The Bronx’s only art supply store, Artist & Craftsman Supply, is closing it’s doors today. The sudden closing has shocked and saddened many Bronx residents. While this store is not located in my community it still effects my community.
Yesterday, I visited the store to met with Rob Dingman, the Senior Regional Manager for Artist & Craftsman Supply. We discussed how we could have kept this store open and on ways to, hopefully, help with generating enough interest to open another store within their one year goal. Many community people have expressed that the store should have been located in the Fordham or Pelham Bay area but I feel a bit differently. If the community wants something bad enough, we should be able to put it in any area. While it would be wonderful for an art supply store to come to my area, even as Dingman explained, the rent at Fordham is too high.
In speaking with artists and craft enthusiasts, I have gained insight into the complexities of this situation. Many have expressed that the location was difficult to get too with parking and it not being near a public transportation hub being major issues. Others said that buying online has become the norm due to internet stores allowing for easier access and cheaper prices on supplies. Another stated that it is difficult for art stores to succeed because Bronx artists have gotten used to not having support from outside sources and find that most stores (specifically those in Manhattan) are overpriced. Also, some stated that they have an inherent distrust in local officials; government in aiding art programs.
But there are facts that remain, we lost our only book store Barnes & Noble and now our art store. It is clear that elected officials and the government do not hold art as a high priority, only caring about it when areas of the Bronx are being gentrified. That is why I work so hard in holding community events like art classes and galleries in some of the most underserved locations. But there needs to be more of this, both in increasing art education in schools and giving local artists platforms in which to bring their art to the community.
I will continue to fight for the preservation of access to art and the support of local artists. Now is the time to focus energy in bringing more programs so that we can have classes and programs available to Bronx residents while generating funds to bring in another art supply store for the community.