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From CSA to CSArts; NACL deepens its roots by reaching out

Tannis Kowalchuk recently resumed stilt-walking, seven months after suffering her stroke. Here, she strolls on stilts down River Road in Barryville, NY during a festival several years ago.

April 13, 2012

A tried and true practice that has sustained many farms and the communities they serve is being creatively applied to a respected regional theatre. Having experienced the transformative power of community through the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at Willow Wisp Farm in Damascus, PA, Tannis Kowalchuk, who assists husband Greg Swartz in operating the farm, began to see possibilities for a similar initiative at NACL Theatre in Highland Lake, where co-founder Kowalchuk is artistic director.

Now in its 12th season of innovative contemporary performance, film, music and art, NACL is bringing its homegrown product to the localvore movement through CSArts, based on the model of a farm CSA. A person or family would buy a share in the theatre at the beginning of the season and, as an invested member, reap the benefit of local arts produce.

The concept for CSArts was articulated by NACL associate artist Brett Keyser and evolved with the help of NACL supporter Sue Currier, who is also executive director of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy (DHC), a regional land trust.
Currier, a member of the farm CSA, reached out to Kowalchuk following a stroke suffered by the artist in August 2011.

The pair moved forward with the concept as Currier began working with NACL staff and board members to help them through a strategic planning process, to formalize their board structure and to put guidelines in place that will make it easier for more people to get involved.

“Sometimes it takes someone with a different perspective, a different set of skills, to help chart the next steps forward,” said Currier, who recently guided the DHC through a similar process.

“I’ve been fortunate to have developed some core skills related to general business and non-profit management, such as strategic planning, visioning, fundraising, educational outreach and governance,” explained Currier. “I absolutely love the opportunity to share these skills to help others.”

“We needed to change things, to grow, to re-formulate,” added Kowalchuk. “Sue’s been helping us develop a plan for sustainability and success.” Currier is helping NACL to define its role in the community and focus on how to keep the conversation going between shows. “One way is by becoming a CSArts member,” said Kowalchuk. “Just like at the farm pickups, people will be invited to see the work, enjoy the food and hang out, make time to gather, have a conversation and a shared experience around art.”