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.

CSA Tampa Bay

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