How do artists get the work they do to the people who want to see it

by Levi Weinhagen • Jun. 23

The vom |

Last night I attended Springboard for the Arts’ Summer 2011 Community Supported Art (CSA) Share pick-up event at the Black Dog café and the A to Z art gallery in the Northern Warehouse building in St. Paul’s Lowertown. As a working theater artist as well as a consumer of a great deal of local art watching, the CSA pick-up was quite compelling. I got to see art patrons excitedly go through their box of art surprises and then practically race to meet the artists, get their photos taken, just be close to these artists.

For the uninitiated, the Community Supported Art program was started in the Spring of 2010 in a partnership between mnartists.org and Springboard for the Arts. It’s based on the Community Supported Agriculture model used by local farms to sell seasonal food directly to consumers that’s been growing in popularity in the last decade or two. The CS Agriculture program has been an effective way to build and strengthen relationships between food growers/sellers and consumers. The CS Art program was started with the same idea of building and strengthening relationships between artists and arts patrons.

You can read more about the program on Springboard’s website: Read More

Or in this feature in Line Media: Read More

Or on the PBS Arts Beat program: Read More

From the looks on the faces of the people picking up their boxes of new art and the smiles and surprised looks on the faces of the artists at how popular they found themselves it appeared that the program was succeeding. Add to that the program sold out all of its shares five minutes after they went on sale.

There seemed to be a strong desire on the part of the CSA artists to make direct connections to their patrons. Not out of obligation or because it’s smart marketing, which it is, but because artists make art to communicate something and it’s rare that they get to see the dialogue as it happens through their art.

What the success and national interest of the Community Supported Arts program makes me wonder is if there’s a way to apply a version of this to the performing arts. How do we build and strengthen relationships between theatre artists and audiences in ways other than just putting on a show? Or is putting on a show enough?

Just like the CSA program has grown in popularity more recently there’s been an increasing amount of discussion about the idea of Theatre Artist Collectives.

Joanna Harmon, Executive Director of Minneapolis’ own Live Action Set, recently wrote a piece for TCG Circle’s What if…? Project asking if it could work for multiple theatre companies to combine financial resources, share administrative costs and staff, and even combine productions into shared seasons.

You can read the full article here: TCG Circle Full Article

The Collective Arts Think Tank lays out pragmatic steps and new approaches to making live theater, dance, and performance art while effectively using limited resources and working with other arts organizations. Read more here: Read More

Clayton Lord writes on the Arts Journal blog New Beans about optimal structuring for theater companies. Read New Beans post

And the Small Theatre Administrative Facility (STAF) in Toronto seems to be an example of an organization created to handle most of the administrative work of producing live shows that would allow a collective of theaters to form around it.

What does all this information amount to?

These all seem to be ideas, tools, models for reducing or removing barriers between artists and art consumers. As artists our main objective boils down to wanting to get our art to people who will appreciate, embrace, tolerate, revile, or in some way react to our work. We put so much of our energy into the making and doing of our art and often let the other bits become afterthoughts jammed in when we can make time or when we want to procrastinate on getting down to the work of art. But ultimately these other pieces are what best serve the distribution and consumption of our work.

So doesn’t this stuff deserve more of our attention and energy?

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