Yoknapatawpha Arts Council launching new program connecting local artists and those who love art
By Reid Posey
Art can be a uniquely challenging business, and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council is launching a new program to help artists overcome their financial hurdles as best they can.
“We wanted to rethink how we support visual artists in the community,” Executive Director Wayne Andrews said.
To this end, the Arts Council has launched a new Community Supported Artists program, which will help connect local artists and supporters more closely than ever, while helping the artists build a sustainable channel of income that will get them from one big project to the next.
Andrews said that the Arts Council set aside funds from the grants budget and took suggestions from artists on what they could create that would provide them with ongoing revenue.
From these funds, the Arts Council has given four local artists an initial stipend with the caveat that they must create something outside of their usual bodies of work that would help explain to people what they do and would hopefully establish long-term support channels.
With these initial stipends, the selected artists have each developed smaller-scale, unique concepts that are now available for order, which will in turn help carry the artist financially to their bigger projects.
“Just like you’d buy a share of Community Supported Agriculture at your local farm, you’d buy a share of what the artist is doing to help make the big project happen,” Andrews said.
Andrews said that the Community Supported Artists program has been a learning curve for the Arts Council in many ways, including simply explaining to people what the program even entails.
The program combines influences such as other communities’ artist support models, existing programs like the farmer’s market, and crowd-funding programs such as GoFundMe or Indiegogo, to create a uniquely interconnected support network for local artists.
“Think of it as kind of micro-financing,” Andrews said.
Four unique artists
The four artists selected to participate in the program are Andi Bedsworth, Stacey Rathert, Pamela Locke and Whitney Turnipseed. Each artist offers a distinct visual arts experience, providing a diverse set of options for community investors.
Bedsworth is offering high-end felted wool Christmas stockings, which can be personalized with names.
Bedsworth is excited for the opportunity the program provides her to pursue her own product line, a plan she has been trying to realize for over a year.
“I am so excited about being a part of the CSA program as it gives me some motivation and resources as well as community support and feedback to launch a new product line of my designs,” Bedsworth said. “It is an honor and a privilege and I love that I am included with the other fabulous artists who I respect so much.”
Rathert, a sculptor, is offering several different packages, featuring different combinations of her designs, including letterpress prints, miniature cast iron pan pendant necklaces and cast iron tea cup sculptures.
Rathert views the CSA program as a way to explore her creativity and connect in new ways.
“It gives artists an opportunity to make something or hash out an idea that maybe they would not have ever created without the support of the program, through the use of seed money and the promotion efforts of the YAC,” Rathert said. “It’s also a really great way for the community to get involved in the arts in a sponsor/patron role, with the artwork being presented to them in a very familiar and approachable way.”
Locke, a watercolor painter, has created a book of watercolor projects featuring Oxford scenery, which Andrews likened to “a high-end, adult color-by-numbers.” People can buy a book and use watercolor to fill in the scenery, which Andrews believes will be an incredible opportunity to get closer to the artistic process and gain an entirely new admiration for Locke’s craft.
Locke believes that her watercolor books present a safe, low-stress outlet for people interested in learning more about her area of expertise.
“This will give less experienced artists a chance to try painting without the stress of trying to draw the scene from scratch,” Locke said. “I will be able to get the book and watercolor set printed and make the community aware of the project with the support from CSA.”
Finally, Turnipseed is producing figures based on the McCall “pattern girl” popularized in the ‘50s and ‘60s, using canvas, acrylic paint, papers and encaustic wax. Turnipseed is also offering options at additional prices to size up to a life-size figure or even to customize the figure.
Andrews said that each artist’s creations offer consumers a valuable glimpse into the artist’s creative process.
“It teaches them what really goes into a work of art,” Andrews said. “It also allows them to see with new eyes and a new perspective, but it also gets people to start building relationships with the artist.”