Stop Asking People with Tattoos These Questions, You’re Probably Being Annoying

1. Did it hurt?

Any time somebody’s poking you repeatedly with a needle, it’s going to be really uncomfortable. A tattoo is essentially a puncture wound that is then filled with ink, and if you’ve ever lodged something into your skin that wasn’t there to begin with, it’s going to hurt a little. But some body parts are less painful, some people are more tolerant of pain, and after you go under the needle a few times, that buzzing sensation is less anxiety-inducing because you know what to expect. The tattoos I got on my ribs hurt like crazy, but the one I have on my inner arm was prickly at most. And it may itch and burn afterwards, but if you take care of it, it’s really fine.

2. Don’t you regret them?

For the most part? No. Chances are really good the person spent time thinking about the design they wanted, and whether it’s artwork, a quote, or even a tribal armband, it means something to them. Over time, tattoos also reach beyond their symbolism, and also commemorate moments in that person’s life and who they were at the time they got the tattoo. Who you were when you decided to get a tattoo with your brother, who you were when you had a quote inked onto your foot, who you were when you were 22 and confused and curious and scared—those are all valid aspects of your past, and those tattoos serve as reminders of your past. They ground you to who you are. Why would you regret who you were and who you are today?

(I admit that there is one tattoo I regret, but I got it when I was 16 and it’s in a rather inconspicuous location on my body. This is also why there are laws prohibiting teenagers from getting tattoos, but I deliberately went to a shady shop that didn’t ask for my ID, and this one’s on me. I take full responsibility for that poor life choice.)

3. Don’t you respect yourself?

Yes, I do. And yes, you should always respect yourself. Whenever anyone asks you this, it’s really safe to assume that they may not respect you. And you know what? Cool. They don’t have to respect you, which makes it easier for you to make a judgment call and not include that person in your life. If they can’t respect that you made such a decision over your own body, chances are really good that they won’t be able to overlook the other things on which you disagree as well. If you think your body is a temple and it’s disrespectful to get tattoos, then don’t get them, that’s fine. People with tattoos don’t think less of people who don’t have tattoos. But my body is a temple, too, and I will decorate it as I see fit; my design aesthetic just happens to involve tattoos.

4. How are you going to feel about them when you’re old?

Who’s to say how we’ll feel about everything when we’re old? Sometimes people switch political ideologies throughout their lives. Sometimes people change their mind about a certain food. It’s the same thing with tattoos. I don’t know how I’ll feel about them when I’m old because I’m not old yet. And it’s very possible that I could regret them, and it’s very possible that the ink might not age all that well and I’ll get wrinkles and things will sag and I end up needing surgery over and the doctor will botch the tattoo, and, and, and. But much in the same vein of whether or not I regret my tattoos, I would like to think that I’m not going to regret who I was at 24 when I begin to reminisce as an old, wrinkled, and yes, tattooed woman.

5. Does that mean you only date other people with tattoos?

Often, people with tattoos are no more or less attracted to another person solely because they have one. Some people have a thing for people with tattoos the way other people have a thing for blondes or brunettes or short people or tall people, but a person’s personality, sense of humor, and heart should trump everything else. It’s shouldn’t be a deal breaker if somebody else doesn’t have tattoos. And chances are, if two people who have tattoos are dating, it’s coincidence—tattoos are growing increasingly common in our society, after all—and only one of the likes and dislikes they share. (If it’s all they have in common, there’s a major problem.)

6. But what does it mean?

Are you ready for a long story? Are you ready for something really deep and meaningful and introspective? Because if you ask somebody about this, you have to genuinely be interested in what that person takes to heart. You have to be open to the idea that something could have spoken to them in a way that has completely changed their life, even if it leaves you entirely unfazed. And just as you might feel guilted into having to react appropriately when somebody shows you what they believe to be the funniest video clip of. all. time, nodding your head politely and saying, “Hmm, that’s interesting,” when they tell you about a memory they have of their dad or their favorite poem is like slapping that person in the heart. They just shared a deeply personal part of themselves with you. Treat that knowledge with care and respect.

7. How much did you pay for that?

This question is all about the delivery. If there’s even a hint of the derisive “… when you could have spent your money on something else?” hanging at the end of that inquiry, it won’t matter to you how much or how little somebody spent on a piece and now you’re just being a little nosy. A tattoo is an investment, though, and it’s smart to actually spend decent money on something that is going to hopefully last your whole lifetime. If you really think you can haggle with your tattoo artist for a cheaper piece, chances are good you’re going to end up with a tattoo that looks cheaper. If you’re really dedicated to the concept of the piece, you’ll pony up the money for it. If you’re really hesitant to spend the money, then chances are good you may not even want the tattoo itself.

8. What do your parents think about them?

Here’s the thing about this question: this suggests that all parents will have the exact same reaction about everything their children do. My mom hates them, personally, and my dad is a pro at that mild headshake that speaks volumes of what he thinks about them, but not every parent is like that. Some parents even have tattoos themselves—we’re not the first generation to get a little ink crazy. And I am fully grateful to my parents for creating my body, carrying it around, clothing it, feeding it, and protecting it until I was shoved out of the nest and into college, but my parents also taught me that my body is my body, and I can do what I want with it as long as I respect myself in the process. I wasn’t all that worried about what my parents would think when I got my tattoos, because their bodies weren’t going under the needle. Mine was.

9. Would you ever get them removed?

Maybe years from now, but A, it’s expensive; B, it takes time for each procedure; and C, the results are often questionable at best. It’s very possible that surgery will progress to a point where tattoo removal is a lot more accessible to those who regret their tattoos, but I also went into getting my tattoo with the full knowledge that each one was a very permanent, very final decision. And unless you see brochures from a dermatologist’s office lying around my apartment, chances are very good it’s not on my radar.

This Man Making LEGO Food Sculptures Is an Artistic Hero

LEGO play-sets all come with a warning that they should not be used by children under four, as the small pieces make for quite the choking hazard. However, such a warning is applicable to those of all ages who find themselves face to face with the work of Tary, a Japanese artist who has created LEGO sculptures of food so realistic that one could actually drool.

Using a wide variety of colored bricks from preexisting LEGO sets, Tary has wrought creations from all manner of food groups and cultures. The key to these success of these sculptures is his attention to detail, such as the gooey cheese slowly dripping off his slice of pizza sculpture, or his ice cream cone that seamlessly melts into a puddle. The traditional Japanese dish of shrimp tempura over a bowl of rice even won him the first place prize in an original LEGO model contest.

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Why We’re Obsessed With Tattoos, According to a Tattoo Artist

Everyone seems obsessed with tattoos these days. In fact, nearly half of millennials have them, according to a 2010 Pew Research study. What once was associated with biker gangs or punks and considered unacceptable in the workplace has now become a worldwide trend—and tattoo artist and reality TV star Megan Massacre has been a major part of this phenomenon.

An artist all her life, Massacre took up tattooing during college and has since been featured on TLC’s NY Ink and America’s Worst Tattoos. She’s since continued working at Love Hate Social Club in New York’s Lower East Side, where NY Ink took place. She’s also one of the tattoo artists showcasing her work on Tattoodo, a site co-founded by Miami Ink’s Ami James for people to read about tattoos, browse designs, and hold contests for artists to design tattoos based on users’ descriptions. Tattoodo recently launched an app that’s basically Instagram for tattoos, letting people post and search for the designs and artists they like.

While she was filming a new tattoo-related reality show in Australia, we chatted with Massacre about what’s behind the current tattoo craze, and how she became a part of it.

What was it about tattoos that first drew you in?
Massacre: The first time I actually thought about tattooing, I was in high school. A classmate came to school with a tattoo, and everybody thought it was so cool. I also thought it was so cool, but being an artist, I was like, “I could do a better job.” I was very interested in art from a young age and wanted to learn every kind of art there was. That was the first time I saw tattooing as an art form, because at that time, most people didn’t think of it that way.

Why wasn’t it recognized as an art form then?
We didn’t really think about it because of the stigma surrounding tattooing. A lot of the types of people that you saw getting tattoos were involved in gangs. There was a lot of negativity surrounding it. People thought criminals got tattooed, so I think a lot of artists shied away from it and never really looked at it from that perspective. In the past decade, you’ve seen a huge shift in tattooing to an actual art form that many artists have become interested in.

How did that shift occur?
When I first started tattooing a couple years before Miami Ink came out, it was very stigmatic still. I had a bunch of tattoos, and when I went outside, when I went grocery shopping, people would look at me weird. They wouldn’t want to walk through doors that I held. I would have people coming up to me that I didn’t know, being like, “You’re going to regret this.” Then, a couple years later, the show Miami Ink came out, and all of a sudden, people started looking at it differently and realizing we’re just normal people like everybody else. It made it sexy. It made people who weren’t interested in tattoos actually think about getting one. Also, obviously, musicians and sports players made tattoos very cool.

It also seems like online communities like Tattoodo have played a big role in popularizing tattoos. How have you used them?
Personally, as an artist, I love Instagram and all different kinds of social media. I follow tons of tattoo artists, but it’s actually hard to keep up with all the artists. If I’m looking for something in particular from a particular artist, the Tattoodo app is really nice and consolidated, and it’s constantly updating. There’s also a cool new feature where you upload a photo with information about the tattoo, you put what body part it is, and then you hashtag the style so that it’s really searchable. If I have a studio in New York and I’m looking for a black and gray artist, I can look up the hashtag #BlackAndGrayTattoo and find all the black and gray artists that are out there. I’m always traveling and working and doing all kinds of stuff, and I want to be able to access the information very easily. It helps me keep up with my own industry.

How did you first get involved with Tattoodo?
I first heard about it a couple years ago when one of the artists told me about it. It’s a community dedicated to tattooing from an artistic standpoint, whether you’re one of the artists or a tattoo collector who appreciates tattoos. A lot of it is blog-related, exploring all the different facets of the tattoo industry and new technology in the tattoo industry, talking about tattoo trends. It’s really interesting to see all of this stuff that’s relatable to the artist and the collector in one spot.

The contests for customized tattoos seem like a really cool idea.
The contests are really cool because there are so many people who want to get tattoos by some artists and it’s also pretty expensive, but the contests give people the chance to get tattoos who haven’t had a chance before. Maybe they live in a completely different country, but the contest allows you to get flown to wherever the artist is.

What is it about tattoos that makes them important to enough people to form all these communities?
It’s a way of expressing the things that you love most in life. People express themselves through color and clothing, and tattooing is just another way to customize yourself. You’re born a certain way, but as you grow older, you kind of fall into the skin that you feel comfortable in. You get to change yourself.

Do any of the tattoos you’ve created stick out as the most meaningful?
The best stories are the kinds where tragedy is overcome. They other day, I tattooed a woman who is a cancer survivor. When she got the news, it was terrible not only for her own health and safety but for the well-being of her kids. People like her wear tattoos like badges of honor. She got initials for her kids.

What advice would you give someone considering a tattoo?
There are some people who put a lot of thought into it and some people who are just on a whim like, “I’m going to a tattoo shop.” That’s cool and all, but think about it, because it’s obviously very permanent. Then, even if your tattoo gets old and doesn’t look as good as it used to, you’re still going to love it because you’re going to love what it stands for.

One Florida Artist Turns Memorial Day Into A Confederate Flag Burning Exhibit

Memorial Day, officially a day to honor Americans who died in war, has more broadly come to symbolize the unofficial start of summer. Many Americans will take a trip to the beach, barbeque or just enjoy a day off from work.

Now there is an effort to create a new tradition — burning the Confederate flag.

The movement is being led by John Sims, an artist in Sarasota, Florida. Sims started the initiative last year when he organized confederate flag burnings in 13 cities across the South.

The events were relatively small but generated fierce opposition from groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and significant media attention.

This year, Sims upped the ante. One factor that reduced participation, he says, was that many people who were interested did not want to go out and purchase a Confederate flag. This year he’s created a downloadable “Burn and Bury” kits that allows people to print out their own Confederate flag at home, suitable for burning.

Sims also broadcasted this year’s activities live online.

What gave you the idea to mark Memorial Day by burning the Confederate flag?

Well, I started working on the Confederate over 15 years ago, as an art project, first by recoloring it red, black and green for the black nationalism colors.

Then in 2004, I presented my piece, The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag, in Gettysburg. This was an installation of the flag hanging from a noose. Then in 2015, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I organized a 13-state Confederate Flag funeral across the south.

Then the Emanuel A.M.E Church shootings happened. This inspired a call for Burning and Burying the Confederate Flag on 4th July 2015.

The strong response of Burn and Bury event and the continued support for the rebel flag lead me to think about doing this as annual event.

What kind of reaction did you get to last year’s activities?

Well, we had 13 events, one for each state represented by the stars in the flag. Each event was led by a team comprised of artists, poets and activists. We had widespread media coverage, participation by artists and activists and enough counter-voices to keep things interesting.

What do you make of groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans who say it is offensive?

The Sons of Confederate Veterans have been my nemesis since the Gettysburg installation. So I expect them to be offended, the way I expect old slave masters in the 1850 were offended by the abolition movement or runaway slaves.

These groups have failed to recognized the unredeemable nature of the Confederate flag as symbol of Southern heritage. And to deny this flag’s connection to American white supremacy and fear of the loss of white privilege is insane. I challenge the Sons of Confederate Veterans to come correct and acknowledge that the Confederate flag should be retired as an artifact. And after that they should help advocate for reparations for slavery.

What are you hoping to accomplish with this year’s activity? Do you view it primarily as an artistic endeavor or do you have specific goals as an activist?

This year the work has moved more into an activist zone without losing the art dimension. While art is a very vital language in opening up the conversation, the political process and psychological/emotional transformation are where the penetrating work needs to happen.

This is why it is important to make the Burn and Bury Memorial an annual event. It is a way to ritualistically confront through reflection and catharsis, the pain and trauma of a very horrific part of American history.

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IKEA to Start Selling Limited Edition Fine Art

Swedish furniture manufacturer IKEA will reportedly be selling limited edition fine art pieces as part of its new “Art Photography” collection. A follow-up to last year’s street art range, the series will include 11 works by contemporary photographers from around the world, spanning from “the highly abstract to the figurative,” as stated by the company. Big names such as Rankin, best known for his portrait works and Dazed Magazine, and Jill Greenberg have created affordable prints that will be on display at IKEA locations for a couple weeks during the spring season starting April 4, as long as supplied last. Unlike the mass-produced photos available for purchase throughout the year, these works will be discontinued once they’re sold out.

Travel: You Can Now Rent Vincent Van Gogh’s “Bedroom” on Airbnb

The Art Institute of Chicago is currently hosting an exhibition of all three paintings that Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh made of his bedroom in Arles in the South of France; to celebrate the occasion, the Institute has recreated the Dutch master’s bedroom and put it up for rent on Airbnb.

According to the listing:

This room will make you feel like you’re living in a painting. It’s decorated in a Post-Impressionist style, reminiscent of Southern France and times gone by. Its furniture, bright colors, and artwork will give you the experience of a lifetime.

This experience can be yours for the low, low price of $10 USD per night “for no other reason than that I [Vincent] need to buy paint.” If you have $10,000 USD burning a hole in your pocket, maybe Beyoncé’s Super Bowl abode is more your style instead.

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Check out the Biggest LEGO Millennium Falcon Ever Made

LEGO and Star Wars have a unique love affair, with the Danish toymaker putting out comprehensive LEGO sets after each franchise installment that have inspired successive generations to tinker about with the vehicles and set pieces that they see on the big screen. However, nothing designed by LEGO comes close to the ardor that one particular fan — who goes by Marshal Banana — has for one particular spaceship from the series, specifically the iconic Millennium Falcon. The LEGO replica which he created from 7,500 LEGO pieces is the purest expression of his love for Star Wars, measuring at 22 pounds and three feet in length, and taking a whole year to plan and construct. The level of detail in Marshal Banana’s creation, from the guns and pipes to the lit-up engine, puts the official LEGO replicas to shame — in comparison, the standard model by LEGO consists of 1,329 pieces, while the biggest Star Wars model ever produced is the $6,000 USD Ultimate Collectors Series Falcon, which falls short at a mere 5,000 pieces. Take a look at the magnum opus above, and check out more of Marshal Banana’s work at his Flickr page.

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Chinese Artist Calls out LEGO for “Censorship and Discrimination”

Ai Weiwei has accused LEGO of “an act of censorship and discrimination” for the Danish toymaker’s refusal to accept a bulk order placed by him for the “Andy Warhol/Ai Weiwei” exhibition due to be held at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. The bulk order was intended for an installation similar to another one by the artist shown last year at San Francisco’s Alcatraz Prison, whereby thousands of LEGO pieces were used to create portraits of 175 political dissidents, including Nelson Mandela and Edward Snowden. According to Ai, LEGO refused to allow the use of its products in “any political, religious, racist, obscene or defaming statements.” Subsequently, Ai has received many offers from his supporters to supply LEGO pieces. A LEGO spokesperson would not comment directly on the case, but reiterated LEGO’s policy to avoid the use of its plastic bricks in political statements.

Ink-stagram: How Instagram Has Made Tattoo Art the New Street Style

What comes to mind when you think of tattoos? For me, it’s a sub-street-level tattoo parlor; neon lights buzzing and a feeling of comfortable uncleanliness. Dust, grime and cluttered collectibles adorn artists work spaces that remain simultaneously sterile… almost doctoral, with the kind of pristine attention to detail that adjoins a decision of permanent ink.

But in the age of Instagram, the tattoo industry is undergoing a revolution. No longer fringe fashion, #tattoos have become the plaything of celebrities, and body art influencers alike. The art from that was once confined to the backroom of a brick and mortar has become a trending topic some 25 million posts strong.

Many current tattoo artists grew up during a time when alternative forms of media, albeit relatively underground, first began to explore and propagate body artwork. “Being someone who grew up making art in an era of riot grrrl zines, it makes sense to engage in a medium that reaches further than the walls of the gallery or local tattoo studio,” says Emily North, a Brooklyn tattoo artist, curator, and social activist with over 10.5k Instagram followers.
Arguably, Instagram has become the modern day digital “zine.” With its simple platform, broad reach, and focus on relevant news, culture, and art, the simple photo app has surpassed its origin as a form of photographic braggadocio. For tattoo artists, this means that their work isn’t confined to the walls of their parlor, the skin of their customers, or the affectionate attention of a local community. Instead, tattoo artists (and their parlors) have parlayed their preexisting relationships with the art community into social media followings that grow as Instagram users become more acclimated and interested in the body art industry. From the US to the UK, Brazil to the Pacific Islands, tattoo artists and their unique works of art are celebrated and shared across time zones and cultural boundaries

“Instagram has become the primary platform to promote myself and spread awareness of my work and a window into my lifestyle,” says Luke Wessman, world famous tattoo artist, designer, and influencer. “For artists, Instagram currently is the most visible way to promote work both locally and globally and, in my opinion, has unmatched reach.” And as a result of its reach, the platform “has helped more people in remote places become tattoo fans, encouraged young people to seek out apprenticeships, and has built trends in the style of tattoo work that is popular,” says North.

But alongside the growing popularity of tattoos on social platforms, there’s a growing sentiment that the art is losing some of its unique, underground and edgy ethos. “More purist tattoo artists aren’t happy that body art has blown up,” North explains, “but I think it’s a great thing. Because tattooing is being shared outside the shop, it’s becoming accessible and familiar to a larger clientele.”

The propagation of body art by social media profiles hasn’t only increased awareness and interest, but also demonstrated the diversity of styles and abilities within the realm. Body art and tattoo artists and models not only can promote themselves and their own work, but also witness and learn from others’ profiles.

At the same time, the exposure and accessibility of body art work on a global scale presents unique challenges to both up and coming artists as well as those already established.”There are people pushing the envelope,” says Wessman, “the right tattoo posted at the right time by the right person could totally go viral…” He continues, “Having exposure to so many artists and art forms it’s hard not to be influenced; but in a way, with so much diversity at our fingertips, it’s becoming more and more difficult to have an original point of view and pressure as an artist is higher now then ever.”

But for artists whose work catches the eye of high-profile celebrities and models, that pressure can lead to professional relationships that helps them grow their personal brand. Wessman, who has worked with numerous celebrities including Jhene Aiko, Dave Navarro, Matt Dillon, and Stalley agrees. “

Working with a celebrity always impacts exposure. Our generation is so fame driven and hungry, when people see you work on or hang with “famous people”, it excites, for sure.” He continues, “I’ve known unknown and unskilled artists out there that after tattooing one celebrity, they become overnight sensations. Though, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my relationships with some influential people have helped me incrementally grow my brand.”

For Carlos Costa, a UK based model whose stylized beard and tattoo look has attracted over 130k followers on Instagram, social media has not only helped inform his own personal body art choices, but also allowed him to share his favorite artists and tattoo shops with his followers.“I know artists will gain a lot of followers when I share pictures of their work, and it works both ways. It’s normal isn’t it, you go to someone who’s a good artist, you like to get their art and there’s a mutual idea of “Yeah lets share the word.”

Costa not only refers his followers to specific artists depending on their taste, but he’s used Instagram to inspire his own tattoos. “I found the guys Volko and Simone from Buena Vista Club in Germany through social media. They do trash polka and realistic trash polka, which is what I’ve got on my right arm,” he said.

Costa isn’t the only one who is being inspired. Young people across the world are being exposed to body art with every swipe, making a once niche form of expressionist art mainstream. Perhaps its newfound popularity will take away from the occultist ethos of the body art industry. But one thing is clear: Digital innovation has spurred a changing tide, a tide where freedom of expression and the deconstruction of body-image expectations are the rule rather than the exception.

How The Food World Inspired A New Market For Art

If you’ve ever strolled past your local park, coffee shop or house of worship and noticed boxes full of heirloom carrots, beets and radishes, then you’ve likely witnessed the bounties of the CSA, otherwise known as community-supported agriculture. It’s easy to join: Members need only sign up to receive regular shares of fresh produce, straight from local farms. If you’re already a member of one, you’re probably hooked, and if you aren’t a member, chances are you’ve tried to befriend someone who is (after all, that’s a lot of potentially leftover kale we’re talking about). That’s because the benefits are universal: Farmers maintain a steady client base and can unload whatever seasonal goods they’ve harvested in a single sweep, and shareholders can bypass grocery store lines and perhaps even expand their culinary repertoire through new — and unprecedented for some — arrivals with each pickup.

Now, a group in Minnesota has decided to put a different spin on this popular food-distribution model. Only its version has little, if anything, to do with food. Organizers are calling it Community Supported Art, and it deals with artworks, not artichokes.

The 2010 launch of this alternative CSA program had two inspirations driving it: a need to connect the local arts community with people who would want to support it, and an appreciation for how the food scene was already managing a similar need. “We had the same conversation over and over again, which went something like, ‘We should do something like a CSA, we should do something like a CSA,’” says Laura Zabel, executive director for the St. Paul-based Springboard for the Arts. “Finally, it became, ‘Well, maybe we should just do that.’”

Zabel credits the traditional CSA model not only for its practical logistics, such as its self-sustaining abilities, but also for the values of connection and process it’s able to instill within a community. “It goes beyond the transaction of ‘You pay this, you get this,’” she explains. “CSAs build direct relationships between farmers and consumers, help people understand the process that goes into growing their foods and build community among the shareholders — and these are all elements that we tried to adopt.”

After the success of the first year, Springboard for the Arts wanted to help plant other CSAs from coast to coast. In 2014, the organization launched Creative Exchange, a national platform that provides a toolkit to folks interested in starting a similar CSA in their own cities. The toolkit has helped build CSAs in more than 50 cities nationwide, and this year will see an increase in that number: Iowa City, Charleston and Appleton, Wisconsin, will begin programs this fall.

While anyone can start a CSA within his or her community, Creative Exchange cautions against one person trying to carry the entire load. “It doesn’t have to be a large, complicated program, but it’s a pretty heavy lift for one person to do on their own,” says Zabel. As such, an array of art collectives, galleries and schools are often the ones to lead the cause, though a group of art-loving friends is just as encouraged to get involved.

Shareholders buy into the CSA at the beginning of a season, and several variables are left up to the community, including the number of artist-shareholder gatherings (dubbed pick-up parties), the number of featured artists and the price of a share, which depends on the market’s size and demands. As an example, what might be $300 per season for nine pieces of art in Minneapolis translates to $400 for a season of 18 artworks in Denver. “That, for me, has been one of the most exciting parts — to see an idea adapted in a way that works from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Miami, and from Brooklyn to Denver,” says Zabel. “These communities of different sizes, geographies and cultures can take the basic structure and idea and figure out how to make it authentic and meaningful for the people who live where they live.”

Still, Creative Exchange asks those looking to launch a CSA to adhere to three core values: (1) to call it Community Supported Art to help people understand what it is, (2) to use the program to build a real relationship with their local community and (3) to use the money collected to pay the artists.

Those artists and their works can vary drastically between and within cities, as well. For instance, the program run by Pittsburgh’s New Hazlett Theater is made up entirely of performance artists, so the artwork provided is all experience-based. Conversely, a program in Michigan is comprised of only craft artists. Zabel is particularly fond of the pieces that incorporate the program’s initial impetus: food. One example is the “Power to the Pollinator” prayer flags created by Minneapolis-based artist and farmer Amy Rice. “I feel like the people who bought them were already familiar with the pollinator issue,” says Rice. “Those people got to hang them in their gardens or homes, so hopefully there was some awareness that I helped with through art.”

While it’s rare that shareholders are disappointed in the artwork they receive, Creative Exchange reverts to the original model’s framework to navigate such situations. “Like community-supported agriculture, we try to set up the expectation at the beginning that this is about an experience and trying new things,” says Zabel. “It’s less about ‘this much money for this many objects’ as it is about ‘this much money for this shared, collective experience.’”

The benefits for the artists can be just as rich, thanks to an opportunity to develop long-lasting client relationships, to be unburdened by thoughts of what may or may not sell and to receive some reassurance that their work will be recognized. “As an artist, I make a lot of art, and I never really know where it’s going to end up,” says Rice. “It’s nice to go into a project knowing that it has a home.”