Philly unveils 'community supported art' project

Posted: July 13, 2012

Farmers know a lot about community-supported agriculture. So do many consumers.

You buy a "share" from the farmer and the next thing you know, boxes of tomatoes and kale and beets appear for pickup throughout the growing season.

The idea has become a popular way to support local farmers and to acquire fresh produce in season.

But community-supported art now may be coming into season as well.

At City Hall on Thursday, city officials and representatives of arts organizations announced implementation of two such programs, which Mayor Nutter called "another great moment" for the arts in Philadelphia.

Artist-run galleries Grizzly Grizzly and Tiger Strikes Asteroid will run one of the programs, the Philadelphia Folklore Project the other.

Each is set up straight from the farmers' playbook; it will offer 50 shares, and share purchasers will receive a work of art from the nine artists participating in the program.

Artworks will be available at periodic pickup events. At the end of the "growing" season, every shareholder will have nine new works of art.

Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts in St. Paul, Minn., is largely responsible for popularizing the idea. Her organization initiated a community-supported art program about three years ago, and it has sold out and grown every year since.

"It's an incredible deal for the shareholder to get that art," she said Thursday. Since instituting its own share operation, Springboard has heard from other artists and arts organizations around the country interested in setting up similar programs, she said.

Gary Steuer, the city's chief cultural officer, was one of those interested in the model. After discussions with the Knight Foundation (which put up about $5,000 to cover initial costs) and Zabel, he issued a request for proposals to Philadelphia arts organizations this year.

Grizzly Grizzly and Tiger Strikes Asteroid, located in the same North 11th Street building, worked together to select their nine artists. Artworks will be available to shareholders - a share is $450 - at three pickups, in October, December and January. They will range from sculptures and jewelry to prints, paintings, and drawings. Each will be unique, including prints and other multiples.

The Philadelphia Folklore Project program will be of work by "grassroots artists," said Selina Morales, program associate. Folklore shares are $350 apiece and there will be only one pickup, in December. There will also be an opportunity for shareholders to meet the artists in September.

Works in the Folklore Project program will range from traditional dolls to folded paper constructions, from needlework to painted eggs.

The Grizzly Grizzly/Tiger Strikes Asteroid shares will go on sale online Thursday at 10 a.m. at their community-supported art website, Folklore Project shares are already available at Both websites list participating artists and provide information and images of their work.

Zabel said about 30 U.S. cities have similar projects. Her organization has put together a "tool kit" showing what artists need to create their own share-based programs. (It's available at Springoard's website, www.springboardforthearts.


While the Knight Foundation has provided small grants in eight cities, including Philadelphia, Zabel said seed money isn't necessary. "It's fairly simple. It doesn't take a lot to get the project up and running."

Contact Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594,, or @SPSalisbury on Twitter.

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