When most people think of a CSA — short for “Community Supported Agriculture” — they envision a box of fresh veggies delivered straight from the farmer to the consumer.

Now, substitute the “A” in CSA with “art.” And the word “farmer” for “artist.”

That’s the concept behind CSArt Madison, the latest innovative project of the Madison community arts space known as the Arts + Literature Laboratory, or ALL: Buy fresh and original art — and get it straight from the producer.

Fifty shares of CSArt (pronounced “C-S-art”) went on sale to the public May 1. Full shares cost $300 and yield 10 small artworks, each created this spring or summer by an accomplished local artist; $150 buys a half-share, or five small works of art.

Share-buyers also get to visit the studios of artists creating works for CSArt, and are invited to a “celebratory pick-up” of the finished artworks, tucked into a tote bag, on July 29. A public exhibition of larger artworks by CSArtists will be on display at the ALL gallery space, 2021 Winnebago St., from July 7-29.

CSArt Madison is designed, in part, to show how much valuable, home-grown talent is right in Madison’s backyard, said CSArt coordinator Simone Doing, a co-lead curator at ALL.

“We were looking for alternative distribution models for artists, and thinking about ways of helping connect artists to buyers, and vice versa — and how that ‘buy local’ mentality could be facilitated here in Madison, given that we have such a strong sense of ‘buy local’ with our food,” she said. “Agricultural CSAs have a really strong presence in Madison, and we thought that would translate well.”

The project even will include a series of dinners hosted with VEA Events, where area chefs prepare locally sourced food inspired by the CSArtists’ works. The dinners will take place July 8, 22 and 23 and serve as a fundraiser for ALL.

Some of what will “grow” out of CSArt Madison is still in the early stages. CSArtist Faisal Abdu’Allah, an associate professor of printmaking at UW-Madison, is departing from 2D art and making a 7-inch vinyl record as his CSArt piece. Working with him is UW-Madison graduating senior Daniel Kaplan, known as “Son!,” this year’s student artist-in-residence at Memorial Union’s Wheelhouse Studios.

When Abdu’Allah moved to Madison from London, his huge, diverse record collection moved with him, he said.

“When I pull up a song, I can place myself 15 years ago — the date, the time, the temperature, what I was feeling,” he said. “The records almost annotate my life. My (art) work does the same thing.”

He discovered a musical connection when Kaplan, a generation younger, started working with him on an independent study project, Abdu’Allah said.

“When CSArt asked me to do something, I thought, well, music,” he said. “I always ask students to embrace uncertainty and go beyond their own expectations.” So he invited Kaplan to do “a kind of mash-up” of a few songs resonating with the artist right now.

The resulting record for the CSArt project — complete with original cover and liner notes — will be done “with the thinking that if you don’t have a record player, you’ll probably have to go to someone’s house. There’s a journey involved,” Abdu’Allah said. “Or if you have one, you have the benefit of putting the needle on the record.”

Other artists selected for CSArt Madison — whose projects are still under wraps — include handmade paper artist Katharine Delamater; printmaker and UW-Madison professor John Hitchcock; glass artist Helen Lee, head of glass in the UW-Madison art department; J. Myszka Lewis, a curator at Tandem Press and one-third of the feminist art group Spooky Boobs Collective; and Dakota Mace, who is currently working with Navajo textile design as an MFA candidate at UW-Madison.

Also creating CSArt are Jason Ruhl, a master printer at Tandem Press; visual artist Chelsea Thompto, an MFA candidate at UW-Madison; and mixed media artists Bernadette Witzack and Ariel Wood. The artists, selected from among 75 applicants, receive a stipend.

CSArt Madison was inspired by a similar program developed by Minnesota-based Springboard for the Arts and now used in 40 cities, said Max Puchalsky, also a co-lead curator for ALL.

“Since we started working professionally in Madison in the arts, we realized there really isn’t that ‘collector class’ here that’s going to contemporary art exhibitions for the purpose of collecting artwork,” said Puchalsky, who with Doing makes up the collaborative art team known as Simone and Max.

“So if you want to be an artist in Madison and sustain your practice, you’re going to have to find other ways of making ends meet. We got really interested in alternative models for ‘distribution,’ or making money as an artist.”

Located in a refurbished brick building at 2021 Winnebago St., ALL mixes modern gallery space with the building’s industrial past. Founded by graphic artist Jolynne Roorda — who helped found the first ALL in New Haven, Connecticut, and brought the concept to Madison — the center is a nonprofit community art space designed for visual, literary and performing artists to connect and share their creative work.

Roorda, Doing, Puchalsky and others are building ALL into a creative hub, with art exhibitions, literary readings, concerts, workshops and, this August, a series of outdoor screenings of contemporary video art.

This summer ALL is hosting “Bike the Art,” a free, monthly, curated tour of art spaces — by bicycle. The first is Saturday, when wheelers of all ages will meet at 5 p.m. at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art to learn about a collaborative project between MMOCA and ALL called “Digital Aura,” then pedal (or walk or drive) on to the Old Sugar Distillery and lastly to the ALL gallery.

Artists Jennifer Bastian and Jamie Ho were selected this year for ALL’s “Dane County Emerging Artist Series,” another ALL program designed to showcase local talent and help artists advance their careers.

As for the artworks being developed right now for CSArt shares, “We’re trying to keep it exciting and somewhat mysterious, because it will be a fun reveal at the end,” Doing said.

“Like your CSA box,” Roorda added. “You never know what you’re going to get.”


Gayle Worland is an arts and features reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.