Spark! provides innovative ‘art shares’
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A faux floral bouquet fashioned by S. Lou Leelyn of Wendell, one of the artists participating in the Spark! Art Share.
Among Spark!'s selections: vases, bowls and accessories from Mtn Winds Woodworks in Vermont
Yes, it’s Dec. 24, but there’s still time to come up with a one-of-a-kind gift, thanks to Spark! Art Share, a arts-themed variation on farm shares.
By buying into Spark!, shareholders get to pick and choose among a selection of locally made artwork — pottery, jewelry, weavings, glassware and more — four times a year. The starting price for a share is $250.
The art share is a twist on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm shares. Spark! has 16 participating artists.
“We are just starting our second season, and so far it’s been great,” said program coordinator Katie Richardson of Hadley.
“At this point it’s still a small project, but I think that everyone sees the potential for what a cool model it can be,” she said.
According to Richardson, Spark! got its start when a group of local artists were brainstorming ways to create lasting relationships with customers. They came up with the idea of using a farm share system.
Richardson said she has firsthand knowledge of CSAs. Her husband, Jarrett Man, is one of three owners of Kitchen Garden farm in Sunderland.
“I can see how beneficial that model is to farmers and their customers,” she said.
Still, Richardson said, there are differences between farm shares and art shares.
One challenge is providing customers with enough variety. Unlike farm shares, where an overabundance of kale or squash can be addressed by suggesting a range of recipes, customers buying artwork are likely to have more particular tastes.
“A lot of people want to support the idea, but some are afraid that they might not like what is offered,” Richardson said. “We understand that people are more picky about buying art. So this year, we are moving to provide a much wider selection of items to give people a lot more choice.”
Spark!’s 2013 offerings will include ceramics, metal, glass, fiber, jewelry, paper craft and bath products.
To draw more shareholders, Spark! has lowered its starting share price. In 2012 it was $400; in the coming year it will be $250.
Shares work on a credit system. A mini-share, for $250, gives the buyer two credits per pickup. A $500 share provides four credits; $1,000, eight credits; and $2,000, 16 credits. Each credit is worth approximately $30. According to the Spark! Art Share website, www.sparkartshare.com, two credits will be sufficient for a woven scarf, a small painting, a wooden bowl or a pair of silver earrings.
Shareholders will pick up their items at quarterly Spark! Art Parties at Food for Thought Books in Amherst, where four artists will be on hand to offer their selections. The parties, which coincide with the monthly Thursday-evening Amherst Art Walks, are scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. on May 2, Aug. 1, Nov. 7 and, in 2014, Feb. 6.
If shareholders miss the pickup or don’t live nearby, Spark can ship their share anywhere in the U.S.
“Last year we did a pickup every month and that seemed like it might be too much for people,” Richardson said. “This way, it is more like going to a fun party and coming away with some great artwork.
“This is really a win-win way to make and purchase art,” she said.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Richardson graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst and earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A multimedia artist, she works predominantly in glass and metal, making a variety of pieces from jewelry to welded steel sculpture. Richardson also teaches art for the Amherst Youth Action Coalition.
Among the 16 artists taking part in the Spark! Art Share are potter Malea Rhodes of The Celadon Studio in Northampton; Elisabeth Hill of Plain Weave and Beyond, who received her training at the Hill Institute in Florence; and Northampton painter Scout Cuomo.
For more information contact Katie Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.