Art hasn’t always been (and presumably won’t always be) bought and sold the way it is today. St. Petersburg’s Morean Arts Center is putting another option on the table. Introducing the farm box of art.

by Danny Olda

Even being situated in the middle of the art world, its difficult not to think in terms of art archetypes like the starving artist, the rich collector, the spectacled blogger (that last one I made up). More than archetypes, these are bit parts in perhaps the twentieth century’s most persistent art trend: the gallery system, the way art is bought and sold. Art hasn’t always been (and presumably won’t always be) bought and sold the way it is today. St. Petersburg’s Morean Arts Center is putting another option on the table.

The Center’s new CSA program takes its cue from an unlikely source – veggies. CSA may be a familiar acronym, more often associated with Community Supported Agriculture. This type of CSA refers to farms which sell “shares” of itself to members of the surrounding community. Shareholders then can pick up their share’s worth of the crop once harvested. This system allows the community to purchase locally grown veggies. More importantly, however, it allows farms to be sustained by the local community rather than a national/ international agricultural market. The idea is the local community has more invested in local agriculture than a faceless market.

You’re probably beginning to grasp how this would translate into Community Supported Art. Morean Arts Center commissioned nine local artists to create fifty pieces of art. You, the art lover, pays about $300 for a “share”. You’ll then receive your crate of art (containing nine pieces) in a ceremony at the Center.

Rather than making an investment in a work of art (with hopes that its value will rise with time), the CSA encourages investing in the local arts community. At $300, this can be a realistic entry to art collecting for those of us that are typically relegated to just looking at art. That is, those of us that are neither starving nor rich.

The $300 price-point can have some predictable pitfalls, however. Attempting to sell affordable art often runs the risk of veering toward bargain-basement quality work. Morean Arts Center seems to have avoided this problem, at least with this round of artists. The CSA list of participating artists includes the film sculptor Nancy Cervenka and video artist Vince Kral – both producing high quality work.

Low price tags also brave the danger of passing off home decor as fine art, foregoing more experimental mediums for work that hangs well on a wall. Additionally, commissioning fifty works of art nearly necessitates they be prints or some sort of editions. However, the Center has made a concerted effort to avoid this as well. In fact, they specifically state on their website that one of the benefits of the CSA program is that “You’ll…explore a new media.” In addition to painting and photography, this first bunch of artists also specialize in mixed media, ceramics, sculpture, and video art.

Morean Arts Center seems to have successfully maneuvered around potential snares and found a new way to support the local art community. The CSA program is ambitious and I’m cautiously hopeful. That isn’t to say that the program marks the end of the gallery system but perhaps it can at least get a community to talk about what that would look like.

Want to know more? Visit Morean Arts Center’s website: Morean Arts Center

CSA Tampa Bay Morean Arts Center
Danny Olda is our Tampa Correspondent and publisher of
art at bay logo

Olda Reviews: Contain It! … Ok, Not So Much.

Review of the Dunedin Fine Art Center – Contain It!

by Danny Olda

There is an inverse relationship that builds the least exciting art exhibits: more initial potential against less use made of it. As I mentioned in the preview to the Dunedin Fine Art Center’s Contain It! show, it starts with a good idea. The mobile storage company PODS donated five units that were in turn used by local artists as sites for installations. The PODS are an ideal size – they’re big enough to walk through, but small enough to realistically build an installation. Also, the concept of using storage units provides numerous thematic jumping off points. The potential grew from here then seemed to be left alone.

contain it

To be clear, this show was not disappointing because of the artwork in the PODS. Actually, the work of Deon Blackwell in particular was conceptually strong and well crafted. His large ceramic pieces hung from stands and looked like they had just been pulled from the bottom of the ocean. This turned out to be nearly accurate. Each of the large pieces was painted with water-soluble paint and infused with salt. As the salt crystallized, liquefied, and repeated, this process warped the color of the work. This process was also slowly eating the work from within over several years. The surface swelled in some places and flaked off like scabs in others. Blackwell compared this to a cancer – as it grows, it also destroys. However, I had to ask myself: why is this work in a PODS unit?

contain it

Blackwell’s work was the strongest presented at Contain It! but it still looked like first-rate art sitting in a storage unit. To be fair, three of the other units did build installations. However, the installations came off as ways (I hate to say excuses) to exhibit work better suited for hanging on a wall or sitting on a pedestal. Rather than making use of the PODS’ strengths of size and concept, they seemed to nearly be ignored.

To that end, the DFAC could have displayed the Mona Lisa in Contain It! and it still would have been disappointing. That’s because not using the potential of the installation led to the PODS looking like shabby galleries. More importantly, though, not using the potential of installation led to an exciting exhibit never happening.

I should clarify that the poster for the event incorrectly listed Mitzi Gordon as one of the Contain It! artists.

Danny Olda is our Tampa Correspondent and publisher of
art at bay logo

Olda Reviews: Things Not Seen Before

Nearly 100 years after his birth and 20 years since his death John Cage’s relevancy to the current creative world is as strong as it’s ever been. To be sure, Tempus Projects’ Things Not Seen Before: A Tribute to John Cage isn’t so much an exhibit of work by Cage as it is a display of his continuing reach and influence.

The composer, writer, artist, and philosopher, John Cage has been among the foremost avant-garde artists of the second half of the 20th century. Curator, Jade Dellinger and artist run gallery, Tempus Projects bring Cage to Tampa as part of his centenary. The contrast is inevitable: the tiny garage art space and the avant-garde art giant. However, together they’ve compellingly fit the spirit of Cage into a little gallery in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa.

Theo Wujcik’s entrance/portrait of John Cage

To walk into the space I literally passed through John Cage: Tampa’s Theo Wujcik’s portrait of Cage which was cut into strips and hung as an appropriate entrance. Scattered on the walls (Dellinger honestly arranged the work by blindly throwing darts at the walls) is work created by, inspired by, and paying homage to John Cage. The content of the exhibit and its (dis)organization underscores the way Cage took the idea of play seriously and his fondness for chance. Even the records spun by the DJ in the corner reflected this with music across decades and genres, often substituting lyrics, with sexual moans and yelps.

Included in the exhibit’s additional programming was a disorienting and engaging “cine-performance” from filmmaker/artist Robbie Land. Seats were arranged to face Land and his cluttered table rather than the screen that his film was projected on (which was placed behind the audience). Beside Land was a close up projection of his equipment as he operated and manipulated it. Outside the gallery, the entire performance was projected on the side of a neighboring building. As soon as Land’s equipment whirred to life it faded to silence again. I thought the power had gone out. Rather, the spools of film that Land was manually turning seemed to power the entire set up. He started and stopped, sped up and slowed down the film shifting everyone’s focus from one screen to the next and keeping the subject of the artwork ambiguous. Land’s use (or misuse) of his projectors and mixers is reminiscent of the innovative way hip-hop artists hijacked turntables.

Among many others, art by Christian Marclay (guitar) and Andrew Deutsch (video)

Obviously, this exhibit ran the risk of being overly ambitious, of mismatching the work and the venue. Instead it brings a measure of intimacy not usually found with an artist or work with this level of acclaim. You have one last opportunity to view the exhibit. The closing reception for Tempus Projects’ Things Not Seen Before: A Tribute to John Cage and a performance of Wall Music by the USF School of Music will be held on Saturday 2/04 at 7pm.

This article is provided by Tampa Correspondent, Danny Olda, publisher of Art at Bay.
art at bay logo