of the Somerville and Cambridge Arts Councils to encourage economic viability for artists in their communities, CCAE’s ability to offer targeted business training, and the Local First organizations’ success creating networking opportunities, CSArt helps emerging artists develop as entrepreneurs, integrate art into the local business community, and raise the general public’s awareness of the work of artists in the neighborhood.
Have they changed over time?
Artists' response to the business and marketing training was so strong, we have tried to expand that component, and offer opportunities for the artists to use the practical skills they've learned, either by giving a presentation to CCAE or local business associations, or teaching a class here or elsewhere.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
Cambridge Center for Adult Education, Cambridge Arts Council, Somerville Arts Council, Cambridge Local First, Somerville Local First.
Greater Boston area artists interested in connecting with the local community by offering a small, lower-cost product line to introduce their work to a wider audience.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
Cambridge and Somerville Arts Councils juried proposals from artists (9 artists were chosen out of a field of 75)
Cambridge Center for Adult Ed staff administered the program, including tracking artists' progress, promoting the program to media outlets; organizing and supervising "harvest parties"
Cambridge and Somerville Local Firsts identified venues for the "harvest parties"
Have they been refined over time?
Thanks to a second year of funding from the MCC, CCAE was able to streamline adminstrative costs and focus more attention on supporting the artists during the process.
What were your major obstacles?
Getting the word out to potential shareholders
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Strong media response to promotional efforts
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Be creative and persistent with media outreach
Be clear with artists about expectations
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
CSArt has helped create relationships between Cambridge Arts Council and Eastern Bank, which is considering a plan to display Cambridge artists in the Cambridge branches of Eastern Bank; it has raised the profile for artists in the Cambridge and Somerville business community and it has helped artists make connections with businesses.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
In our most recent survey of the 2011 artists, we learned that all of them have received an increase in their sale of art, much of with they attribute to the visibility their participation in CSArt gave them.
The 2012 cohort of CSArtists saw an immediate uptick in website traffic and sales after WCVB-TV's "Chronicle" featured CSArt.
Were there unexpected impacts?
Several artists reported that their participation in the program gave them the confidence to start a new of art; paint on a larger scale; submit to galleries; reach out to their mailing lists.
CCX Workshop Handout

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