PORTLAND, Maine — Community supported agriculture is simple: You pay a few hundred dollars a season to help a local farmer till fields and grow fresh vegetables, and once a week you pick up a share of whatever is fresh. In essence, you own a piece of the farmer’s harvest.
In Portland, members of the creative economy are adapting that collaborative dynamic for CSArt Maine. Instead of a crate of greens and root vegetables, shareholders receive a watercolor, a colorful collage and a custom ring, for example.
“It’s a grabbag that pushes the boundaries of what is art now, just as you might get a rutabaga one week and figure out what to do with it,” said Alana Dao, a Texas native who moved to Portland to join the city’s vibrant art scene.
Dao and illustrator Guy Lyons launched the months-old startup to help emerging artists meet budding collectors and provide a platform to connect.
So far, 10 artists from Portland to Machias are participating in CSArt Maine. Shares are open until the end of November. Pickups will be held once per season in the Portland area. Art subscriptions are $175 for a half and $300 for a whole and include three to seven pieces of custom and curated work.
“To participate means a lot,” said Gibrian Foltz, a stencil and collage maker who runs The Dooryard Collective on Portland’s High Street. “The exposure is intangible.”
The concept is based on successful models across the country, such as Springboard in Minneapolis, The Drop in New Orleans and Three Walls in Chicago. At its core, an art share “makes sure that art in Portland is affordable for both the collector and maker,” said Dao, a watercolorist who saw how farmers thrived under the same model.
“There is such a sense of community with farm shares. We want to produce the same feelings, but with art,” Dao, 28, said.
At The Dooryard, where a dozen artists work in small studios, President Foltz says community supported art is an effective way to help new members of the city’s creative class, who are moving here all the time, become known.
“Though Portland has a great art scene, galleries take a large commission,” which he said makes it difficult for struggling artists to make a living.
Jeweler Stasia Salvucci, who recently moved to Portland from Greater Boston, is creating stack rings, keychains and necklaces for the share. Her company, The Stray Arrow Jewelry, has made a splash on the fashion circuit of late. Her bohemian rings, made of wampum shells and turquoise, recently were picked up by Free People and will be sold in their Fifth Avenue shop in Manhattan. Salvucci said.
“I dig it. It’s a great way to find one-of-a-kind art. You are getting a real deal,” she said.
“Collecting on the cheap,” Dao said.
While participation will not make anyone rich, “the shareholders are investing money that goes directly to artists. It’s a good way to push young artists to create,” Foltz said, adding that CSArt Maine is an avenue for emerging artists to network, apply for grants and learn to write better biographies.
Co-founder Lyons said CSArt Maine is a low entry for first-time art collectors too.
“The people that are going to be buying are people that really want to support the arts community,” the Lubec native said. “This is a great way to do it. You are buying a share and investing in all these artists.”
The pickup events will be held at various locations and will have the trappings of an art opening.
“You will get a hand-written invitation and have a chance to meet the artists,” Dao said.
And you can walk away with a local bounty.
To Lyons, who works to spread the word at the Portland farmers market on Saturdays, the city is ripe for this invention.
“We are hoping this will act as a catalyst to propel an artist’s image and introduce who they are to the Portland public — get them out there,” he said.
For more information, visit csartmaine.org.