Lexington Art League executive director Stephanie Harris isn't exactly walking the galleries of the Loudoun House in bib overalls with a pitchfork. But in her own way, she is bringing in the harvest this week with Community Supported Art.
In one gallery, she has hand-bound books by Melissa Oesch. Another boasts 30 new paintings by Lina Tharsing. Photographer Don Ament's new print of the Loudoun House is ready for reaping in another gallery that also boasts an original poem by author Ada Limon, set beautifully by Lexington printmakers October Press. And a soundtrack to all of this could be new music by Lexington artists Justin Craig and Duane Lundy.
For supporters of the project, these items by 11 artists will be gathered together in a crate to take home, as if it were a delivery of corn, potatoes, greens and other goodies from a farm.
And that is part of the point, Harris says, that buying a CSA share from local artists is like buying your food from a local farmer. For each harvest, the art league sells 30 shares at $400 apiece.
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"You buy one share and get nine pieces of original, local art," Harris says. "It's a steal."
And the idea has been growing around the country. The art league modeled its program after Springboard for the Arts, a St. Paul, Minn.-based organization that launched the idea and has inspired CSA projects around the country. According to Springboard's map at Springboardforthearts.org, Lexington is the only Kentucky city with a CSA project.
Harris says it's one part of an effort to reconnect the art league with local artists and support them.
"We were founded by local artists; they're the reason we're here," Harris says of the art league. "But sometimes it was hard for artists to find a place here. They could jury into an exhibition or the Woodland Art Fair, but there weren't that many opportunities.
"So we have been trying to reach out in a variety of ways."
Those include the CSA program, the annual Black Friday art sale during the holiday season, local artist involvement in exhibits such as the recent Luminosity show, and efforts to bring local artists into the annual Woodland Art Fair.
Harris says there also is an aim to orient Lexingtonians toward buying art. Friday night's Harvest Party is one of several events aimed at letting art collectors get to know artists and their work. In addition to the pieces that will go into the crates, many of the artists will be display other pieces of their work at the Loudoun House to give a broader look at their work and, hey, there will be people interested in art collecting in the building.
Since the first CSA was launched in summer 2013, the program has been tweaked, including reducing the number of shares from 50 to 30, because Lexington is a smaller market than many other CSA cities. And items from shares that didn't sell are available on the art league's website, Lexingtonartleague.org.
The 42 artists who have participated in the four CSAs read like a Who's Who of Lexington arts, and there is some national prestige there as well. Craig, for instance, is performing on Broadway as the guitarist and music director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, joining previous CSA artist Matt Duncan, who plays bass in the show. And Tharsing was named to a list of influential young Southern artists by The Oxford American.
To Harris, it has been a good growing season.