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February 17, 2007

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Phoenix, a conservative "red" area, has many thriving art supplies stores. While in the Washington DC "blue" area, the art supplies stores can't make a profit

Keep in mind that all the liberals in Phoenix have to buy their supplies in the red area. It's not like there's a blue area nearby to compete.

I live in the red area of a blue county. All our art supply stores are little-old-lady places like Michael's. The closest "real" art supply stores are nearly 50 miles away, in a blue area. The bluer the county gets, the more art supply stores (Santa Monica and West L.A. have a bunch).

Did you create that image in the upper right of the hulking man casting his shadow over the planet?

It's royalty free stock art.

"Art supplies buyers are middle class. But not upper class, because Paul Fussell made a big deal of pointing out that having paintings in your house that someone who lives there painted causes you to drop in class."

Although I agree that having paintings in your house that someone who lives there painted is not upper class, I don't agree that art supplies are bought by middle class (only). The upper class buy art supplies and paint, probably just as much as the middle class, they just don't hang their art on the walls (or at least not on walls that any "outsider" will see).

Since art supply stores are specialized and need a large population nearby from which they can draw a few customers, they are going to be in large cities. Since almost every large urban area in the United States is deep blue, art supply stores are going to be in blue areas.

I doubt that I would find many art stores in area that are heavily black or Hispanic or Asian. My guess is that art supply stores are going to be in the whitest neighborhood in the bluest counties.

In my city there is a Utrecht downtown near where people who work with their brains live and a Michaels in the suburb on the outskirts of the city where people who work with their hands live.

art:liberal:upper-middle class :: crafts:conservative:working class

And the people who work downtown revile Thomas Kinkade with a passion while the people who live in the working class suburb honor his craftsmanship with pride of place on their walls.

The Phoenix area voted 57-43 for Bush, so it's not that conservative. There are plenty of liberals there to buy art supplies.

DC is a literate culture, so liberals there will have lots of books and travel documents, whereas AZ is going to be a much more visual culture.

Besides, your byline states you're neither Republican nor Democrat, so that gives you permission to buy art supplies and postage stamps. Since you also have liberal folk music, you better hang an American flag, too. Bottles of alcohol will do, as well.

I doubt that I would find many art stores in area that are heavily black or Hispanic or Asian. My guess is that art supply stores are going to be in the whitest neighborhood in the bluest counties.

I remember in elementary school that my white (well, Italian) teacher was shocked that our black neighbourhood didn't have an arts and crafts store of some sort. Interestingly, my black middle class neighbourhood didn't have arts and crafts stores, nor restaurants other than the Caribbean take-away. It was presumed that if you wanted anything like that, you had a car and you'd drive to a white neighbourhood to buy it. Interestingly, an arts and crafts and nursery that was in the neighbouring town closed down about two years ago, and the town's demographics have changed from mostly white and Italian to Caribbean, Hispanic, and South Asian.

IIRC, arts and crafts tend to be things pursued by stay at home mothers. Minority neighbourhoods aren't known for having high numbers of stay at home mothers, hence why such stores don't do as well in those areas.

Oh, just as bizzare sidepoint, nearby, there's a Michael's and Pearl's. The Michaels is located in a newer development that's in the main shopping district here on Long Island. The Pearl's is located on a strip-mall with a Home Depot in East Meadow which is known for being rather working class by Long Island standards.

I wonder what the distribution of photography shops is around the country, and I wonder if it correlates similarly to art supply shops. Photography barely qualifies as an art, but it tends to have a lot of gay men and young white women involved in it, but in the hardcore amateur photography message boards, periodically, you'll find some conservatives.

Nah, we've got a couple good photography shops in town. As a hobby that's very popular with white guys.

One thing to keep in mind when comparing Phoenix with Washington is that the Southwest has long attracted artists. Scottsdale claims to be second only to New York in the number of art galleries.

As for the lack of art stores near Georgetown, maybe the university bookstore has a large and reasonably priced selection of art materials.

I've only been in a Michael's a couple of times, but it was my impression that the selection was big enough that "serious" artists, not just crafters, could find what they need. It also wouldn't surprise me if many serious artists buy many of their supplies online.

IIRC, arts and crafts tend to be things pursued by stay at home mothers.

I've noticed many 20's and 30's women riding the LIRR doing knitting and crocheting and needlepoint. They're obviously not housewives, riding commuter trains and all that, and given the cost and loathesome nature of riding the trains probably have pretty upscale jobs.

Photography barely qualifies as an art, but it tends to have a lot of gay men and young white women involved in it

Most high end cameras are bought by straight men because men like technological gizmos. But probably a higher percentage of gay men and women produce artsy photos.

Scottsdale claims to be second only to New York in the number of art galleries.

Scottsale has the best gallery district of any place I've ever been. The art galleries in NYC, in contrast, are hidden.

The Pearl's is located on a strip-mall with a Home Depot

Pearl's are always located in lower tier retail locations. Their emphasis is on discount art supplies, so they don't want to waste a lot of money on rent.

This leads me to believe that there's a lot of middle class or even high proles buying art supplies. Because the art supplies really aren't that expensive, not compared to upper middle class hobbies like golf or tennis. And painting is a lot less expensive than photography as well.

David,

My Nigeria-born secretary went to a crafts fair in Harpers Ferry West Virginia one time. She thought it was great but laughed about how few blacks there were in the crowd.

I have always thought craft fairs are much like the Christmas stores mentioned in Bobos in Paraise. Craft fairs reflect middle class values whereas gallery opening reflect the upper classes.

Scottsale has the best gallery district of any place I've ever been. The art galleries in NYC, in contrast, are hidden.

NYC galleries probably don't depend much on tourist traffic.

This leads me to believe that there's a lot of middle class or even high proles buying art supplies.

Yes. Mostly women.

Tole painting is still painting ...

And painting is a lot less expensive than photography as well.

Painting may be cheaper, but photography requires less talent, and at least there's a glut of used equipment on the market especially since a lot of people are dumping their film and older digital equipment.

You can pick up a decent used manual SLR with a lens for $150-$200 and just worry about the film and printing costs. In contrast, you can go out and buy $5,000 professional digital cameras with $500 flash units, $2,000 lenses, and $500 tripod set ups. It all depends on what your budget and ego.

My Nigeria-born secretary went to a crafts fair in Harpers Ferry West Virginia one time. She thought it was great but laughed about how few blacks there were in the crowd.

That's true for any black person who's interested in "white people stuff". You learn that in many cases, you'll be the only black person around, and that you will get lots of looks. The big downside is that if you're socially awkward or have social phobias*, then it's really intimidating.

*Yesterday, a former romantic interest invited me to a gathering celebrating 50 days that she's been cancer free at a pub in Manhattan, I would have have gone, but there was just something scary about going to a pub possibly being the only black person there. Plus, I didn't know if she really wanted me there.

Is it possible that the "travel documents" and "art supplies in the bedroom" research is bogus? It doesnt matter if the person has glue paint or model magic, that counts as arts supplies. Now maybe if they had been saving their own urine in jars and stock piling crucifixes, then you could conclude that they were liberals.

I am reluctant to attempt to rehabilitate this pathetic research but perhaps the dichotomy is not between art supplies and stamps, but the impulse behind the art. An attempt to recreate the natural world and create beauty is conservative. An impulse to shock and provoke, and establish your identify outside the conventional is liberal. Based on that, would anyone care to propose a taxonomy of art supplies to help the authors?

I'll start with colored pencils, mechanical pens, air brush= Conservative. Bodily fluids, pastels= Liberal.

And anyone with neo-nazi posters and Skrewdriver CDs must be conservative. Come on.

I do think the arts as commonly defined trend liberal in the Times' upper-middle-class readership, but outside that there are lot of different forms of self-expression that may or may not trend liberal. (How about those guys who paint those elaborate purple and green flames on their cars? Proletarian as heck, but I don't see how a man celebrating his virility through his car is different from a woman expressing the depth of her feelings through a painting.)

I'd like to see a larger sample size, as I think DC and Phoenix are outliers -- others have already mentioned that the Phoenix area is pretty liberal, and the DC area is split (with the MD suburbs being more liberal than the VA suburbs, nearly no one living in DC proper).

Also, the DC area isn't business or private sector oriented: mostly political types. Usually it's booming business and art scenes that go together.

"And anyone with neo-nazi posters and Skrewdriver CDs must be conservative."

Posters aren't art supplies, they are end products.

And "Nazi" is National Socialist.

American Neo Nazi party is the National Socialist White People's Party.

That would be more liberal than conservative.

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