The CSA program that’s changing my relationship with art and supporting local

Writer Lonna Whiting experiences her first TAP Community Supported Art event in October 2021.

“Feels like Christmas and date night rolled into one.”

“An unbelievable experience filled with elegant food and entertainment, plus art to take home.”

“Perfect for artists and foodies.”

If those statements incite in you a compulsion to roll your eyes, you’re not alone. They got a side eye from me when I first heard them, too.

The idea of celebrating Christmas and planning a date in one night sounds like a sensory-overload panic attack waiting to happen. Not to mention, what is “elegant food,” and didn’t we retire the term “foodies” back in 2008?

So, when those were the testimonials that first introduced me to The Arts Partnership’s Community Supported Art program, I wasn’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to spend an evening nibbling tapas and talking encaustics.

I mean, I love art. I love music. I don’t totally dislike other people, and I’m obsessed with food. Yet, I could see why a CSA like this might seem stuffy or too “cultured” for those (like me) actively practicing a more Netflix-and-chill lifestyle these days.

Admittedly, I also didn’t really understand the concept of Community Supported Art, either. Once I realized what an unstuffy experience — and bargain — it was, I signed up for a share immediately (there are only 50 shares available each year).

Bonus: My share (and everyone else’s) goes right back to helping fund artists’ and arts organizations’ projects right in our community. The $500 it cost me for my share gets me a night out with my significant other that includes dinner, drinks, custom art, live performances, and a reason to get out of my athleisure-wear for at least three nights in 2022.

What is the Community Supported Art program?

Before I attended my first TAP CSA event in September, I had a limited definition of what a CSA could be and equated it with Community Supported Agriculture, where members pay a fee from local farmers in exchange for freshly picked vegetables, fruits and other handcrafted goodies. 

The fun part of a CSA is you never know exactly what you’re going to get week by week. A typical share could contain a head of cauliflower picked that morning, alongside vine-ripened tomatoes and a cantaloupe one week, and the next week’s share is bread, kohlrabi and corn.

TAP’s Community Supported Art is the exact same concept, only swap ag for art and entertainment. Instead of taking home a flat of onions and garlic each week, TAP CSA shareholders get together three times a year and take home a piece of art created specifically for the CSA. Like a traditional CSA, you don’t know what you’re getting until the day of the event.

Each CSA event includes a buffet of gourmet eats (this season courtesy Luna Fargo, Blackbird and 701 Eateries), beer, wine and NA libations (Bernie’s Wine and Liquors), and live performances (Tuck’rd Out played in September).

The food and entertainment are considered CSA shares, as well. Pro tip: The food share from local establishments consists of creative cuisine you can’t find on their regular menu, so you’ll want to come hungry and curious.

How much does it cost?

An annual TAP CSA share runs $500. It sounds like a good chunk of change — and it is — but break it down a bit and you’ll see the value.

If my estimations (and my math) are right, that $500 investment in CSA includes:

Dinner for two ($60×3 = $180)

Drinks for two ($30×3 = $90)

One piece of original artwork (typically worth $500 to $1500×3 = $1,500 to $4,500)

Live entertainment ($20×3 = $60)

Artist talk, low-pressure mingling and supporting local art (priceless)

Total value for one $500 TAP CSA share: $1,830 to $4,830.

Don’t want the art part? No problem! If you’re still living in Marie Kondo’s life-changing world of tidying up, or don’t want more stuff to dust, there’s a $300 option for those who just want to enjoy the shares of food, entertainment, drinks and socialization.

In my opinion, the cost of a share is worth the art piece alone. For example, shareholders at the CSA event I attended in September took home a one-of-a-kind Nokota Horse sculpture created by regional artist Marcella Rose. Her stunning gallery pieces typically start at around $1,000.

What else is included?

You’ll want to attend each of the three live events, not just for the catering by some of the best local chefs in the community, but also for the table of bubbly, beer, wine and alcohol-free drinks courtesy of Bernie’s Wine and Liquor as well.

Members who are clever enough to stay past the last set of music often get to schlep food leftovers home with them (if there are any). At the September event, I stuck around to mingle, and Luna Fargo Owner Nikki Ness Berglund lovingly shoved a heaping plate of leftover cheese, crackers and desserts my way to enjoy for lunch at my desk the next day.

TAP’s version of a CSA also includes live performances from local artists ranging from FM Ballet to The Moving Parts. In between sets, featured artists talk briefly about their pieces, and TAP President and CEO Dayna Del Val regales audiences with her humorous and lighthearted message about the importance of arts advocacy. After all, each CSA share goes back to financially supporting artists and organizations that create in our community.

What’s the catch?

There really isn’t any. 

In fact, I don’t have a good reason not to buy a share of TAP CSA if you have the money and wish to use it for entertainment and local support. A double-whammy win, in my book.

 My only criticism is that not enough people know about TAP’s CSA, or they think it’s some stuffy art event for artsy folks doing artsy things. Or that it’s expensive! TAP CSA is none of these, and I encourage you (even if you’re only mildly interested at this point) to learn more or buy your share soon before 2022’s market is sold out.

Going once. Going twice. Purchase shares at https://theartspartnership.net/community-supported-art/.

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Tania Blanich is the Arts Partnership’s Director of Operations

Tania Blanich - Director of Operations - The Arts Partnership