Now you can 'buy' a share of local art, too

Springboard for the Arts, a Minnesota arts development group, came up with the idea of selling prints and paintings the way onions and potatoes are being marketed to urbanites.

Cornelia Peterson/CSArt Colorado
Spring distribution event, 2014.

Shop local. Eat local. And increasingly, collect local. Springboard for the Arts, a St. Paul, Minn., arts development group, hit on the idea five years ago of selling prints and paintings the way onions and potatoes were being marketed to urbanites. 

Today, the Community Supported Art model has spread to more than 50 cities, including Denver; Fargo, N.D.; Lincoln, Neb.; Miami; and Philadelphia, says Springboard’s executive director, Laura Zabel. At a time of hand-wringing about shrinking audiences, the response to CSArt shows that demand exists if ways are found to connect the public to artists, she says.

Here’s how it works: Curators call for proposals and put together groups of a dozen or so artist-producers. For a few hundred dollars, shareholders get a piece or two from each local artist. Administrative and other costs are kept lean so that the bulk of the proceeds goes to artists, who often meet buyers at distribution parties.

Colorado’s project is among the largest with 100 shareholders divided among two groups of 10 artists each. It is in its second year, and is a joint venture of the Denver Botanic Gardens (which has long had a visual arts program alongside its horticultural collections) and the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.

Laura Truitt, an artist based in Fort Collins, Colo., is making 50 pieces inspired by Google Earth images and by ideas about borders, privacy, and access. She works on two or three a day, and she expects to paint at least 70 to get 50 “good ones” to be distributed Oct. 16 in Boulder.

Jaye Zola of Boulder, a retired social studies teacher, bought $400 shares for both years of the Colorado project. Ms. Zola and her husband have collected art in Santa Fe, N.M., and on international trips, but had not bought much locally until CSArt. “It’s pretty vibrant,” Zola says of the range of contemporary work in the group she belongs to.

Rachel Brand, a spokeswoman for the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, says, “Whether it’s your food or your art, it’s nice knowing where it’s coming from and knowing the producers.”

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