This article first appeared in the July 3, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.
By Dillon Walsh, Standard Correspondent
Finnie Trimpi, the programming director at ArtisTree, has known fellow artists Fiona Davis and Caitlin Eastman for years.
‘Caitlin and I since we were kids and Fiona I’ve known since I was 12 when she moved in next door,’ Trimpi said. ‘But it’s been very recent that our lives have come back together because we’ve all gone away and come back.’
This started when Trimpi was looking for someone to lead new clay programs at ArtisTree — a position filled by Davis. Trimpi says it was after her move back to Vermont from Nantucket that she started to run into Eastman regularly in Woodstock.
Presently Trimpi, Davis, and Eastman are the founders of CsArt in the Upper Valley (or CsArtUV), a community supported art project based on the Community Supported Agriculture model. First done by Springboard for the Arts and mnartists.org in Minnesota, Trimpi says it all started after reading about the Minnesota program in the New York Times.
Pictured here, from left, are Fiona Davis, Caitlin Eastman and Finnie Trimpi — partners in the Community Supported Art Upper Valley project.
Dillon Walsh Photo
“They wrote the original business plan and have sold it to numerous organizations across the country. I purchased the business model from them and we’ve adapted it to fit our community and our needs,” Trimpi said.
The three founders chose to form CsArt as a nonprofit and low-profit limited liability company. One of the appeals of this route was that Vermont first pioneered the idea.
“(It’s) a model first established in Vermont and it’s just beginning to be picked up by other states,” Trimpi said. “It allowed us to act as nonprofit without having to have a board and go through all the business matters that a nonprofit does.”
With two summer events where buyers pick up their art and meet the artists, the CsArt model gives artists the freedom to create a series of unique small pieces of art that the buyer does not get to see until they pick up their investment. Because of this, variety plays a big role in determining which artists get their work commissioned.
“We don’t want someone to pick up a share that has all one thing,” Eastman said.
For $50 per piece of art, the CsArt model works on a system of investing in artists and their businesses where buyers buy shares with a set number of pieces of art spread across both planned summer events. A peck consists of two pieces, half a bushel gets the buyer five pieces, and a full bushel has 10.
A diverse lineup of artists has been picked, including photographer Scott Achs, who develops 35mm film for a class at ArtisTree as well as other formats on his own. Achs was excited to jump on board after learning more about the idea.
“I’m originally from Ohio, so I wasn’t familiar with the CSA type of approach to things agriculturally. So I found that fascinating, and for them to do that with art, to me it just kind of made sense,” Achs said.
Also in the lineup is Kenneth Hamblin, a stonemason who creates pieces he calls functional art. Hamblin cites the Upper Valley area as an ideal location for something like CsArtUV.
“What I like about it is that it’s community and local artists teaming up together and trying to network and meet buyers and this is definitely the market for that area,” Hamblin said.
After creating a face-to-face relationship between the artist and buyers at the events, The CsArt model allows the relationship to continue afterwards.
“Our hope is this art will give you a taste for what they do and that you would commission a larger piece through them,” Trimpi said. “At which point we step out, and the artist takes 100 percent of their profit.”
With an artist roster of newer and established artists, Davis says while there were stipulations in terms of the quality they were looking for, the notoriety of the artists didn’t matter.
“How long they’ve been doing it or what they do, or where they’re from, or if it’s their full-time career or part-time is really unimportant,” Davis said. “It’s about meeting a certain standard of work that was important.”
Specifically for newcomers, Davis says this CsArt program is designed to open some doors for them, but ultimately it is up to newer artists to build off that.
“It gives them the opportunity to have contact with the purchaser, which means they then have to start developing the skills around building those relationships,” Davis said.
While the founders chose the artists this time around, Trimpi explains that in the future, things will be different.
“For future shares, it will be a juried process. So we’ll send out a time for applications so hopefully it would be artists we don’t know in the future and we’re actually looking at their work and their content and their artist statement to really judge whether or not they’re a good fit,” Trimpi said.
CsArtUV has two scheduled summer events July 18 and Sept. 5 from 6-8 p.m. For more information including a full artist lineup and share prices, visit their site at www. csartuppervalley.com.