Seattle Artthrob: Community Supported Creativity

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With community supported agriculture (CSA) flourishing, Leigh Ann Gilmer aims to bring the same “buy local” concept to arts and culture with a new endeavor called Seattle Artthrob. Similar to a CSA in which members pay a fee to receive a weekly box of fruits and vegetables, Seattle Artthrob provides an opportunity to acquire the work of emerging artists at a reasonable price.

For the first Artthrob, 30 members will pay $250 each to receive original pieces of art from six artists selected to participate in the program. (A panel of jurors was evaluating artists’ applications at press time.) Each artist gets a $1,000 stipend to produce the art. The remaining $1,500 raised from member contributions helps cover expenses.

Artthrob was Gilmer’s summary project for her master of fine arts degree in arts leadership from Seattle University. She patterned it after the Community Supported Art program created by Springboard for the Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota, and adopted in other cities. The artwork can take a variety of forms. Gilmer, who works in Seattle University’s Office of Annual Giving, hopes to entice musicians, performance artists, writers and photographers to participate so patrons have access to a range of artistic expression. “Part of the excitement behind it,” she says, “is that you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

But there’s more than arts appreciation and the element of surprise at play here. In researching her idea of community supported art, Gilmer learned that, between 2008 and 2018, the employment sector that includes artists is expected to grow faster than the American labor force in general. “I believe Artthrob can be a micro-incubator for the creative sector in Seattle,” she notes. “You have to invest in people who are pushing the edge of innovation. It’s about keeping a community culturally vibrant.”

Would-be patrons have until mid-August to sign up at seattleartthrob.com. Gilmer says Artthrob 2012 will culminate in November with a “pickup party” at which members will receive their six works of art and also meet the artists.