On June 3, Avenue for the Arts will begin selling shares in its first-ever season of Community Supported Art (CSArt), a curated collection of art made by nine local artists.
Based off the popular Community Supported Agriculture boxes from local farms and gardens, where will be two tiers for this unique project: $300 for art by all nine artists, or $100 for a third of a share, which gets you work by three artists.
Zachary Trebellas, director of Avenue for the Arts, acknowledges that it’s an experiment, but one that has proved successful in other cities. “There’ve been community-supported art programs since about 2005,” he said. “I first heard of them on a podcast in 2010, and it’s stayed at the back of my mind as a really good idea.”
Since moving here in 2015, he’s encouraged residents to support local artists. “That’s actually hard to do, though. I’m in the loop, so I hear about these little events, these one-night openings. But if you’re not plugged into the art scene, it’s hard to know what’s going on.” He saw the collection as a way to make it easier.
Having decided to try it, Avenue for the Arts put out an open call for submissions. Twenty-five artists submitted work. A jury of nine experts (an art history professor and a muralist among them) convened to whittle down the list. They focused not just on excellence but on variety; as Trebellas said, “We don’t want to give them nine prints of illustrative work.”
The chosen artists are indeed varied. Asma Speeks, who works in letterpress and silkscreen, creates work that has a cartoon’s vitality; in one prior work, a jumping can of spray paint swings a pencil as if it were a hockey stick.
Photographer Devin Hendricks’ work is precise, ominous, and shot through at times with neon. In one photograph, a woman in a white dress floats in what appears to be water; her mouth and nose are free, thankfully. In another, legs in red tights emerge from the darkness below a chair, like something from David Lynch.
Eliza Fernand’s ceramic pieces range from the comically grim visages of masked fighters to cups with breasts on them, breasts ranging from buoyant to those that have comfortably conceded the fight to gravity.
Other artists included in the collection work in watercolor, ceramics, sound and cyanotype. That last is a process used to copy drawings, resulting in white lines on blue paper — we know them as blueprints.
By summer’s end, Avenue for the Arts will host events at which buyers can pick up their art. Trebellas envisions three events, all featuring food, drinks, music and the artists themselves. “If we’re buying local art, we should meet each other.” His hope is that the community will be nearing complete vaccination by that point.
His hope is that this becomes an annual event. “As with most things Avenue, we try them and see how they go. The big challenge, the big goal, is really getting 50 collectors. That will be enough to fully fund the program and set us up for future events.”
Reaching 50 will require getting the word out. “Look, we live in a very segregated city: racially, economically, even within people’s age groups and interests. I’m always trying to overcome that.”
Another barrier will be people’s limited budgets. Asked why people should support local artists, as opposed to buying a print from, say, MOMA, he said this: “With local artists, you get art that speaks to where you live. Now, not every artist has that focus, but many of them really do react to what being in Grand Rapids, and Grand Rapids in this moment, means.
“We’re all in this city together. We’re all here! To see the art that comes out of that … that’s pretty special.”
Support local art and spruce up your collection at avenueforthearts.co/csart.