Pittsburgh’s first two experiments with “community-supported art," launched in May, are off to a good start.
CSAs let subscribers buy a share in an art-subscription service, and in return receive a series of original artworks — or, in one case, admission to a series of new performances.
The concept is borrowed from community-supported agriculture, the trendy way to patronize local farmers. Folks in Minnesota pioneered art CSAs in 2010. The idea is to fund artists when they most need it — when they’re creating new work.
On June 7, CSA PGH held its first art pick-up, at The Andy Warhol Museum. Visual artworks by three local artists — a hand-lathed record album (David Bernabo), small photographs of local scenes (Ed Panar) and 50 pieces of a shirt belonging to Andy Warhol (Lenka Clayton) — were distributed to the 50 shareholders, who had ponied up $350 apiece.
And last night, The New Hazlett Theater welcomed shareholders and other guests to a preview event for its own CSA program.
The New Hazlett’s CSA is unique nationally in being dedicated to performance art. Four of the six CSA artists spoke, including Sarah Parker, of Continuum Dance Theater, and “audio/visual astronaut” Dan Wilcox (whose interactive work will ask, “Would you go to Mars if you had to leave tomorrow and you couldn’t come back?”
New Hazlett shares cost $100. Executive director René Conrad says that as of the conclusion of last night’s event, 89 of the target of 150 shares had been sold.
Hmmm — CSA PGH sold out its $350 shares in a month, while the New Hazlett is still trying to sell its $100 shares (albeit rather more of them, but still). Is performance a tougher sell than physical artworks? Certainly it’s non-collectible, which might deter some potential patrons — even though $100 is dirt-cheap for six original live performances.
Still, the first New Hazlett CSA performance isn’t until August, so there’s time for the other shares to sell. The theater does plan to offer non-subscription tickets to individual performances. But as Conrad says, “I really want to support the farm and not just the carrots.”
CSA PGH, meanwhile, has started a waiting list for next year’s offerings.