Artistic expression is an expense still worth bearing

Of all the challenges facing today’s young, aspiring artists, the financial burden that comes with buying supplies may be one of the toughest to overcome.

School started last week and by now, a swarm of new, emerging artists have found their way into Philadelphia. Whether at an institute that solely provides a fine arts education or a university that also offers general liberal arts courses, student artists all have one thing in common: They are expected to buy a ton of art supplies in a short amount of time, and art supplies don’t come cheap.Picture 4

If you are one of these artistic newbies to Philadelphia, I’d like to congratulate you on finding yourself in a city that supports artists of all genres and mediums with great passion. I hate to break to you, however, that art supplies in this city can be very expensive.

Philadelphia, along with is its support for you emerging and returning artists, offers a number of art store options. You just have to know where to look.

The three biggest names for art supplies in Philadelphia are Utrecht Art Supply, Dick Blick Art Materials and Pearl Art and Craft Supplies. During my time here, I’ve come to find an artist will usually get the feel for one store and stick with it, but the great thing about all three stores is student artists get awesome discounts – with each store providing a student discount card that gets you 10 to 15 percent off each purchase.

Even with the discounts and the great sales each art venue offers, you’ll want to brace yourself for the money you’re going to spend for your artistic endeavors.

Don’t be surprised when you’re dropping more than $300 a trip at the art store. Don’t be surprised if your parents cry over your bill. Oh, and don’t be surprised if the bank even decides to put a hold on your debit card, citing a “suspicious transaction.” I’m not kidding.

A friend of mine experienced it this week as she was buying paints and was forced to call the bank, going through a lengthy process before she could purchase her supplies. Just to be on the safe side, it may be wise to have your bank’s customer service number as well as your bank account information on hand when you go out for supplies.

Unfortunately, there’s really no way around paying a crazy amount for supplies, but once you’ve found the store that’s right for you, it becomes easier to manage your art expenses.

Pearl Art and Craft Supplies is located at Fourth and South streets. Although it’s the farthest art supply store from Main Campus, when it comes to some supplies, you can find great deals there.

Utrecht and Blick are both located in Center City, providing a more convenient location for most Temple art students.

There are two Utrecht Art Supply stores, one on Chestnut Street and the other at Broad and Spruce streets. The store’s store-brand items, which are lower in price, are just as good – if not better – than some art supplies stores that advertise big brand names. Overall, Utrecht offers the artist a better deal on quality supplies.

Blick is the city’s newest art store and is larger in size than the other two “big names,” and provides a wider variety of prices and brands.

As you’re assigned individual projects, you’ll realize you may need to explore other venue options, but again, you’re in luck – at least in terms of selection.

Fashion and fabrics supplies and even metal and jewelry materials have their own rows within Philadelphia that cater to the artist and his or her medium. These specialized areas of the city help provide some relief to the crazy amounts spent before on art necessities.

Fabric Row, along Fourth Street just a few blocks from South Street, includes a number of cheap fabric stores, many with trashcans full of old rolls of fabric that they’ll sell for $10 or less. You can get a yard of quality fabric at anywhere from $6 to $8 in most of the shops as well.

Jewelers’ Row, along Sansom Street, also offers some great deals on metal, gems and jewelry clasps.
As an artist, there are going to be points where you feel “starved,”  but little things like discount cards, specialized areas of the city and knowing more than one art store so you can at least compare prices can really help. It’s crucial to survive these expenses in order for you to create your masterpieces. And you will survive. Just take the time to seek out the bargains throughout the city.

Nicole Welk can be reached at nicole.welk@temple.edu.

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