Pratt Starts Beloved Off-Campus Recycled Art Shop on Chain Store Deal • Brooklyn Paper
Call it brushing.
The Pratt Institute is bypassing its students by starting a beloved store that sells recycled art materials on its Clinton Hill campus because it already has a contract with a national chain of art stores, say scholars at cash-strapped from the prestigious school of art and architecture.
“I pay for my education myself with student loans, and finding cheap art supplies is really important to me,” said Cody Calamaio, a graduate student in industrial design at Pratt and one of nearly 900 people who have signed a petition demanding that the school save Turn Up Artwhich recovers art materials that would be wasted, such as paintbrushes, and resells them to students at low prices.
Pratt alum Gunner Tierno has been running the sustainable sourcing store as part of Pratt’s Design Incubator program – a platform for former entrepreneurs to get help building their businesses – for a short time after graduating in 2013. The school finally gave her a physical space to hawk her wares on campus in July 2014, and the pop-up shop has since become a popular community center for students to find both the gear and ideas for their work, he said.
“Turn Up Art has a real sense of community on campus, and it’s a place where students go to find inspiration and relax,” he said. “It’s more than a store for them.”
Tierno claims the company was ready to fend for itself and was about to offer to start paying rent to Pratt late last month when the institute abruptly told him that his time in the incubator was over – it is due to close by October 15 and leave campus November 1 – and Turn Up Art cannot remain a regular business as the school already has a contract with Blick Art Material giving it exclusive rights to sell art supplies on his land.
Pratt says the store always had a fixed expiration date — incubator participants must leave at an agreed upon time to make room for the next batch of aspiring entrepreneurs, a school representative said.
But Tierno said the news came as a shock – and while Pratt never promised him a permanent store, he also never mentioned the Blick deal that would make one impossible.
And he takes umbrage at the idea of Turn Up Art as a competitor, anyway — the art giant sells brand new products, he said, while his small business sells used supplies that were probably once fresh on Blick’s shelves.
“We’re not here to compete with Blick,” he said. “We don’t want the students to blame them. In the end, that’s how we get things done.
The school says it still thinks Tierno’s idea is a great one and plans to start its own similar, non-commercial business in the future.
“Campus administrators and student leaders are working together to explore creating a free exchange of art supplies and materials for students on campus,” spokeswoman Amy Aronoff said.
Blick did not respond to requests for comment at press time, but an employee at the supplier’s Myrtle Avenue store next to Pratt’s campus was rattled by the idea of the company being run off-campus.
“It drives me crazy,” said the employee, who asked to remain anonymous. “They should be able to sell their stuff.”