Draft Proposal

Modified CSA

for the Duluth Art Institute


by Lee Zimmerman



From a note sent to Kristin Duckart February 27, 2012


Hi Kristin,

Below is a note that I put together concerning the CSA especially how it is formulated by Springboard for the Arts.

There may be a way of formulating this kind of program so that it doesn't hold such a negative impact on the artists involved. I am thinking of something where instead of owning small pieces of art, the shareholders "lease" larger fine artworks that are shifted to them over time. I will pass on more info in another note.

Thank you,

Lee Zimmerman

CSA for Arts program as promoted by SpringBoard for the Arts is a sham and destructive to artists. It is supposed to be based on the community shares for agriculture, but when you look at the program the only thing they share in common is their initials. Here is a rough outline of the program: Springboard sells 50 shares at $300 each to individuals in the community. They choose nine artists. The artists each create 50 "artworks", which are then distributed to the people who have purchased shares. Each artist is paid a $1000 honorarium. Each shareholder receives 9 artworks.

This program was based on the Community Shares for Agriculture where an individual purchases a share in the crop that a farmer is growing. For their shares, people receive a portion of the food grown on the farm. This way there is a tremendous reduction in the cost of the produce by eliminating the middle man. Shareholders receive produce that is fresh off the farm and the shareholder takes on a small amount of the risk (ie if there is a bad crop, the shareholder receives less produce)

The CSA for art does exactly the opposite. It places a middle man, Spingboard, between the artist and the arts patron. When you examine the numbers, each artist is paid $20 per "artwork" that they create. For that, the artist must pay for all materials, packing material, and delivery to the Springboard office. Springboard receives $13 for each artwork that the artist creates. SPRINGBOARD FOR THE ARTS RECEIVES A 40% COMMISSION ON EACH ARTWORK CREATED.

How does this benefit the artist? The "artwork" created by the artist must be biased to the easily replicated or the artist is harnessing themselves to producing, en mass, work at way below minimum wage for their efforts. Given the cost of their materials, they may be losing money. The program gives no incentive for the patrons to value the art. Even in the positive newspaper articles about the program, there are quotes of people saying that they like some of the art and they re-gift the rest. There is no mention in the article that people who purchase art shares ever purchase other work by these CSA artists. . Because the patrons are not choosing pieces of art, there is little connection developed between the "artwork" and the patron. Each "artwork" is not economically valued anywhere near what it should be if it is a true representative piece by the chosen artist. The consumer gets a cheap "artwork", Springboard gets their money, and the artists starve.




Modified CSA Proposal from note sent to Kristen Duckart March 4, 2012



 Alternative for CSA (definitely needs a better name)

Sell shares to corporation, small businesses, and private people at $360 per share. Limit the number of shares to 30. This is a total of $10,800 of income. Each shareholder receives the opportunity to display 6 works over the year. A new work every two months.

Choose 9 artists, who will enter 3 works that will be on display for the year. This is 36 works total. Pay each of the artists an $1000 honorarium.  At any one two month period there would be 30/36 works displayed.

This leaves a net profit of 1,800 to cover overhead.

Hold two parties for the  shareholders: one to choose their works for the year and a second one halfway through the year so they can change or exchange the work they want to display for the next six months.

At the end of the year the artworks are returned to the artists.

This program has some critical advantages for the artists. They retain ownership. The receive an income stream for their artwork. They get their works out on display in place (this is often the best way to actually sell a piece). If you wanted their could be an auction of the top ten requested works at a final party.

This program works for the DAI. Helps you to be the glue between patrons of the arts and the artists. The two or three parties for the program will bring patrons of the arts into your galleries and spaces. It also makes the artwork in general more dynamic by having it change rapidly over a period of a year. Because the buy in is small ($360) for the year with little risk (not necessary to store artworks that don't work well in the space) this is a great opportunity for small businesses such as legal offices, real estate offices, ... to display the work of local artisans.