Tagged: cambridge

Community Supported Arts Harvest

This summer, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to teach a business basics class for a group of artists participating in a new way to create and sell artwork, Community Supported Arts. Like its inspiration, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), CSArts is a way for producers to get paid in advance for their work, and a way for consumers to get a bounty of locally-produced original artwork.  Last week, I attended the Harvest Party and picked up my bag of nine works of art.

Here’s a rundown. Be sure to visit each artist’s site for more information, and in some cases, behind-the-scenes looks at the production process. Last I heard there were just a handful of CSArt shares still available for purchase.

CSArt by Laura Quincy Jones, Emily Garfield, Robert Smyth and Jude Griffin

Clockwise from top left, a hand-washed pen-and-ink housescape by Laura Quincy Jones, a map of an imaginary place by Emily Garfield, a bird print on wood by Jude Griffin, and a letterpress broadside of a poem written and set by Robert Smyth.


An artists’ book by Cristina Hajosy, an abstract watercolor painting by Shannon Astolfi, and a plate with a hand-painted bird (after Audubon) by Eileen DeRosas.


Origami by Sok Song and a porcelain bottle by Maeve Mueller.

I have good reason to be biased, but I really think this is a fantastic program for the artists and also for the buyers. For less than I’ve often paid for a single photograph (my usual media of collection), I now have nine new works of art in several media I’ve never collected before. Aside from their origin, there’s no clear theme uniting them, but there are lots of interesting groupings and connections to be made for the inspired home curator. I know the artists better than the average buyer, but there’s enough information in the packaging and on the artists’ sites for a novice collector to learn about each piece’s creation and inspiration.

Although each artist made 50 pieces for this program, most of them have some element of individuality and all are signed and numbered. For example, each of Sok Song’s pieces has the same form, but is made of a different paper. You can see all 50 of Shannon Astolfi’s paintings on her website, and Maeve Mueller encourages her buyers to join an online community to see where the other bottles ended up.  I hope more share buyers will post photos of their artwork so I can see more of the other 49 variations. In the event of a reunion, each of Emily Garfield’s map paintings links up with the next to form a single, very long, map.

It may be hard for some to buy art in advance and pretty much sight unseen, but at this price and with this number of works, I think most would be happy with a few pieces they love, and a few they can give as gifts. Of course part of the point is that CSArt share buyers will form a connection with one or more of the artists and buy more (and more expensive) work from them in the future. I know I’ll be keeping an eye on some of these artists, and not just to see if they were listening in business class.

Now you can buy art made in Massachusetts from a CSA

There’s a new concept in buying art based on the tried and true Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model used by farms and other food producers. Community Supported Art means you pay in advance for a share and on “harvest day” you pick up a box of artwork. Like the farm-based CSA, with CSArt, you never know quite what you’ll get until you pick it up, and the artists benefit like the farmers do, with cashflow during the time they have to invest in making the art.

Supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and others, CSArt is administered by the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. Nine local artists are selected each year and tasked with producing an edition of 50 pieces for the program. Each share gets one work from each artist. This year the artists are:

I’m very lucky to be involved in the project as the teacher of a short business curriculum for artists. As such, I stress the importance of getting paid in advance whenever possible, and that’s just what a CSA program allows them to do. Here’s a clip from 2012 on the program:

CCAE CS ART from Cambridge Center for Adult Ed on Vimeo.

I urge you to check out the artists’ sites and the CSArt program in general. The CSA vegetable box usually includes something new that you don’t know what to do with but soon learn to love, I expect that a box of community supported art might just have the same delightful benefit.

Last I checked, shares were still available.

When a bus stop stops being a bus stop

You may remember back in June when I reported that the MBTA was eliminating a couple of stops on the number 1 bus line, I wondered what would happen to the space freed up. Well, I’ve been watching those stops and seen no changes. Still no parking, still marked off, still signed as bus stops.

Sign's still there Street's still marked

Until last night, when I was riding the 1 bus back from Boston and asked the driver to let me off at one of those stops. The driver – operator 67743 – told me it wasn’t a stop anymore. I pointed out that I could see the bus stop sign and even a person waiting at that stop to get on.  Since Yom Kippur was nigh, she made an exception for us.

So, MBTA or Cambridge or whoever, what’s the deal? How are passengers who are not always-internet-connected otaku like myself supposed to know this change is coming up and that it has finally actually happened? (The stop is still shown on the interactive route map on mbta.com justsayin) And, since service to that stop has in fact stopped, why is the sign still up and what’s the plan for repurposing that real estate?

Here’s what I wrote almost three months ago, emphasis added.

…what will happen to the former bus stops? Will more (metered?) parking be created? Bike parking? Ghost stops where parking is prohibited but buses never stop? Pocket parks? Time will tell. 

This is not the way I like to be right. I’d say from the position of the fire hydrant that no more than one parking spot on the Clinton Street side could be created, but that would be something. Adding bike parking or something else more interesting would be something too. Not even bothering with a sign saying that the stop is no longer a stop, that’s the worst kind of business as usual around here.

Two trucks make sweet BBQ love and settle down in Kendall square

It’s like when you see a band make it big and tell all your friends about when you saw them at some dive back in the day. Some of my favorite food trucks are spawning brick and mortar establishments. Clover already has 3 or 4 falafel-dispensing locations, Mei Mei is planning a spot in Audobon Circle, and tonight, I popped in at Bon Me’s soft opening at 1 Kendall Square.

The space seems to have been carved, perhaps literally, out of the lobby of the building that houses The Friendly Toast and West Bridge above the tomb of Think Tank, whose wifi, oddly, was still on. Four tables, eight chairs, two bars with four stools each – definitely more seating than the trucks. Bon Me blue dominates one wall and the rest of the place is chrome, slate and dark wood. The menu – and prices – look just about the same as the trucks’ perhaps with an occasional special or dessert.

I got the BBQ pork sandwich because under the benchmark rule, you have to stick with a staple, a classic, or at least something you’ve had before to properly evaluate a new place.  In honor of absent truckonaut B, I had some Thai basil lemonade, and to take back to professor M, some chocolate rice pudding to go.

No surprises, and that’s a good thing.  Maybe a little service glitch with the ticket printer down, but that’s to be expected in the first few days, that’s what a soft opening is for, after all.  The BBQ pork was zesty, the bread crusty, the carrots crunchy, the pate livery, the mayo spicy, the cilantro uppity, everything in its place and as it should be, dare I say it maybe a tiny bit better than at the truck.  This is a $6 sandwich, $8 if you somehow think you need “extra meat,” and really, I love this stuff, but I’m pretty sure you do not need extra meat.  Same price as at the truck, and you get a roof over your head and music, too.

What of this trend?  Will the trucks lose their edge when they go all conventional with seats and stuff? I’m doubtful, at least if they keep their eyes on the prize.  A small restaurant with a small menu isn’t so different from a truck, and I’m optimistic that great trucks like Bon Me and Mei Mei will be able to stay focused and creative.  All that time working out of a truck has kept them close to their customers and solidified their operational discipline, I just hope the cost structure holds up.  For once, I’m impressed with a line extension.

Meat on sticks in an urban alley at Moksa

Moksa, Cambridge’s newish “Pan-Asian Izakaya” is a welcome freshening of the Mass Ave Asian food scene. As the Izayaka label suggests, Moksa takes the drinks seriously – they have cocktails for each sign of the Chinese zodiac and each of the elements (classical four, not scientific 118) – but the food is no slouch either.

Weather permitting, I recommend the patio, a nice brick alley adjacent to the Central Square Theater.  Recently, I enjoyed a half bottle of Henri Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre.

Moksa’s food menu is a riotous array of small plates, many inspired by street food, others spinning off from classic dum sum, rice dishes and roti.  Bring lots of friends so you can try as many as possible.  I especially enjoy the Twice-Cooked Green Beans with onions and soybeans, both whole and sauced.  The beans are somehow still just crisp enough to the bite after two cookings.

Other notable dishes include the possibly hyperbolic Fried Rice with Twenty Vegetables, the sushiesque Tuna Poke with Avocado and Hearts of Palm, the border-blurring Popcorn Shrimp Roti, and an array of grilled meats on sticks, including chicken hearts, beef tongue, and smoked duck breast.  The menu changes often, so some of these might be gone for now or forever, but I’m sure something just as good will take their places