WonderRoot proves CSAs aren’t just for vegetables anymore

Instead of agriculture, subscriptions support ”community-supported art”
Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

For now, WonderRoot is headquartered in a charmingly shabby bungalow on a gritty stretch of Memorial Drive. But never mind the urban setting; this ten-year-old community arts organization has taken a cue from farmers. Subscribers to community-supported agriculture (or CSA) programs pay growers a fee at the start of the season in exchange for baskets of locally harvested bounty. Four seasons ago, WonderRoot launched its own CSA—“community-supported art.”

Here’s how it works: WonderRoot issues a call for six emerging or midcareer artists working in diverse media—past participants include photographer Julie Sims and illustrator and tattooist Daniel Flores. A selection committee vets applicants (artists specializing in small-scale pieces or limited-edition series are often good fits). Then WonderRoot sells shares (the present season rate is $400), each of which buys six original works. Half of the subscription income goes to the artists; the rest funds WonderRoot programming.

For shareholders, the payoff comes with “pickup parties” held at galleries and music venues, where they select pieces and meet the artists. “If the agricultural model were a dinner where you break bread, [parties are] the art equivalent,” says program manager Jennifer Lobsenz.

The CSA jibes with WonderRoot’s goals since its founding a decade ago: to connect Atlanta artists to the community at large and inspire social change. The nonprofit funds a yearlong fellowship for artists; publishes Loose Change literary magazine; hosts art programs for kids; stages outdoor exhibitions; and runs other initiatives, such as a public art project on University Avenue.

WonderRoot has inked a ten-year lease to take over Tech High School, an abandoned but architecturally significant property, with hopes of opening an eight-acre campus in 2015. In addition to studios and performance venues for WonderRoot programs, there will be space for other nonprofits and creative businesses.

Support Your Local Artist
Shares for WonderRoot’s fifth CSA season go on sale in late November, with art pick-up parties beginning in January. wonderroot.org/csa

This article originally appeared in our November 2014 issue under the headline “Art Locavores.”