A “Buy Local” Mentality: Community Supported Art at threewalls

Joel Kuennen

"PRODUCE (Potato)" Conrad Bakker

On April 30th, threewalls will distribute its first box of delicious art goodies. A spin-off from a successful Community Supported Art program lead by Springboard for the Arts in Minneapolis, MN that’s going on its fourth year, threewalls is hoping to bring a “buy local” mentality to the arts community of Chicago. I spoke with Abigail Satinsky, Director of Programming for threewalls, about the goals and the progress of this novel mode of art distribution and conduit of support for local artists and arts organizations.

What separates this program from others?

We modeled our program after Minneapolis, but there are two obvious differences. One is that we curated the artists and secondly, this is a fundraising program for threewalls as well and we are being specific about that. As far as the artists, we were interested in representing a spectrum of artists, from emerging to established so as to present what we think is exciting work happening in Chicago right now to both new art collectors and those that are new to contemporary art in general.

Who is buying so far? Collectors? Casual enthusiasts?

I don’t know everyone who’s bought the shares but from the people I do know, I would say they are buying in because they know that this is a great deal. But also, we’ve been lucky to have some press that has gotten this out to a wider public and so at the very least, it’s a community of people who are new to threewalls and what we do. This is the pilot season and I’m very interested in doing more education around the project to reach out to new people.

Work by Pamela Fraser

How many have been sold so far?

We’ve sold about 75 right now, with 100 total. Finding 75 people to spend 350 on art feels like a great success. As far as the fundraising thing, I think it’s important to be clear that in order to keep running, nonprofits need to be pretty inventive in today’s funding climate. And so far, this feels like a win-win model in which artists are supported in the creation of new work, people get to buy it at an affordable price (not affordable to all obviously, but it’s just the beginning), and they get to support threewalls directly. In the future we would like to have more affordable options and this is in the works.

The Minneapolis CSArt seemed to distribute more craft-oriented art yet from the posted line-up, threewalls looks to be distributing a good amount of, for lack of a better term, gallery work. Do you think it’ll work just as well?

I believe that with the right kind of explanatory materials and ongoing engagement with the shareholders, that this challenging work that we are offering can be just as appealing to those uninitiated to the discourse of contemporary art. At least I hope so, because I think people are honestly curious as to what these artists are up to, even if they are initially unfamiliar.

Need to Know: Between February 1st and April 30th, you can become a subscriber for $350. After, it’s $400. As a subscriber, you will receive six numbered and signed works of art over three months. First distribution is from 6-9 on April 30th at threewalls, 119 N Peoria #2C.

Artists producing for this year’s harvest include: Conrad Bakker, Sara Black, Edie Fake, Jesse Harrod, Jessica Labatte, Jason Lazarus, Laura Mackin, Eric Fleischauer, Pamela Fraser, Aay Preston-Myint, Steve Reinke, and Dan S. Wang.