Subscription delivers unique art for cheap
// Victoria Fawkes

Students have notoriously empty living spaces, and even emptier bank accounts.

But nowadays, there are tons of option that can banish your bare walls and leave you with delightfully decorated digs. Beyond posters and magazine clippings, one such option is Montreal-based Papirmasse, a website where you can subscribe to a monthly delivery of art prints in the mail for exactly $5 a month.

Papirmasse was founded by artist Kristen McCRea in 2008. After graduating from art school in Montreal, McCrea found herself surrounded by beautiful, inspiring, and most of all, expensive pieces of art everywhere she looked. “I was freshly out of art school and working at a restaurant. I was really taken with the beautiful prints on the walls, but they were $2,000 each,” says McCrea. “I thought, ‘I can’t even afford to eat in this fancy restaurant I work in, let alone buy any art in it’,” she remembers.

From this revelation, McCrea realized that it was her duty to make art accessible to as many people as possible. “I wanted to start something that makes contemporary art available to anyone who wants it,” she says.

Papirmasse especially provides an avenue for emerging artists to share their work on a larger scale: any artist may submit their application through the website. “It’s been a great way for people to connect with the Canadian art scene,” says McCrea. From graffiti-inspired prints to beautiful landscapes, it’s clear that one of the most unique things about Papirmasse is the different genres of art offered. “There’s such a range of artwork in Canada, so we try to switch it up from one month to the next to give people a taste of everything,” explains McCrea.

While the majority of artists featured are Canadian, Papirmasse’s variety has expanded past those borders. Papirmasse has featured international artists that specialize in everything from digital media, to photography, to collage. Each featured artist contributes his or her original work to be printed by Papirmasse, which is then distributed monthly to 700 subscribers in over 20 countries, making it a truly international project.

McCrea also has unexpected feelings on her subscribers’ opinions of the art they receive: “I want people to get one piece of art that they absolutely love, and one that they absolutely hate. That way, they’re getting variety,” she said.

In addition to the printed image on the front, subscribers receive a written feature on the back. Whether a poem or prose, each featured print comes complete with an original message from a writer who also must apply in order to have their work published. By combining a printed image and a piece of writing, Paprimasse shows its commitment to offering their subscribers every kind of art, whether visual or written. “I think the best thing is that it’s a great way to engage in contemporary art on a regular basis,” said McCrea.

 Papirmasse is not the only project that aims to provide art on a more accessible level. The Cheaper Show is a one-night-only, annual Vancouver art show where everything is just that: cheaper. Like Papirmasse, the Cheaper Show aims for variety with 400 curated pieces from 200 international artists, all fixed at a price point of $200. The Cheaper Show provides an avenue for both known and unknown artists to showcase their art alongside each other and to gain connections within the local art community.

Papirmasse can be similarly advantageous for the artist. “[It] is great exposure for everyone, both for artists and those interested in art,” says Victoria Wiercinski, Papirmasses’s featured artist for December 2011. In the very last month of 2011, Wiercinski’s “Folk Flowers” poster design was chosen as Papirmasse’s featured print. Wiercinski’s Polish folk art print was inspired by her own heritage. “I’m Polish by heritage. I lust after Polish food and love Polish traditions, so it’s a part of me culturally,” she says.

When describing what Papirmasse does for the subscriber, Wiercinski is enthusiastic: “It’s such a great idea, everyone needs to have artwork in their house!” She highlights the fact that prints are not always so cheap. “I think that quality original illustrations tend to cost money, so it’s great that Papirmasse creates prints that everyone can afford.”

Wiercinski can sum up her feelings towards Papirmasse easily: “With Papirmasse, you get joy in the mail every single month!”

//Victoria Fawkes, writer
//Graphics by Karen Picketts

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