Los Angeles businessman and philanthropist Eli Broad recently opened a $140 million museum housing approximately 2,000 works of contemporary art. The Broad does not charge admission.
Broad and his wife, Edith, have bought art for more than 70 years. No one in Southwest Ohio has risen to Broad’s level yet, but C-S-Arts Cincinnati, now in its third year, might some day cultivate a collector with that kind of impact.
C-S-Arts is a “community-supported arts” organization led by volunteers who are visual art enthusiasts. The initiative is modeled after community-supported agriculture programs, in which participants buy shares in a farm and later receive boxes of produce.
For 2015, eight artists received a $1,200 commission: Each will create 50 artworks — small paintings, screened-prints, ceramic sculptures, photos and mixed-media pieces. People can buy one of 50 shares for $350; in return, they will receive three “farm boxes” of artwork at monthly arts events. C-S-Arts organizers recently decided to accept investors for $125, too; they will receive one box each.
MEET THE ARTISTS: Read the third season profiles.
The first art party is Sunday at Neusole Glassworks and Marta Hewett Gallery. In October the gathering is at Know Theatre for a dress rehearsal of “Andy’s House of [blank]”; in November the group will meet at the Kennedy Heights Art Center.
Melissa Norris, a three-year shareholder who works at the University of Cincinnati, was first attracted because some friends were involved in organizing the program. But her entire family found it appealing. She and her husband have two sons, ages 9 and 4, who came with them.
“We really value exposing them to art, and especially art as part of the community,” Norris said. This year, older son Jack asked, “Are we going to get a share this time?”
The Norris family has built an art collection of more than two dozen works.
“We’ve dedicated an entire wall in our family room to this art,” she said. “We put up a really nice collage. When you go to the parties and get your box of art, most people dive right in. I like delayed gratification, so we wait until we get home and open it together. We fight over who gets to display the art and where.”
In addition to the wall display, Norris’ husband has claimed several pieces for his office at Miami University, where he teaches history; son Jack has two pieces in his bedroom.
Another three-year shareholder, Mike Boberg, said, “We are keeping it and displaying it in a hutch in our dining room. It really works with the aesthetics of our home.”
Boberg is a fan of contemporary art. He frequents such events as Summerfair or the Hyde Park Art Show. “We’d walk around and browse,” he said, “looking at things way out of our price range. Maybe we’d buy a little piece, probably by someone from out-of-town. I really believe in local art and supporting local artists, so this was a chance to put my money where my mouth is.”
Ashleigh Schieszer has a dual perspective. Her husband, Brett, a printmaker, was an artist during C-S-Arts’ first season. They enjoyed that experience so much that she bought a share for the second season. A library conservator who specializes in book and paper conservation, she said that, when she and Brett moved to Cincinnati two years ago, they wanted to meet people in the local art world.
“We held a party at our house where all the artists came and talked about what they were doing,” she said. “We had a lot of conversations about Cincinnati, so we learned more about the city, too.”
Was $350 a big investment? “Upfront it is a lot of money,” Schieszer said, “but, when you think about buying one print or one artwork, it’s not so much.” She and Brett also have given away a few pieces as presents. “We would have spent money on those anyway.”
Artist Pam Korte is looking forward to participating in this third season. She was encouraged to participate by an artist friend.
Korte, who recently retired from teaching art at Mount St. Joseph University, made 50 porcelain vessels during the summer. Glazed in soft pastels, they have sculpted openings inspired by exploding flower buds. Her works will be in shareholders’ boxes at Sunday’s party.
“It’s very validating to get a grant at this time in my life, getting out of academia and into more freelance work,” Korte said.
Another 2015 artist is Linnea Campbell, a recent graduate from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. Like Korte, she’s a ceramist whose inspiration comes from the natural world, but her focus is insects and the organization of their habits and communities.
“I love how the program gives artists a chance to connect with the community,” said Campbell, whose day job is at Funkē Fired Arts in Oakley. “And it’s a way to make collecting affordable to people who are interested.”
She views her involvement as a growth experience: “I look forward to meeting shareholders. This will be my first time to give an artist talk about my work. And I’m eager to know other artists and learn about their work.”
She has been telling friends about investing in C-S-Arts. “It’s really very affordable,” she said. You’re really getting a lot — eight or nine one-of-a-kind pieces, plus a chance to meet the artists.”
Perhaps it will launch the next Eli Broad into a lifetime of art collection.