CSA Releases First Round of Local Art to Shareholders Tomorrow

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

The Community-Support Arts program launched last year by Katy Peace releases its first batch of locally made art to St. Louis shareholders tomorrow at Enamel from 5-7 pm. Artists included in the pick-up party are Phillip Finder (ceramics), Nick Nihira and Ken Wood (prints).

The CSA program sells shares to 50 members for $425 each, which gives each shareholder nine artworks by each jury-selected artist. Each of the nine are new this year: Finder applied last year and was successful this year after revising his submission from a vase to a bowl that captions the essence of the vessel, highlighting its simplicity through architectural details. Wood liked the democratic nature of the jury, and he and Nihira both loved the chance to get artwork in front of both respected judges and the local community for an affordable price.

For artists who might or might not be familiar with producing a series, the experience can be a challenging but worthwhile project. The printing of Wood’s work alone took more than 37 hours. Ceramics, in particular, is intense:  “With ceramics, you’re working with the production part of it, the actual forming of the clay,” Finder said a couple weeks ago. “That’s my favorite part. That upfront work that goes into creating the form itself, then you bisque-fire, and then you go in and do layers of surface and re-fire. The making part, the bulk of it, took me a couple of months and then I still have a couple of bowls I have to re-fire.”

Philip Finder: ceramic bowls

Finder's submission for CSA.

Finder’s submission for CSA, courtesy of CSA.

“I was thinking about how can I satisfy myself as a maker and how I can appeal to people broadly. I kind of approach things that way anyway. I remember when I first started trying to sell my work, people were like, ‘Oh you need to make this kind of thing.’ I remember catering to that more in the beginning, and then I was like, ‘Screw that, I’m going to make what I want to make.’ What I wanted to make is what people wanted to buy! I was like, ‘This is GREAT!’ I chose the bowl because it’s such a universal object people are somewhat familiar with it.

“I wanted to work with a very minimal form—there’s no question this is a bowl in every sense of the word—but I wanted to bring some irregularities into it, like with the rim. They’re all hand-formed, in a fold. I did a wheel-form and cast plaster and that became my mold. The rim became irregular from the forming process—that’s where each bowl is different in the same way.

“Can I use this as a serving bowl? Yes. Other people might see it as something on their dining room table for fruit or their car keys. It could be for display. I just wanted to do something universal.”

Nick Nihira – screenprinting

Nihira's submission to CSA.

Nihira’s submission to CSA.

“I applied for the CSA because, as an artist, I am always looking for opportunities to get my artwork out there. It seemed like a great opportunity, and the 50-separate-pieces requirement works perfectly for my chosen medium, screen print.

“My ideas usually always come from sketches. I don’t usually start with an idea, I start with pencil on paper and just see what happens. Sketches give me ideas for new sketches, and then sometimes those sketches are good enough to redo as a large-scale drawing. The work I produced for the CSA shares is the image that I applied with. I had done the drawing full-size on paper and digitized it. Once it was accepted for the CSA, I screen-printed it.

“I think the share program is wonderful all around: Everyone benefits. The artists get exposure (and cash) and the shareholders get nine pieces of original artwork for a great bargain. I don’t know that it would be able to sustain just one artist for long because I would hope that new artists are chosen each season; however, the CSA seems like a very self-sustaining program. It was an honor to be a part of it this season.”

Ken Wood printmaking


“I stuck very close to what I submitted. I could have chosen to do a project tailored to the CSA; my other choice was to continue in the vein of what I’ve been doing. For me, it works better to go with the theme I’ve already been working with—I did a suite of prints last summer called “Written Words Fly.” It seemed more honest to do what I’d been doing. I’ve had more success recently saying, ‘This is who I am; this is what I’m doing; and it’s fine if you don’t want it, if it doesn’t fit with you,’ as opposed to coming up with something that’s related to my work and bending it to what you think they might like.

“For a long time I was doing prints that were unique—meaning there was one, I didn’t edition them. Then I realized, you know, I should take advantage of the more democratic nature of what printmaking can give and do an edition of four or 10 or 50 of the exact same thing. I picked a large-size edition for me. I wanted there to be some sort of dialogue between what I did so there could be a suite, play off of each other. There’s something about that where they start to justify each other, three lines traveling across one page. Whenever you put a work of artwork out there I think you have to be prepared to answer the question of why? Why did you make this thing? By making four of them, you start to provide a hint of an answer by deploying the same rules.

“I was exploring the idea of working within very tight constraints, limited color palette and so many things about what I’m doing as a way of compressing and condensing and simplifying. Through these constraints I’m still trying to come up with something complex and rich and more than the sum of its parts. Each of the prints I’m doing has three lines that runs across, really big, fat lines. When you look at them you think, ‘Oh, there’s a shape.’

“It’s using the idea of line, of the elements of drawing and pushing it and tweaking it and transforming it to become something else. So just using line, always the same width of line, and then limiting myself to only three lines and three colors…Color is this beautiful world, this beautiful resource we can create with and get contrast with. With just three colors I’m trying to get hue, value and saturation. I would ask people to look for those things when they’re looking for these prints. Working within really tight constraints is a way to ignite creativity. It forces you to look hard. ”

The next CSA pickup event will be Aug. 15 at Firecracker Press, featuring work by Carrie Gillen, Ming Ying Hong and Tate Foley.

All photos courtesy CSA.

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