Peterborough, NH

Contact Name
Keri Wiederspahn
Project Dates
August 2011 to present
Event, Marketing, Workforce Development
Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy seasonal food directly from local farms. In recent years, the art community has borrowed from this agricultural concept to promote the products of artists to the general public. The idea for Community Supported Art (CSA) originated with the Springboard for the Arts, a local nonprofit in Minneapolis, Minnesota and has caught on in major cities like Chicago and Detroit. Sharon Arts recognized that the same buy-local spirit fit our own rural community. Collectors purchase a "share" for $350 and receive the artwork of ten local artists who have been selected by a jury to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces of original art unavailable anywhere else.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
1. Market the work of local artists to the general public
2. Offer high-quality, affordable art to the public
3. Connect artists with buyers
4. Develop new art collectors
5. Raise the visibility of the Sharon Art Center's brand and identity in the community.
Have they changed over time?
The goal to introduce artists to the public has remained essentially the same. The creative collaboration that Sharon Arts built with the New Hampshire Institute of Art allowed us to create a CSA season that showcased the works of faculty, undergraduate, and alumni artists allowing us to include the works of new and emerging artists as well as professional artists.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
Our partners and stakeholders include the general public, local artists, as well as the faculty, students and alumni of New Hampshire Institute of Art.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
Sharon Arts launched their first CSArt projects in the fall of 2011, modeled after the popular Community Supported Agriculture movement (CSA) where consumers buy seasonal food directly from local farms. In this case, shareholders buy a pre-selected body of works ranging from paintings, prints and photographs to ceramics. CSArt is an endeavor to support regional art, artists, and collectors. Each of the participating ten artists receive a stipend for creating 50 “shares” for the program. Shares for 10 works of art are $350, and can be paid for by the buyer in two installments of $175. Buyers receive their art in a farm box at during a pick-up event that features music, refreshments and the opportunity to meet the artists. It’s a win-win situation for both the shareholder and the artist. Along with the prestige of being selected, the artists gain enormous potential for marketing and visibility, while shareholders have an opportunity to broaden their artistic appreciation through learning about the artists directly.
Have they been refined over time?
Sharon Arts has remained committed to its mission of connecting artists with collectors to encourage the growth of the creative economy in our local community.
What were your major obstacles?
The CSA project puts an end to the notion that the general public cannot afford unique and beautiful art. Often times people would ask if the baskets were “loaned,” not realizing they would “own” these stunning pieces. We also found that New Englanders are skeptical about what they would get in their farm box. There is an element of mystery to the CSA project since the buyer does not know what they will receive until the pick-up date. However, the quality of the art in the farm box charmed buyers who might receive a limited edition of screen-prints, a series of small tea cups, a run of photographs, a pairing of glass objects, or small original paintings. Another major obstacle is that each artist creates the work for a small stipend that barely covers the cost for the materials; however, many of the artists have remarked that because they must create something small with limited funds they are working more creatively and experimentally.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
The artists
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1) Make sure you have enough lead time to build up the excitement surrounding the project. Nonprofits should expect to market the program for six months before selling shares. Build the excitement by choosing artists in a juried competition, promoting the artists during the creative “growing” season, and advertise the program extensively.
2) Remind buyers that the art they receive is really a token of their support of local artists and that despite the low cost of the CSA, they will be surprised with the results.
3) Nonprofits will get more marketing “bang” if the artists proposals are juried by local celebrities with good taste. At Sharon Arts we asked Virginia Prescott, the host of New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word of Mouth and Vinx, a jazz musician who performed with Sting and Herbie Hancock, a curator from the Portsmouth Museum of Fine Arts as well as many others to jury the artists’ proposals. The participation of well-known artists from other creative fields generated media interest.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
The Sharon Arts CSA project has created a lot of energy and buzz around the local artists in our community. The CSA project ties in to New Hampshire’s rural, agricultural heritage with many of our artists creating artwork inspired by food, animals, and our local farming landscapes. We contributed to creative community building through the connections we made between artists and the general public. As buyers purchased shares and were pleased with the results, they encouraged their friends and family to buy art this way. We found that there was competition amongs local craftspeople to become a juried Sharon Arts CSA artist. The reputations of the artists helped us show buyers that locally-made art is accessible and affordable for everyone.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
The Sharon Arts Center received a lot of attention as a by-product of involving so many artists—from all walks of life—as jurors and participants. The buyers of the “shares” benefited by receiving affordable art and being exposed to the works of local artists. Sharon Arts benefited by raising the visibility of its brand and identity both locally and nationally.
Were there unexpected impacts?
We were pleasantly surprised by the national media attention we received. Once our press release was picked up by the Associated Press, articles about the project ran from coast to coast.