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Supporting your art supply dealer

20 February, 2014 (17:27) | Community

Artists will often share how easy it is to order their art materials from Amazon online, or how much better the pricing is versus their local art supply retailer. I realize that each of these things can be valid reasons for choosing one vendor over another. “After all, it doesn’t really matter who I buy these materials from, as long as they have what I need”.

I think it does matter, and having worked with hundreds of art material retailers, I’d like to share that most are in this business because they have a passion for serving artists and delight in being part of their creative community. The art supply business, just as the sales of art is not a particularly easy retailing environment. Typically you have to stock thousands of items from paints to brushes, from drawing tools to papers and all sorts of sundry items: When in fact, if you’re lucky, only about 20% of those items actually sell on a regular basis. But you still carry that esoteric color that hasn’t sold one tube in 5 years on the off chance that someone is going to need just that color to complete their work. From a business standpoint, only 7% of the population ever even enters an art supply store.

What has been constant in this industry is that many of your art supply retailers are also the center of their arts community, offering classrooms for teachers, providing information and technical advice, new products and inspiration, some providing spaces for artists to hang and sell their work and others providing that bulletin board for artist events, shows and services.

These art supply retailers provide hundreds of thousands of dollars of materials and in kind donations back to the arts community, to art groups, art organizations, schools and even support for individual artists. Support for artists doesn’t only come from brick and mortar stores, but also from some of the largest online retailers of art materials. Almost every art material dealer, large or small, realizes that their existence depends upon the health and well-being of the visual artists community. To give back is about sustainability of this very precious community.

Amazon has set its sights on being the preferred supplier of every product including art supplies, but up to this point they have provided little in return to the arts community. With all their resources, your local art retail shop has probably donated more in services and resources to the artists they serve than the entire Amazon operation. Perhaps someday, they will recognize their role as more than just merchants who only see dollar signs from their ability to service customers. Until then, I hope you continue to support those art supply dealers that are delighted to provide so much more than just the products you need to work with.

Here are just a few examples of your Art Supply Retailer supporting your arts community:

Art Supply on Main Street: (Houston) http://www.artsquarestudios.com/?page_id=19
This is Vicki Trammel and Ben Russell web site, but the even better story of their approach to their community was written in the Houston Chronicle: http://www.artsquarestudios.com/PDFs/Houston_Chronicle-October_2000.pdf

Binders Art Supply: (Atlanta) http://www.bindersart.com/blog/community-events/ Binders is a special store with a wonderful pulse on the arts community, supporting multiple events in their area. Check out their limelight gallery displaying work of local artists. http://www.bindersart.com/the-limelight-gallery

Dick Blick Art Materials: (Chicago) http://www.dickblick.com/aboutblick/blickgivesback/
Dick Blick is the largest art material retailer in the world. It is an organization that also realizes their giant responsibility to give back, supporting arts education, artist’s organization and individual artists in all their communities where they have stores but also to the greater arts community throughout the U.S.

Wet Paint: Artists’ Materials and Framing: (Minneapolis) http://info.wetpaintart.com/index.php/events/
Wet Paint is constantly offering unique free programs for artists as well as being a major contributor and supporter of organizations and exhibitions throughout the Twins City area.

These are just a few of the art supply stores that deserve your patronage. I would be so grateful if you’d share some of the stories of your local artstores and their efforts in giving back. They are important contributors to your community and by supporting them you support and strengthen your own arts community.

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Comments

Comment from Ally
Time: April 4, 2014, 7:06 am

I love Artware in Oneonta.. They helped me a lot when I was purchasing supplies for a drawing class I taught at my local library. I try to make it a priority to purchase supplies from them whenever possible.

Comment from Mark
Time: April 4, 2014, 7:58 am

We also love Artware! Not only a great shop for art supplies but wonderful folks. We often go on expeditions with our Residency Artists so they can stock up on materials. It’s also my secret place for buying wonderful creative gifts for the holidays and birthdays.

Comment from Amy Weaver
Time: April 28, 2014, 10:37 am

I agree with supporting your local art supply store. Unfortunately, my local store recently decided to focus on just framing and stopped selling art supplies. While I can by online often for less, I’m a feeler, i.e. I like to touch and feel the brushes, paper, even the tubes of paints before I buy.
I recently located another art supply store, The Starving Artist, in my region. It’s 40 miles away in Hendersonville, NC. ON my first visit, I entered and overheard a vendor talking about a introduction event for a new lines of paints. It was the rep. from Golden Paints talking about QoR watercolors. When the store person came up to me to offer assistance, she found I was a watercolorist and invited me over to meet the rep and try out the QoR colors. Not only did I like playing with the colors, the rep and the store manager solicited my thoughts on the product line and its introduction in the local community. The rep was very familiar with my local community and its art supply store situation. All this left me with a very good feeling about Golden and The Starving Artist.

Comment from Nadya
Time: June 1, 2014, 9:59 am

I SO agree! In February I took a class from a local friend who has been studying with Shiloh Sophia McCloud, & we used Golden Fluid Acrylics. I work around the corner from the Merri Artist, & dropped in to pick up a few after the class (they were on sale, I should have gotten MORE!!) …. & then a few more …
I’m taking an on-line class with Flora Aube (also using Golden Fluids), & asked one of the staff (it’s a family run business) if that qualified for the 10% discount on class materials – YES!! & I’ve gotten a couple of the Golden grab bags or sample paints.
They’re quite willing to help, or just let me stroll around and drool. I feel so blessed to have an art store in town (there have been several over the years) & their prices correspond to Dick Blick … they also have on-line ordering, so are a great option for folks who don’t have a close shop! http://www.merriartist.com

Comment from Mark
Time: June 2, 2014, 10:02 am

So glad artists understand the need to support their local stores! They are in so many towns and cities the hub for artist support. These retailers understand we all need one another to create our creative communities!

Comment from Anthony Essex
Time: June 25, 2014, 5:51 am

While I was in College I worked at a store named Salt Lake Blue. The 1st time I entered this place I was 13. It was the beginning of my lifelong addiction of collecting Art Supplies, (regardless of if I needed or even used them). It had wonderful oak display cases and paper all over so that you could try things out. It was a great environment to see friends in and get paid while helping them.
You can buy brushes over the internet but you end up sometimes with an expensive brush that has a bad tip. Colors are the same, until you dab it you can’t really see what color you will get. You also get something I miss, a Community of other Artists and a place to run into them at.
It’s the same thing with Book (& Music) Stores! When Border’s closed I felt like I had lost a friend. I wonder if Art Supply Stores would be smart to open up Coffee Houses within, (like Book Stores). It may even work better, because I think Artists need each other more than your average Book buyer needs another reader.
Without Brick and Mortar Stores, I think people will eventually turn into socially handicapped hermits. Art about Art will be all that you will see. You have to see real people and breathe the air if your Art is to have any meaning or real energy.

Comment from Mark
Time: June 25, 2014, 6:44 am

Great comments Anthony! I was just in Hyatt’s in Buffalo this week and the energy from the artists working there was so engaging and thoughtful. They’ve been supporting their art community for decades in an area that was, for many years not the best. Through community support and a good deal of hard work and smarts they’ve made this store into a real meeting place for artists. On their top floor is a Hip-Hop Dance program. So their place is truly hopping. Great family!

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