Art Material Costs

First year, intended - Graphic Design major, Rafael Caraballo, 19, looks to buy art supplies for class at The Loft on Baxter St. in Athens, Georgia on Jan. 23rd, 2015. Many students struggle to balance cost with convenience when looking to purchase materials necessary for their studies. (Photo/Gabi Rosenthal)

Over the last three years at the University, the combined value of tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students has increased by about 4.59 percent – nearly $500 – each year. This year, tuition and fees are $10,836, and don’t even get started with the out-of-state students. Inflate that with room and board, meal plans and book expenditures – it’s not financially easy being a student at UGA.

For some students, the outflow of money stops there. Other students get hit even worse.

Meet the art majors.

“You have to buy a Bristol board, a drawing board and pens and different types of paper for different types of assignments – it gets expensive,” said Brandon Pearce, a scientific illustration and art major.

At the start of each semester, art majors face the financial challenge of finding the cheapest price for the many different colors, sizes and types of materials listed on class syllabi. On average, art majors spend between $70 and $200 on supplies each semester.

For those art majors struggling with supply expenses, all hope is not lost. There are ways to cut costs for materials. 

Shop at the cheap stores.

Local art stores understand the costs for art materials and try to aid students with coupons or discounts.

The Loft Art Supplies works with the Lamar Dodd School of Art to create packets of materials particular to certain University art classes at a discounted price.

Hobby Lobby creates various coupons each week for its products. It also offers 40 percent off one item per day if ever a student suddenly needs one supply to finish a project.

“I think Hobby Lobby knows how much art materials cost and try to give you a little break,” Pearce said.

Michaels serves a similar function to Hobby Lobby by offering weekly coupons on numerous products.

“Any time that you can cut a corner, I try to… Always, always, always shop online first. They have amazing stuff on Amazon,” said Sarah Tucker, a second year French and intended-art major.

On average, students find The Loft Art Supplies to be a little pricier than larger stores such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby. More often than not, online stores such as Amazon decrease prices even lower.

Find classes with studio fees.

While it may not make sense to pay fees to cut expenses, studio fees do decrease overall expenditures for a class.

“We collect… fees so we can buy the materials in bulk and save the money,” said Chris Garvin, director at the Lamar Dodd School of Art.

Rather than each student paying for their own supplies, the University charges about $70 on average to buy required class materials in bulk and decrease the price students would typically pay.

Find alternative materials.

Sometimes, the best way to lower prices for supplies is to not buy that supply at all.

With many varieties of paper to use in different projects, letterpress and book art professor Eileen Wallace suggests using old clothes to make quality paper.

“The students could maybe get things from their house or if they went to [Athens Area Habitat for Humanity], they might be able to buy a pair of jeans and a t-shirt or something like that for maybe a couple of bucks – $5 or something – and then that can be processed in the papermaking beater,” Wallace said. “They can make maybe up to 40 or 50 sheets of paper out of that."

Drawing and painting majors are always buying linen canvas, but one alternative is to buy a less expensive cloth, such as drill cloth.

Use recycled materials.

Most art majors have one way or another to reuse old materials.

Contacting friends on social media sites for their old supplies or even finding recently trashed materials near the dumpster are both great ways to recycle resources.

“What I used to do, when I was an undergrad as a painter, you would find in the trash or in the dumpster, old window frames and you take the glass out. Then, you buy lattice at the hardware store and put that around the edge and you use that structure – instead of building your own structure – and that would save you on wood,” Garvin said.

Mason Towe, a third year economics major, was recently accepted for a sustainability grant to help UGA art students recycle their materials.

“A lot of students try to reuse materials and they intentionally leave it outside of the dumpster [next to the Lamar Dodd School of Art] so students and faculty can come pick it up after hours and reuse it,” Towe said.

Seeing this as an opportunity to reduce waste on campus, Towe worked with Chris McDowell, a professor at the college of environment and design, and two other University students to start a recycling program for art majors who no longer needed their art supplies at the end of a semester.

Towe plans to use a freight container as an exchange location for art students to drop off their old materials and pick up the supplies other students deposited.

Although the details are still in the works, Towe expects to place the container either behind the Lamar Dodd School of Art or next to the Thomas Street Art Complex.

Be creative.

The best suggestion to cut costs is to do exactly what all artistic students were born to do – get creative.

For Stan Mullins, an Athens artist and 1989 University graduate, being creative involves using the cheapest art materials – a pencil and paper – to find unconventional ways to create a quality product.

“Spend a little extra time – you might do a lot more preliminary sketches before you start out with that $15, 6-ounce tube of paint,” Mullins said. “Get creative on every level of what you’re creating.”

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