04 August 2011

[art] PDX's Original Art Media Store to Go Blick


It seems fitting that I should devote the first post here in rather a while (it's called ennui. Look it up) on the fundamental roll that a well-known local art supply titan is going through.
Art Media is going away, in a way. It is being absorbed by the national art supply retailer Dick Blick, who many artist know from thier awesome mail-order catalog. 
I hold in my hand a postcard from Art Media which gives a rough timeline (about the only firm-ish date on it is "early 2012" … do you suppose that's what the Mayan Long Count Calendar was predicting, after all?) and a particularly disappointing fact … the location at SE 82nd Avenue and King Road, in an area we used to call Clackamas but is increasingly being referred to as Happy Valley, will be closing for good.
That makes me sad. Some of my fondest art-supply-browsing memories are contained in that store. Sic transit gloria.

This is a good-news-bad-news, where-you-stand-depends-on-where-you-sit sort of thing. If you believe in and support local businesses, this is not a real good thing. Art Media is one of the longtime Portland greats. Started in a little store on SW 10th Avenue between Yamhill and Taylor, then, in the late 80s, moved over to its big anchor location on SW 9th and Yamhill. Opened a Beaverton store, then the one on SE 82nd, and for a while actually had one in Salem. Through many plays at art and one course through graphic design school, Art Media was my store.
If you know Blick Art Materials, though, this probably works out to be good news. Blick's selection is huge, and if Blick doesn't have it, then you don't probably need it. And Blick fans in the Portland area have had to do the mail order because the nearest Blick store is up Seattle way. And Blick has the reputation of being a good company to do business with. Mail order is keen, but having a store to go to is better.
If, like me, you prefer to use local merchants whenever you can, there are still options open, and they're going strong. They're not too big, not too small, and the people who own and run the place you might just find behind the counter, ringing up your sales, which is the way it should be.
  • One is the magnificent Muse Art and Design. They have just the charmingest, friendliest location, down on upper Hawthorne at about 45th, and they are in the progress of opening one in the Milepost 5 artists residence complex over on NE 82nd between Glisan and I-84. They seem upscale going in, but the prices are good and affordable, there's something there for just about everyone.
  • The other is the delightful I've Been Framed. They're located where Foster splits from Powell at SE 50th, and they have an art store experience that's something other than else. Very bohemian, very eclectic, thoroughly enjoyable. They have good prices on a lot of stuff and take on clearance lots from other places which sometimes gets you one-of-a-kind deals (I got a set of DaVinci gouache for about a third of full price once, and a big, official Bob Ross clear plexi palette for a steal). Great selection of graphite drawing materials and great paper and media selection. But it's the warm and friendly electic real-artist attitude which keeps us coming back again and again, and the wonderful and affable people.
So, you still have a local option if you'd rather. And they're going strong. So support them.
In the meantime, RIP Art Media: born 1974, merged 2011. It was a good run.


Dale said...

Interesting how it's such a small world: I was just in Art Media today to pick up a couple of paint markers, and noticed the "bought by Blick" signage. Blick means nada to me, but from what you say, it sounds like it could be worse -- it could be (for example) yet another empty storefront in downtown. May it never be that.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Yeah, it could be worse. From what I've gathered, maybe it's through its mail order catalog (which is bodacious), Blick gives good value and good service.

And, what the hey, it's time for our other local merchants to shine maybe. Well, that's what I'm all about anyhow.