In California, Pot Is Now an Art Patron
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In California, Pot Is Now an Art Patron
Posted by CN Staff on October 11, 2010 at 16:34:47 PT
By Randy Kennedy
Source: New York Times
Santa Rosa, Calif. -- Nonprofit arts groups tend to spend much of their time scrounging for grants and praying for corporate largesse. But one art foundation taking shape on 120 acres in the high oak chaparral of Sonoma County has different kinds of worries these days: spider mites, bud rot and the occasional low-flying surveillance visit from the local Sheriff’s Office.This is because the foundation, called Life Is Art, recently began to reap a new kind of financing, in the form of tall, happy-looking marijuana plants. Late this month, with some help from the sale of its first small crop, grown under California’s liberal medical marijuana laws, the group plans to present an inaugural exhibition on its land, of sculpture and installation work by more than 20 visiting artists — some of whom will have helped bring in the harvest. 
The foundation’s hope is that income from succeeding crops will fully support such projects, in perpetuity, creating a kind of Marfa-meets-ganja art retreat north of San Francisco and a new economic engine for art philanthropy.At a going wholesale rate of $200 or more an ounce in the Bay Area for high-quality medical marijuana, it’s a lot simpler than raising money the traditional way, the project’s organizers point out. And — except for the nagging fact that selling marijuana remains a crime under federal law — it even feels more honest to the people behind Life Is Art. They see it as a way of supporting the cause with physical labor and the fruits of the land instead of the wheedling of donors, an especially appealing prospect in an economy where raising money has become more difficult than ever.“The whole game of finding support just started to seem so childish,” said Kirsha Kaechele, the foundation’s director, as she hauled a plastic tub of freshly harvested cannabis hybrid branches up a hill one morning recently on her rolling land just outside of Santa Rosa. “So I decided to grow up and became a marijuana farmer.”In California, where voters will consider a ballot initiative in November that would make theirs the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use — and where some growers are already donating portions of their proceeds to nonprofit causes like AIDS charities — the idea of putting pot to work for the arts seems to be spreading.Artists Collective, a two-year-old medical marijuana service in Los Angeles formed with the idea of directing a large share of its income to the creative world, gave away its first chunk of money in August, to the winner of a national short-story contest it sponsored, judged by the novelist Neal Pollack. The initial prize was just $1,000, but Dann Halem, the collective’s founder and director, said the goal of the nonprofit organization was to become as effective and well known as Newman’s Own, Paul Newman’s food-based charity, which he cited as an inspiration.“Hopefully in the long run this is something that will be able to give millions and millions to the arts,” he said.Ms. Kaechele (pronounced KEH-shell-uh), 34, has spent the last decade directing public art projects in New Orleans. But after Hurricane Katrina and the recession, her operation was on the brink of collapse. That is when she started to think about the money-making possibilities of the rural land in Sonoma that she and her business partner, Jaohn Orgon, had bought six years earlier.“Everyone who knew that I had land in California just assumed I was growing pot on it,” she said, “which is kind of funny, and I’d tell them I wasn’t.”But after a conversation with the Brooklyn artist Fred Tomaselli, whose psychedelic art is sometimes made with marijuana leaves, she started to think seriously about the idea. She formed a California nonprofit called American Medicinals. (Growers in the state tend to operate as nonprofit or not-for-profit organizations.) Through Craigslist she found a veteran California growing expert whose long involvement in marijuana cultivation during the years when it was completely illegal had left him perpetually wary, prompting a strange series of initial e-mails in which he referred only to his expertise in growing goji berries.Now, six months after planting the crop from seed — a mix of two varieties, O.G. Kush and Cherry Pie, grown in two small outdoor plots and one indoor space — she and a handful of artists who will be making work for the show have been harvesting the plants and hanging them upside down on wires to dry in the barn that serves as the group’s headquarters and makeshift studio space. They sold their first dried and cured buds to medical users in the first week of October.They are loath to provide details about how much marijuana they hope to produce with the first harvest — plant limits vary from county to county, and they worry about how the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, which made an unannounced visit by helicopter in September, interprets the limits there. But their goal for next year’s crop is to generate $1 million after expenses to be used for art projects on the farm and to send back to support their programs in New Orleans, which they hope will ultimately be financed entirely by the farm.“We think it’s a completely realistic number,” Ms. Kaechele said.For the moment, though, the Sonoma wing of the foundation is still in its infancy and feels like a combination of Yaddo, a hip organic farm and a very laid-back commune (but with little smoking of the funds going on, at least in a reporter’s presence). Ms. Kaechele eventually wants to be able to set up artists’ residencies, to commission pieces from emerging and established artists and to pay for works that would remain permanently on the land, as Donald Judd’s do in Marfa, Tex., at the Chinati Foundation.While the debate about marijuana legalization has focused on its potential dangers, its mainstream benefits are starting to get more attention: higher tax income, struggling newspapers buoyed by marijuana ads. In California the potential for recreational legalization in November worries many medical growers like Mr. Halem of Artists Collective, who fear that the change would bring in corporate interests, cause prices to fall and push out growers with charitable aims.Ms. Kaechele and the young artists whose work will appear in the first exhibition, opening to the public on Oct. 22, seem overjoyed with the way things are working out so far, but not everyone shares the sentiment. A couple who live on a property adjacent to the farm, Steve and Catherine Matuszak, only recently learned of the growing operation nearby and said they were worried about increased traffic up the winding mountain roads and even more about the potential for thieves.“We don’t have concerns with them as individuals, really,” Ms. Matuszak, a dental hygienist, said of the new art-farm neighbors. “It’s just the situation that’s developing that worries us.”Ms. Kaechele said she wanted to work hard to win her neighbors over, and she even has an idea for dealing with the drug-crime concerns (another completely new kind of worry for a public-art organizer): She will ask artists to come up with proposals for alarms and security devices that will double as art installations on the land.“We see it as a set of curatorial problems for us to respond to,” she said.A version of this article appeared in print on October 12, 2010, on page C5 of the National edition.Source: New York Times (NY)Author:  Randy KennedyPublished: October 11, 2010Copyright: 2010 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite:  -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on October 13, 2010 at 05:24:39 PT
Paint with Light
I hope your sales pick up. These are tough times for everyone. When we listed our house and apartment for sale no one could get a loan that wanted to buy it. We had it on the market for a year. We had no choice but to rent them. I got so many calls in a couple of days I was overwhelmed. People are losing their homes or their landlord is losing the home people are renting. We'll all make it thru and be stronger on the other side like people who went thru the big downturn in the 70s are stronger from that experience.
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Comment #11 posted by Paint with light on October 12, 2010 at 21:34:45 PT
FoM comment #6
Thanks for the suggestion.My ideal job would be to take pictures and write.I have wanted to do a site similar to the one in the link for quite awhile.I've got a picture of the good old Colombian Gold that makes you almost smell the flowery smell and taste the sweetness.Sorry, I think I just drooled remembering those days.400.00 a pound was great also.I would like to have some images for sale and I would also like to have a section for images and graphics I have created on the cannabis movement and let people download them for free as long as they promise to use them for our cause.I believe in sharing our talents for free when possible.I have just been very disappointed in my online sales from my other two sites.One site has just been up for a couple of months and the other is the site you have visited.My older site just exceeded 1000 visits in a month for the first time since I created it.If you enter my real name plus photography in google, I usually come up in the first results.1000 visits and zero sales is not too encouraging. Most people had rather come to me directly or see me at shows.I'm not too good at marketing.Legal like alcohol.
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Comment #10 posted by Paint with light on October 12, 2010 at 21:08:41 PT
Dr. D comment #4
During one summer I needed to buy some new equipment and I took a job painting houses in Nashville.I enjoyed it a lot but I was too slow because I did not want to have any flaws in my work. A lot of times we had to get in and out quick to make money.I was fine working up to two stories on a ladder but I discovered one day in Green Hills that my limit is three stories. I just didn't feel comfortable that high up.Someday you will be able to return to your love. I admire you for doing what you need to do in the meantime.If you still live in Kentucky you need to go to Goose on the Lake near Allegre Kentucky. It is a cannabis friendly event with a good vibe. Goose Creek Symphony plays host each year.Legal like alcohol.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on October 12, 2010 at 10:37:18 PT
Thank you for the link. I hope they get it all figured out in Michigan.
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Comment #8 posted by afterburner on October 12, 2010 at 10:18:21 PT
check out the comments
Michigan's Medical marijuana law doesn't serve anyone well need this kind of discourse to vote intelligently.
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Comment #7 posted by Had Enough on October 12, 2010 at 10:14:29 PT
All is cool...This is a very special place we have here...“ "Prohibition is one of the outstanding wrongs that needs correcting.””Many people feel the same...And that is what we will do...With help from many...Keep your eye on the prize...I feel very frustrated from time to time along with others. The injustice of it all gets really hard to handle at times.Lost income...Propaganda outlets posing as news media...Governmental laws and politicians gone wild and all that comes with it...International banksters and insurance extortionists run-amuck...etc...Then add to the mix the apathetic populace. Frustrating to say the least!!! All this will have to come to a halt sooner or later...It can’t continue on and on. Nature always, and I mean always, has a way of correcting itself.Equal with Lettuce, Tomatoes, & Cucumbers, sprinkled with Oregano and Olive Oil.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on October 12, 2010 at 07:47:53 PT
Paint with Light
That just did a great piece on photography of cannabis on CNN. Maybe you should think about doing something like this man did. The pictures are beautiful.Pictures of Cannabis:
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on October 12, 2010 at 05:57:36 PT
Paint with light
I hope your work picks up. In this economy necessities are what people focus on. It's hard to make ends meet for everyone these days. I don't really mind these times too much though. I believe we get stronger during hard times. My husband grossed over 6 figures the year before he had his heart attack while doing a stress test at the VA Hospital and then we didn't have any income for over a year. We are making it and he is still alive and that is what is important to me.You're welcome. 
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Comment #4 posted by DrDunkleosteus on October 12, 2010 at 01:03:27 PT:
Paint With Light
I feel your frustration. I too am an artist who has had to suspend his passion in order to get by. I graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in Art Studio, emphasis in print-making (japanese wood-block, plate etching, and lino-cut) and I'm currently working as a handyman at my father's apartment complexes. I get to work with my hands doing carpentry, painting, tile, electrical, flooring, plumbing, etc... which I do enjoy and take pride in. My dad says my art background gives me a good eye for detail and good craftsmanship skills... but I wish I could devote my time and energy to my art. I long for another quiet evening with my wood-engraving tools, a fresh board, a pencil, some sharpies, and a packed bowl. Perhaps that life will return soon...
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Comment #3 posted by Paint with light on October 11, 2010 at 21:54:31 PT
Maybe there shouldn't be a period at the end
I will try to post the link from comment 1 again. about that.
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Comment #2 posted by Paint with light on October 11, 2010 at 21:45:26 PT
Had Enough and FoM
I took a deep breath and counted to a couple of million, figuratively speaking.I actually considered staying away for good but decided to check in.I have probably been devoting too much time to our cause but I can't help it.Prohibition is one of the outstanding wrongs that needs correcting.Thanks for the advise from both of you.Legal like alcohol....almost.
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Comment #1 posted by Paint with light on October 11, 2010 at 21:38:16 PT
One of the hardest hit areas of the economy has been the arts.Last year was the first time I lost money in almost thirty years of being an artist.Maybe I have hung on for too long but it is more than a job, it is what I am.I will find out this coming weekend if things have improved.One of the directors of the state arts agency in Alabama is covering my booth fee for the upcoming show because she heard I would not be able to attend unless someone helped.She is accepting some of my work in trade.We get by with a little help from our friends.The show this weekend, like alcohol.
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