A Modest Occupation

Photo: Luminary Center for the Arts

Right now we’re part of a little show in St.Louis, at The Luminary Center for the Arts, that focuses on the recent boom of art subscriptions and art CSA’s and takes a look at the work that is being produced through this model.  It is curated by Abigail Satinsky from threewalls.  The exhibition is part of The Luminary Center for the Arts’ How to Build a World That Won’t Fall Apart  Exhibition Series, a year-long exploration of the ways that artists and alternative spaces sustain their practice in times of social and economic uncertainty. The series, a product of an institution examining itself in a time of transition, resonates pretty strongly with us right now as they are exploring of the role of alternative spaces within a broader ecosystem and the collective identity that arises through collaboration.

The show features works from Alula Editions (Bay Area, CA) Art Practical Mail Art Subscription (San Francisco, CA), Community Supported Art ChicagoCommunity Supported Art Philadelphia,Community Supported Art MinneapolisThe Drop/NOLA (New Orleans), The Present Group (Oakland, CA), Regional Relationships (Chicago), and The Thing Quarterly (San Francisco, CA), along with a special reading room in the window space by Silver Galleon Press (Chicago).

Photo: Luminary Center for the Arts

If you aren’t in St. Louis between March 15 – April 12, 2013, you can still catch the show in other locations as it travels around the country:
June 28 – August 3:  Threewalls, Chicago, IL
September 14 – October 26:  Transformer Gallery in Washington, DC
possibly then to New Orleans hosted by The Drop

Abby also worked with projects included in the show along with designer Working Knowledge to create a publication featuring essays and profiles from participating art subscription services.  A physical copy of this publication can be ordered for $3 from Luminary Arts or you can download a pdf version by clicking on the image below.

Photo: Luminary Center for the Arts


Know when to fold em.

It is with a simultaneously heavy/proud/appreciative/relieved heart that we’re announcing the end of our little project, our subscription art service. With your help, over the past six years we’ve channelled over $34,000 into artist payments, critic stipends, and the production of new artwork. We’ve supported the creation of 21 artist projects (over 1400 individual art pieces) that may not have happened otherwise.

Six years ago, we were newlyweds with a dream, no business experience (or training for that matter), no connections, and no cred. Since then, we have learned an enormous amount, met and worked with some really wonderful people, and have no regrets. When we started there weren’t any active art subscriptions that we knew of. Now there are over 20. (In fact, we made a list! If you need an art subscription fix in our void, this is a good place to find the right one for you: thepresentgroup.com/ArtSubscriptionDatabase)

Over the years, The Present Group has changed its focus from solely an art subscription to a place for experimental projects focused on new ways to support artists and by extension cultural producers of all stripes. Over the past couple of years, our two major projects have shown quite a bit of promise. Art Micro Patronage gave people a chance to experience group shows of online artwork and donate to artists simultaneously. The Present Group Hosting has now given away $2324 to artists working in underfunded areas of the creative landscape.

We will continue this trend of being both a place for our own experimental systems and a place that helps to facilitate others’ experiments. We will continue making things, perhaps even create editions once in a while, and hope to begin collaborating more extensively with partners. We now know how to make a lot of things (like view master reels and transparent silk screened vinyl sticker sheets!) and hope to help others make things. We will continue to explore the area between art, activism, philanthropy, and commercial endeavors. If you have a project that may be a good fit for this type of collaboration, please get in touch.

Why are we stopping? We’ve never been able to pay ourselves, we work other jobs to keep it going, and after six years of burning the candle at both ends, the flame has started to flicker. We love this project and it has been hard to make this decision, but it is time to let it go. We’ve met many of you through the fairs, speaking engagements and shows we’ve been able to be a part of. Some of you have been with us since the very beginning or close to it and by that we’re extremely humbled. We would never have been able to accomplish any of this without all the people who placed their trust and faith in us.

At this time of Thanksgiving, we’re especially  thankful for the enormous generosity and community of people we have had the privilege of working with, amongst, and for. Whether you decided to try out art collecting on a whim, worked with us as an artist, writer, or vendor,  or helped spread word to your friends, co-workers, students, or family members, we’re enormously grateful for every one of you.


Oliver and Eleanor

P.S.  We’re celebrating this end and 6 year anniversary with a giant sale!  Check out our back issues for savings of up to 20 – 80% off. 

Another Art Subscription: Regional Relationships

From the good people at Temporary Services and Half Letter Press, a commissioning/art subscription program.  I’m a little confused about whether this is ongoing or if there are only these two artists: Matthew Friday & Claire Pentecost, but either way it seems like an interesting series:

Regional Relationships commissions artists, scholars, writers and activists to create works that investigate the natural, industrial and cultural landscapes of a region. It is a platform to re-imagine the spaces and cultural histories around us. An invitation to join in seeing what we can learn—and learning what we can see—by juxtaposing spaces and narratives that are usually kept apart.

Another Art Subscription: Art Practical’s Mail Art Subscription

We love it!  In honor of their fiftieth issue, “Printed Matter,”  Art Practical is embarking on a new venture that rethinks how their editorial work could reach an audience and enter their homes and lives.   Each month for 6 months a different artist will choose an article that resonates with them from the AP archive, create an offset limited edition print in response, and send each subscriber a postcard, the print, and the original article.  It is limited to 150 subscribers and costs $150 for the six month subscription.

Learn more about AP’s Mail Art Subscription>>

From the site:

In conjunction with “Printed Matter,” and in honor of our fiftieth issue, we want to encourage you, our readers, to think about the value that exists in both the undifferentiated and ready access to information, ideas, and archives that online publishing grants and about the intimacy of a hand-addressed envelope intended for a single individual. In some sense, to consider how Art Practical might arrive in your mailbox.

Another Subscription Art Service Model: Project Dispatch

Here’s another!  Project Dispatch was started in the fall of 2009 and is run out of DC by two Corcoron graduates: Chandi Kelley and Rachel England.  They were looking for a way to create a small revenue stream for artists, but it sounds like the project is more about mandating the artists to continually make small works and get their work out to a broader range of people, creating a new group of collector/artist relationships.

It’s a slightly different version of the subscription art model.  Subscribers choose not only the price point they want ($25/50/75 per month) and the number of months they want (3/6/12 months), but they also choose from the group’s current list of 21 artists to get all their works from.  They do, however, have an option to randomly get work from a different artist each time.  Then on the artists’ side, they get a list of people to make work for every month and the artists are responsible for sending out the artwork to subscribers.  The Project retains 10% of the sales, but passes on the rest to the artist.  Artists pay a small membership fee of $18/year to be listed.   It is fun to see how flexible the subscription art model can be.

New Art Subscription: LxWxH

LxWxH is an art subscription project founded by Seattle artist and curator Sharon Arnold, which came out of the idea that (perhaps in the tradition of local agriculture movements) art should be sustainable, and accessible. Similar to the Art in a Box and Community Supported Art models of subscription art, each issue is one box containing two pieces by two artists, but they have the bonus of a short essay by a local writer.  Artists have the option of creating either editions or individual works for each box.

Subscriptions are $700 plus shipping, or $130/backissue plus shipping.
Seems to be a trend of art subscriptions getting more expensive as people figure out the best way and most sustainable ways to keep the practice going…

If the Bay Area is the Capital of Art Subscriptions, then the Mid-West is the country it should be located in.

A couple of weeks ago I made the claim that the Bay Area is the Capital of Art Subscriptions.  I still think that holds true.  HOWEVER, the mid-west is a burgeoning center for them as well.   After the debut of mnartists.org and Springboard for the Arts’ Community Supported Art last year, two more CSA style art subscriptions have popped up:  CSA Chicago and Risograph CSA.

CSA Chicago is a program run by Threewalls.  It asks shareholders to invest directly in the arts community with a “buy local” mentality. Each share costs $400 and subscribers receive 6 artworks over three months. Each artwork is a limited edition of 50 and shareholders receive a random selection from participating artists. Subscriptions are limited to 100 per year. CSA Chicago’s season is from April to June 2011.  The pilot year of participating artists include Conrad Bakker, Sara BlackEdie Fake, Jessica Labatte, Laura Mackin, Eric Fleishchauer, Aay Preston-Myint, Pamela Fraser, Steve Reinke, Dan S. Wang, Jason Lazarus, and Jesse Harrod.

Included in the monthly box:
2 signed and numbered original works of art by contemporary Chicago artists (6 total over three months)
Coupons and ephemera from local artist-run and creative businesses
Essays contextualizing the work

They will be having a launch party on April 30, 2011, in conjunction with Art Chicago/NEXT Art Fair from 6 to 9 pm. The event will feature food, drinks, music, the 1st editions of all 12 works for auction and a chance to meet participating artists.

There is also a special deal if you sign up before April 30th ($50 off)

Risograph CSA is a project out of Grand Rapids, MI.  I think it will be run by and out of the Division Avenue Arts Collective.  The Risograph CSA project will commission 6 artists and artist groups to produce prints for an art subscription service. A total of 60 editions will be made per image on a Risograph Digital Duplicator. Of those, 30 will be available as subscriptions at rate of $120 per year for 6 pieces. Remaining editions will be given to participating artists and sold individually. If the subscription sells out, each artist or group will be paid $400 and 50% of the sales from the individual pieces.

Collectors will have the opportunity to pick up their newest acquisitions at the bimonthly CSA pickups and listen to a talk by the month’s artist. These events will be held in conjunction with that month’s Sunday Soup to augment that evening’s programming.

At the end of the second year there will be a retrospective gallery show at The DAAC featuring each of the 12 works commissioned by the Risograph CSA Project.

Unfortunately they don’t seem to have a website or they are not quite up and running yet.

The Bay Area is the official capital of Art Subscriptions: Meet Landfill

Wapke Feenstra.  Former Farmland, Sagarossa, Spain, 2008; pamphlet/poster, 5.88 x 4.16 in. closed, 11.66 x 16.75 in. open.

Welcome Landfill!  A new project by Ted Purves and Elyse Mallouk, Landfill is interested in the funny little pieces of information or material byproducts that are produced by social practice artists.  They are cataloging these pieces of history on their website and have also started an art subscription to allow more people to collect and learn about these projects (at a really reasonable price: $60/year for 4 issues).   The subscription will consist of a Journal along with selected pieces of actual ephemera.   Perhaps a good preview of what the Journal will be like is these two articles on Art Practical highlighting this project.  Here’s a tidbit describing themselves:

Landfill is a project that archives, studies, and redistributes the material byproducts produced by ephemeral artworks. It creates a second venue for projects that largely existed in non-material form, and aims to build a non-linear history of socially engaged art practice.  Landfill exists in three parts: an online Archive, a material Quarterly, and a written Journal.  The Quarterly is distributed to subscribers four times a year.  It contains the Journal and selected pieces of material ephemera.

As part of the Landfill Archive, supplemental materials become conduits for ideas that continue to circulate.  The Archive is an aggregate capable of accounting for the broad range of projects that self-consciously consider their publics, without laying claim to a singular narrative.  It is accessible all the time, for free.

They are looking for submissions. With this new addition, we now have 5 solid art subscriptions in the Bay Area!  Check out the links on the sidebar to learn about them all.   It’s pretty exciting to see how this model can adapt to suit all sorts of work and interests.  It’s not clear if Landfill will use subscription dues solely to create the journal or if they will also be using some of the funds to compensate contributing artists who often rely on grants to accomplish this sort of work.  My guess is for that price they will need most of the money just to accomplish the creation of the physical journal, shipping, and writing.  However, as they grow, perhaps they will consider sponsoring projects to give back to the community of artists they will rely for donations.

Steve Lambert will be the artist for TPG17

We’re enthused to announce that Steve Lambert will be our seventeenth artist!  Lambert made international news just after the 2008 US election with The New York Times “Special Edition,” a replica of the grey lady announcing the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other good news. He is the founder of the Anti-Advertising Agency, lead developer of Add-Art (a Firefox add-on that replaces online advertising with art) and has collaborated with numerous artists including the Graffiti Research Lab, and the Yes Men.

Subcription Art Spreads: Minnesota’s “Community Supported Art”


Exciting!  Another player on the subscription scene, St. Paul’s Springboard for the Arts and mnartists.org have teamed up for a hyper local version of this idea to support local art, artists and collectors.   Over the course of 3 months, collectors will receive 3 boxes containing (I think) three works each.  There are 9 artists who will be commissioned to make an edition of 50 and the cost for a share is $300.  It is pretty exciting to see that their network is so involved that they sold out in less than 12 hours!  And they are already taking reservations (for a $100 price) for the fall season.  Similar to Art in a Box, they will have local “Pick up Parties” at different art organizations, furthering the feeling of being part of a community.

From their press release:

The goals of the CSA program are to support artists and to create a community of engaged local arts supporters.  CSA supports artists: in the creation of new work, to establish relationships with local collectors and patrons, and to participate in the launch of an exciting new model of art support and distribution.  CSA Share member benefits include multiple works of art from local emerging and mid-career artists at a fantastic value! Additionally, CSA Share members have the opportunity to develop relationships with the local artists and art community, discover new artists, explore a variety of disciplines and support artists’ careers and a vibrant community.

Bad at Sports/Art Practical interviews The Present Group

artpractical interviews The Present Group

We’re very excited and honored to have been interviewed by Brian Andrews of Bad at Sports and to show up in Art Practical.

Click Here to read the full interview

The audio version of the interview will be released on Bad at Sports on this Sunday 4/25.

Somebody wrote about us!


We’re honored to be included in this roundup by Emilie Raguso of Oakland Local of Art Subscriptions in the Bay Area.  There’s starting to be quite a number of us! It is really wonderful how this idea is spreading, and people are making it their own.  Thanks to Emilie and Oakland Local, and Welcome to any new visitors!

Alula Editions: A new art subscription & An open call


TPG #11 artist Helena Keeffe has teamed up with Amber Cady to start Alula Editions, a new art subscription whose focus is to work with artists to create repeat patterns for textiles. They collaborate with individual artists and also organize participatory group drawing activities in order to create textiles that defy expectations and move beyond purely aesthetic considerations.

They have an Open Call for Submissions with a deadline of April 28th, and artists receive a $500 stipend.

Starting off with a bang, Alula Editions was a recipient of this year’s Southern Exposure Alternative Exposure Grant, will be collaborating with artists in Portland, Oregon to create the official tote bag for the Open Engagement Conference at Portland State University, and will be printing their first edition as part of a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts.

They haven’t figured out their pricing structure yet, so subscriptions are not yet on sale.  But you can get on a mailing list so you will be the first to know when they are.  The first work is projected to go out this summer.

Welcome Alula!

Art Subscriptions on the Rise

Know what I have been a little delinquent in doing?  Charting the growth of art subscriptions.  I’ve been doing it in my head, but now I’d like to finally share with you just what has been happening in the world of art via subscriptions.

1. Papirmasse

#5 May 09 Issue of Papirmasse
#5 May 2009 by Kirsten McCrea

“Papirmasse is a magazine, original art, and social experiment rolled into one.”  Papirmasse is a monthly edition that gets delivered quarterly.  It is a poster-sized double sided print folded to fit in a 9 x 12 envelope.  For the most part, one side is an image and the other is mostly black and white text.  The limited edition prints are numbered at 1000 and are signed by the artist.  It is a project created by Canadian artist and illustrator Kirsten McCrea.  She seems to create much of the content, though there are certainly many other artists involved. Somewhere between an edition and a periodical, this subscription only costs $60 per year which is pretty sweet.  As she puts it, Papirmase rallies under the slogan, “Art is for Everyone!”

2. Art in a Box


This monthly subscription run by Compound Gallery in Oakland is unique in a few ways.  First, it only uses local artists from the Bay Area – mostly from Oakland and San Francisco.  Second, the art that you get is original pieces, not editions.  I’m not sure exactly how it works, but the large group of artists that they use all produce a few pieces each month and then the whole lot gets divvied up, so each subscriber gets something different and unique each month.  Third, because not everyone is getting similar stuff, subscribers have the ability to state their preferred medium of artwork.   And lastly, one does not have to sign up for a full year at a time, they only require 3 month increments.  It is a higher pricepoint, however: $50 per month unless you want to pick it up at the gallery (then $30 per month).

This model could be a quick platform for artists to get a little exposure and probably get somewhere between $10- $20 (I’m guessing) per piece.  This may not be much, but it does encourage artists to have deadlines, try out new ideas and still get a little pocket change for it.  From the gallery’s perspective there is much less organizing, as they aren’t the one producing the projects.  Because it is very locally focused, I also like that they have “Pickup Parties” where people can get together, get their art, and probably meet the artists from time to time.  The art subscription model can be adapted to fit so many styles and configurations.  Some might classify the art that comes out of this subscription as verging on  “Dude/tte art”.

3. The Thing


I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write about these guys.  We even traded subscriptions with them.  Ah well: THE THING Quarterly is a periodical in the form of an object. Each year, four artists, writers, musicians or filmmakers are invited by the editors (Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan) to create an everyday object that somehow incorporates text.  They also sporadically produce other projects, some of which they send out to the subscribers as a bonus, and some of which they sell or give out to other people.

I really like how they invite a wide variety of creators to contribute projects, but my only criticism would be that the pieces come so out of context, that sometimes it is hard to figure out how they fit into the artists’ work as a whole.  Because one of the joys of art can be the connection with an artist’s ideas and perspective it would be great to get a little more insight into the creator’s general practice and trajectory of their work.  The limited scope of the project, everyday objects that somehow incorporate text, is an interesting parameter.  When we first started The Present Group, we would explain the project and get a lot of confused looks and bewilderment in general.  Now, we run across that much less often and I contribute a lot of that to The Thing.  Their success in the media has definitely helped to spread the idea of an art subscription and they have gotten a lot of people to start collecting and supporting artwork.

Another new Art Subscription: Artist of the Month Club


Invisible Exports, a gallery out of New York, is getting into the subscription game.  They’ve invited 12 curators from all over the world to choose one artist each to create a limited edition to be sent out to their subscribers.  Their price point is higher: $2400 for the year (including shipping) and it is limited to 50 subscribers on a first come-first serve basis.  They are promoting it not on the tails on the artists that will be chosen (subscribers won’t even know who will be on the roster until the edition arrives at their doorstep), but instead on the tails of the curators – whose bios you can peruse on their website.  Their tagline: “HAVE MUSEUM-LEVEL TASTEMAKERS CHOOSE WORK FOR YOUR COLLECTION”  It seems as though the works will be mostly prints of one kind or another at the 17 x 22″ size- but they allow for the possibility of alternative formats.

Info on the AMC (Artist of the Month Club) here.

The idea of Art Subscriptions: Individual artists are getting into it.

I have found two examples (via Exposure Compensation) of artists taking cues from the art subscription model as a way for a community to help fund their work and then reap the benefit of that support.

Dalton Rooney has started a Print of the Month Club.  He’s got some interesting ideas: tiered involvement- you can sign up for 3, 6, or 12 month intervals, and he allows subscribers to occasionally skip a month if they aren’t interested in that month’s piece.

CStein is trying out another method- he asks for a monthly $10 payment support, and then at the end of the year you can get two prints from a selection he puts up for subscribers, or you can apply your contribution towards buying any other of his prints (though they are typically more expensive)

The power of collective support can be huge- and subscribers reap the benefit in lower cost works for their collections.  Hooray!

Subscription Music

Subscription Music

Xiu Xiu‘s Jamie Stewart (a frequent collaborator of TPG9 artist David Horvitz) is selling subscriptions of past ambient, experimental, and minimalist works.  For $100 Stewart will send you one CD per month for a year.  The edition is 50 so they’ll probably go fast.

thanks andy

Where does it all go?

In the spirit of transparency we’ve decided to show you where all those subscribers’ dues go.  Below is the financial breakdown for TPG in 2008.  A few things we noticed:.

  • 2/3 went to our core business: Making art, paying artists and getting it to our subscribers.
  • 1/3 went directly to creating art
  • 18% went to artists and critics.

Compare that to the traditional gallery model where an artist must recoup his or her production costs and profits through their cut of works that may or may not sell.  Through the subscription model artists shoulder less risk and art supporters funds are used more efficiently.

The Present Group 2008 Financial Break it down

The idea is taking off

Here’s another art subscription! When we first envisioned The Present Group, we thought that if we were sucessful, then other people would emulate us and there would be a ripple effect causing a whole wave of different art subscriptions- all with different interests and groups represented. Though I’m not sure we’re ready to call ourselves a complete sucess, or that we can take credit for an idea that surely is in the air, the idea of the art subscription does seem to be a catchy one.

Here’s the most recent one we’ve found:


Little Bird Limited

Their wording is a little familiar, I have to say, but all in all we’re excited to see the art world expanding to reach more people at a lower cost. Welcome Little bird!

UPDATE: Just got an email from Little Bird:

We noticed the present group on our analytics site and when we clicked the link we noticed your blog post.
We were mortified to read about the similarities. We actually pay a freelance local writer to write out our press and content for the Littlebird Limited. So we had no idea. We read all about your subscription and re read what we had written and there is no doubt that the person who wrote for us ,for sure borrowed your text. We apologize for this, truly. We are currently working to change our text . That was not our intention to start our press like this. Although the text is the same the idea is not as grand as yours and we hope maybe to get to that level and we hope you take no offense.

TPG7 + (almost) 2 year Show Photos

TPG7 + (almost) 2 Year Retrospective Show Release

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