Anyone who has a vice knows how expensive it can become, due in part to a sumptuary tax, or sin tax, that is added to the price of such goods as alcohol or tobacco. The money generated typically goes to fund projects like roads or healthcare initiatives. Two Atlanta artists, poet and performance artist Maggie Ginestra and artist Michael Stasny, have decided that this model—in the form of a donation, instead of a tax—could be used to fund artists’ projects they believe in.
In an experiential project titled Sumptuary, Ginestra and Stasny have curated a five-week-long series of 35 installations, performances, and events that will take place at Mint Gallery beginning March 20. Donations will be accepted for snacks and beverages, and the money collected will be redistributed to the artists. Visitors will be encouraged to “sin” with cocktails provided by sponsors Cathead Vodka and Richland Rum, as well as snacks from Chocolate South, Something in Particular, and Many Fold Farm.
“We are simply performing a financial mechanism as a commissioning technique for non-commodifiable art projects,” Ginestra says. At many gallery openings, patrons donate or tip for drinks, but many people don’t know how this small gesture also supports the gallery and by extension the artists. “We are highlighting that transaction and we are using it in a specific, articulated way. The donations usually go to the gallery. Here it is for the artists.”
Stasny says, “We don’t want to be heavy-handed, but let’s start thinking about this as an economic model and highlight the fact that this is really the way (the gallery) works.”
While still living in Saint Louis, where Ginestra ran a chapbook shop, the couple says that they had wanted to open a bar with an attached gallery. The couple moved to Atlanta when Ginestra became creative director at WonderRoot, a position she held until last year.
For Ginestra and Stasny, Sumptuary is a means to support projects that cannot easily be monetized. “We want artists to get what they are worth, but at this point it’s all hypothetical,” Stasny says. How much each artist will earn is based on attendance and the duration of their contribution in the gallery, “Fees are based on each task, not on the name brand of the artist. All of the artists know this is a speculative thing.”
Sumptuary will be open Thursday through Sunday, kicking off each Thursday with new installations by, consecutively, Marcia Vaitsman, Jonathan Bouknight, Joseph Bolstad, Elwen Hau and Stasny, who will each occupy the space for one week. First up is Vaitsman, who is creating a playground including swings, balls, and a crawling tube. Bolstad’s To Hell in a Handbasket combines a lighting installation, images, and sound. Bouknight’s installation, The Association of 4 Objects Through Documented Action, is a performance-based video that explores the connection between object and self by spontaneously altering the surrounding space over the duration of the exhibition. For In Situ, Hau will install geometric wood shapes that dancer and choreographer Helen Hale will interact with on April 10-11. Stasny will wrap up the series with You Killed My Son. Now, I Will Kill Your Sun, consisting of numerous of his signature sculptural figures cobbled together from various materials and objects.
In addition to the rotating projects, several works will be present through the duration, such as a bar created by artist Justin Rabideau, cocktail napkins bearing a photogram by Jill Frank, and a bathroom installation by Wret Rausaw. David Sturgis will be performing a “Sideways Sermon” each Sunday, accompanied by brunch from the Good Food Truck. Art critic Cinque Hicks will DJ on April 5 and Dashboard Co-op’s Beth Malone on April 18. There will also be curated presentations of YouTube videos by Kristin Juarez, Andy Imm, Michi Meko, and the Art Officials.
“It’s a more is more type of thing,” Stasny says. “We want people to regularly go to the galley to experience the work and the things that take place in a gallery. It’s a cross between art and pure entertainment, between going to a bar and going to a gallery, he says. “It’s the art version of Cheers.
Sumptuary is at MINT Gallery March 20–April 21. For more information, go to sumptuaryarts.com.