Nicholas Weist watched arts institution after institution collapse in the aftermath of 2008′s financial meltdown and, like many others, decided the top-down funding model is fundamentally flawed. He wanted a way to help artists and motivate and encourage art making, but knew most who would support such an idea were struggling financially themselves. Over the past year, he set up the Shandaken Project, a completely free artist residency in a big house on 250 acres in Shandaken, New York, near the Catskills.

The Shandaken Project was built on the model of a CSA. That is, one buys a share of the residency by donating a small amount periodically in exchange for rewards like commissioned artwork. As the website lays out, “The project aims for a high degree of sustainability by remaining intentionally small-scale and focusing fundraising efforts on low monthly donations with high-value rewards.”

Artists-in-residence will be responsible for a work requirement of three to ten hours a week, (largely work in the vegetable garden on the site), and a “nominal cleaning fee,” but aside from that, the residency is completely free. Up until very recently, every single cost had been taken care of by private donations.

The Shandaken Project is now trying to raise funds through Kickstarter to complete construction on the three mobile studio spaces designed by artist and member Kant Smith. The blueprints will be made public after fundraising efforts are complete so that anyone can build a backyard studio.

If the Shandaken Project can succeed, it will set an awesome example for artists and other projectmakers alike. Sustainable fundraising, sustainable business. One might even call it a work of art. (Get it?)