Local visual artist Kim Bishop's first show was in Austin when she was nine years old. Her parents were young writers and civil rights activists raising a child in the 60s and 70s.
"They were hippies," Bishop said candidly. "We would make things and sell them on the drag (as vendors) ... that's when I really started."
Like the work of a majority of artists, her art is an expression of personal experiences. Though she's had many since her childhood in Austin, she said, much of her work is inspired by that time and "what it felt like to be a kid in this chaotic civil rights period ... I was growing up with these college kids that were growing up (themselves), too."
While the environment was creatively and emotionally nurturing, she said, it was different from her peers. At times she craved structure and normalcy.
"My step father was a Black Panther," she said. "And bi-racial marriages were not popular at the time."
Now – like so many professional artists – Bishop is a creative vampire of sorts; balancing her artistic career and her "day gig" teaching at Brackenridge High School.
"By day I teach art, by night I make art."
She lives in her studio and her work can be found at 3rd Space Art Gallery behind the Gallista Gallery on South Flores. Galleries in the Lone Star/South Flores Arts District celebrate Second Saturdays every month with exhibit openings and sales – including this week, Oct. 12.
Bishop and her husband Luis Valderas are two of nine artists participating in the Geekdom startup Arts Mall San Antonio's first round of Community Supported Art (CSA), a project that plays off the idea of community-supported agriculture – when local farmers pool together resources to deliver a variety of fresh produce to customers on a weekly or monthly basis.
Instead of a basket of local eggs, rhubarb, and artichokes, those that buy into this CSA will receive a fresh and varied batch of local art complete with an interactive "iBook" introducing the artists and further connecting the buyer to the work. The digital book, also available in PDF, includes interviews with the artists, panoramic views of their studios, and videos.
So you'll also get the story behind the artist, like Bishop's. The series she's entered into CSA is based on a recent concept she stumbled upon while trying to visit a state park on the outskirts of San Antonio.
"On The Rim" is a series of house motifs based on the "cookie cutter" suburbia she encountered on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone instead of the wilderness she'd sought.
"Though they look the same on the outside, what's going on inside them is completely different," Bishop said of the series, which also tells a story of the lost wilderness contained in these houses.
"I think when you feel a connection with someone, you're more inclined to like and understand their work," said Art Mall/CSA founder Kelly Schaub. "There’s more than just the artwork, there’s a person behind it and a story.”
The art world can be an intimidating and expense world to break into, Schaub said, the goal of Arts Mall and projects like CSA is to "create a community of business-savvy artists and arts-savvy consumers."
"It's the opposite of going to Target or Pier One and buying stock art," Schaub said. "It's not just buying art and hanging it on your wall – it's more interactive with the community ... and it's a way to begin a collection of local art."
The package of nine original pieces does come at a price: $350. Considering that one of Bishop's pen and ink pieces would normally go for that price at a gallery, it's a pretty good deal. Creating 50 pieces in this series for about 4-5 hours a piece, "I did the math and I'm making less than minimum wage from 1971," Bishop laughs. "But (CSA) is worth it to me because of the connections you can make."
The pieces are relatively small, about two by two feet in order to fit into the delivery box, but mediums include collages, photography, T-shirts, water colors, three-dimensional work, and even one EP with six original tracks. A sampling of the artists' work can be found at www.csa-sanantonio.com and on Arts Mall Production's Facebook page.
The real value of the project to the buyers, Bishop said, is the connection to the local art community and "having something that's original – no one else will have that piece."
One of the first CSA customers was Bill Badger, who is "not the classically creative artsy guy," he said.
Badger works in construction management and said most people in "his world" have a hard time breaking into the local arts scene.
"I like local art particularly .. fine art in general – but I like meeting the artist and hearing their creative vision and talking with them," Badger said. "That's an extremely appealing piece of CSA."
CSA hosted a meet and greet between artists and potential buyers at Geekdom in August and plans to do so each year when a new batch of CSA artists are announced.
"There is this incredible explosion of creativity that's going on in San Antonio – let's go see what somebody is making right now. Let's watch the creative process," he said of convincing fellow "non-artsy" friends to join in on the local arts scene. He's created a popular Meetup.com group connecting folks who wouldn't usually attend gallery openings and art events to the local art community. He's hosted more than 110 artistic outings so far.
Schuab hopes CSA will reach people looking to start a collection and those seeking to enhance an existing one.
"It's a sampling of what San Antonio has to offer," she said. "We didn't want all of the same thing so (the featured artists) are not all painters, not all modern, not all realism ... you may not like all nine pieces or would by them if you saw them (in a gallery), but it's an adventure."
Arts Mall is a startup made up of Schaub, a cluttered desk at Geekdom and the connections she's made with the local arts community. Schaub is from Minneapolis where she worked in arts management and administration for more than twenty years. She's been visiting San Antonio for about the same amount of time and finally moved here two years ago. Arts Mall operates on member fees for workshops and consultations.
Arts Mall also hosts monthly free San Antonio Social Media Arts Round Table Sessions (SA Smarts) for artists and organizations to share their experiences with social media marketing and gain new strategies.
Working out of Geekdom has been an interesting experiment, Schaub said. While most of the startups are technology-based, she's met and collaborated with people that a typical arts organization wouldn't usually approach. She's become close with her startup comrades in the co-working space and it's become more than an office, she said. "It's a support network – there's probably nothing we wouldn't do for each other."
As a serial Awesome SA grant applicant, Schaub is determined to get these batches of local art into the community once all the packages are sold, which – if all goes as planned – will deployed before the end of the year.
Rivard Report readers can receive $50 off the purchase of a CSA by following this link: www.csa-sanantonio.