Farmers thought of it first. But Springboard for the Arts created the first CSA for art.
Since the St. Paul nonprofit introduced its community-supported art program in 2011, copycats have popped up across the country. Now, after a few years off, Springboard is doing it again, offering boxes full of art and arts activities, fresh from makers’ studios. Shares go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
It seemed like a good time, deep in the pandemic, both to offer artists work and to bring the arts into people’s homes, said Andy Sturdevant, Springboard’s artist resources director.
There will be no box pickup parties this time. Artists’ creations will be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
“There is something magical about mail,” Sturdevant said.
These days, making a safer version of an arts event most often means streaming it online, Sturdevant said. That can sometimes be effective, but “sometimes it creates a bad simulacrum.” So Springboard staffers tried to think of a version of its CSA program that works on its own terms. The answer was mail.
“The experience of getting mail is both an in-person but also a remote experience,” he said.
Shares, which cost $250 each, will contain pieces in three categories — comfort, care and craft. Sure, a few might come ready to hang on a wall. But some works are DIY. The nine artists picked for the project each receive a $1,000 stipend for time and materials.
Thin sheets of copper will come from Elizabeth Belz, a Grand Marais-based blacksmith who has fashioned a kit to craft your own copper insect. She will provide templates, brass fasteners and a how-to booklet, assuming you have some scissors and a hammer on hand. The at-home crafters can “emboss the copper at their will,” Belz said, creating patterns on the wings and eyeballs on the head.
“It’s something they can do at home that isn’t made of paper,” said Belz, who works with heat and steel. She hopes the project makes the metal arts a little more accessible.
When Springboard introduced the arts CSA program in 2011, with MNartists.org, there was little like it. The staff member who thought it up had worked at a cheese shop and watched as farm shares took off, connecting locavores with the people and places that grow their food.
Springboard’s adaptation of the community-supported agriculture model proved popular, its 50 shares selling out in less than eight hours.
Sturdevant, who had just started work at the nonprofit, answered the phones that day, taking down credit card numbers. People were charmed by the concept and eager to collect art for an affordable price.
“More than anything,” he said, “it was the novelty. ... It was something people wanted to be a part of.”
Soon, Springboard was fielding calls from across the country. So the organization published a tool kit, explaining how to set up a program.
They popped up in big cities and rural communities, in Pittsburgh and in Fargo, with prices ranging from $500 to $50.
When Springboard decided to restart its own program, it looked at its call for artworks, tweaking it for these times and this method. Each piece would have to weigh less than 2 pounds. Two-thirds of the artists would come from underrepresented groups, including people of color, artists with disabilities and/or folks from outside the metro area.
It also incorporated lessons learned. “We found that a lot of people were giving them as gifts,” Sturdevant said, so that was built into this winter’s model. (Subscribers will get the first of three boxes in January.) The “comfort” category contains items you might give to someone else.
Offerings are an important part of artist Calvin Stalvig’s work, so he knew his proposal would fit into that theme. He began toying with towels, with hand motifs, with ideas around gifts and caring. He settled on a prototype of a small quilt, a design of a hand on its end, that wraps around a towel and a bar of soap, almost like a hug.
Stalvig has been noticing hands during the pandemic, both as a symbol and a reality. The shortage of hand sanitizer. The constant calls to wash your hands. He traced his hands on cards and sent them to friends.
“Hands are tools of offering and love and care,” he said. “But they can also transmit pathogens.
“I wanted to explore the act of hand-washing ... a really simple act of caring for our bodies and, by extension, caring for other people.”
Stalvig moved back to Minneapolis recently from New York partly because of the state’s strong arts scene and the funding for it. So he was “stoked” Springboard picked him, he said.
“Having an opportunity to be home, to be paid to make a really cool project for other people, feels like an incredible gift.”