by Nancy W. Goldenberg

Have an unusual scheme (or project) to promote art collecting? Crusade for Art supports inventive ideas with a yearly $10,000 grant awarding innovative models that foster demand for art, specifically photography. Innovation may be a conservative description. Last year’s winner, Matthew Conboy, sought support to encourage art collecting by giving every newborn in 2015 at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh an original, signed photograph from a local photographer. His Start with Art project estimates over 3,000 photographs to be distributed in the next year. Now that’s a lot of art collecting.  

Crusade for Art is a 501(c)3 dedicated to promoting art collecting through a number of initiatives. Founder Jennifer Schwartz recognized a need to develop creative ways to bridge the gap between the general public and artists, converting those who had a passing interest in art into collectors and developing markets for artists where they previously did not exist. Through on-line exhibitions of emerging artists, local chapters which “crusade for art,” and very creative initiatives, the organization makes inroads for artists to connect with collectors.

One such initiative is the Crusade Supported Art (CSA) program. The basis for this model came from CSAs, or community supported agriculture, normally associated with farm goods distributed to members during a growing season. CSA for photography utilizes the same model with 50 shares sold to collectors who then receive six original signed photographs. Every two months for three months (the season), collectors receive two signed photographs along with information about the emerging artists who created the work and what the work means to them. This information contextualizes the works and encourages collectors to understand the art in a deeper, more intimate manner.

Crusade for Art’s ideas and projects push the boundaries of the status quo, and its grant program is no exception. Projects considered for grants can be controversial. An informal survey of individuals who attended Jennifer Schwartz’s presentation at the recent Society for Photographic Education conference in New Orleans called last year’s grant finalists names ranging from random to interesting, and one individual even weighed in with inspiring. Despite the range of opinions, the opportunity generates a great deal of interest and ideas. There is a need for artists to think outside the box so the art industry can create much needed demand to catch-up with an overwhelming supply of quality work. One reason for the Crusade for Art grant is for it to act as a mechanism to encourage this type of thoughtful creativity.

Crusade for Art is looking for that one “wild and crazy idea” to spark the public’s interest in art collecting. If you think you have the one, the application deadline is April 17th and guidelines are available here