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In the Big Box 

Community supported art

What if art was sold like radishes? And what if the produce market was a radical experiment in collaborative, hyper-local economics?

Community Supported Art poses both questions, and hopes the answer is "Awesome."

The newly launched Lakewood program is modeled after Community Supported Agriculture — the popular purchasing plan that guarantees buyers a share of a local farmer's crops, but not any particular product. You might get lettuce, while your neighbor gets beets. Meanwhile, your local farmer gets a guaranteed revenue flow.

Four years ago, the Community Supported Art collective in Minneapolis applied the same concept to their own artistic output. Now Julia Toke, "culture coordinator" at Lakewood's Root Café, wants to try out the model in Ohio. Her experiment begins this Thursday, July 12, at the LEAF Community bazaar at Lakewood Public Library.

"I'm not sure if it's going to work," Toke admits, "but there's a lot of interest on the artists' side ... There are so many artists in Northeast Ohio who want to be in the program. I just hope the patrons are there."

Here's how Toke envisions it will work: Eight confirmed artists — including minimalist painter Melinda Laszcynski, jeweler Kimberly Monaco, and printmaker Beth Hess — have produced ten works each for a total store of 80 items. Those items have been sorted into 16 boxes, or "shares," of five items each. Each share goes for $150; break it down into a two-piece half share for $75. Not every artist is represented in every box; Toke hopes that if buyers don't get everything they hope for, they'll trade with other patrons.

"We hope to see some bartering and hope some discussions can be had ... There are so many organic possibilities that can happen," Toke says. "Cleveland needs this. We're oversaturated with pop-up bazaars inviting patrons to artwork. We're bringing artwork to patrons."

Shares will be available for purchase on July 12 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Lakewood Public Library, 15425 Detroit Ave. Go to theroot-cafe.com, leafcommunity.org, or lakewoodalive.com for more information.

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