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Some of the artists featured in Community Supported Art.

Buy in to grow art, with Community Supported Art

By François Levesque on July 5, 2016



Would you be willing to pay hundreds of dollars in advance to receive a full season of exclusive art?

It’s a gamble, but Megan Monafu, founder of CSArt Ottawa, is betting that there are enough people in our city willing to buy in to support and grow our burgeoning local arts scene.

The inspiration for the project comes from the better-known CSA – Community Supported Agriculture – a business model that gets subscribers to pay in advance for a share of the harvest, allowing the risk of local food production to be distributed between producers and consumers.

Monafu wondered if the CSA model could be adapted for the art world, and it turns out that many examples of the system already exist in cities across the United States and a few cities in Canada. Inspired by what she discovered, Monafu adapted the CSArt experience to make the Ottawa version more diverse and ambitious than most.

How exactly does it work? The short answer is that subscribers pay a membership fee and in return receive art over the course of the year. Simple enough, but there’s more to it than that.

The long answer is that the collection is carefully put together. Monafu acts as the main curator and works with an advisory committee of artists from the worlds of music, theatre, painting, ceramic and painting to make the final selection.

A lot of community supported art projects are visual art only,” says Monafu. You get a box of art as you would get a box of vegetables. She wanted to offer something different, more of a multi-disciplinary experience.

For $400, subscribers will get five unique pieces of art from five local from September to May 2017. The inaugural “box” will include two tickets to a unique music show and curated museum party by The PepTides, two tickets to a theatre piece by THUNK! Theatre, a painting by Mark B. Stephenson, a piece by ceramic artist Susie Osler, a book of poetry from Chris Turnbull and a community meal.

CSArt Ottawa has a stronger focus on gatherings than similar projects from North America. Monafu hopes hosting more events will bring together Ottawa’s still siloed art scenes and create proximity between artists and patrons.

“A lot of CSAs will just have one meeting or one party a year and that’s the only point of contact. There’s something about being out and about that is exciting to me.”

Over the longer term, she hopes CSArt will be another funding model to help supplement artist livelihoods, keep artists in the city and connect patrons to artists.

To learn more about CSArt Ottawa or to become a subscriber, head over to their website. You can also follow them on Twitter and Instagram.