Celebrating Independent Gainesville
The following was sent to us by a dear friend and supporter of ours. We thought it worthwhile to share. (We added the image.)
The following is why I won’t be patronizing Michaels, and why I will tell my art students to go elsewhere.
I teach art at the University of Florida and also run my own arts school here in Gainesville, FL. I know a lot of my students frequent Michaels. I am eager to make that experience worth their while as artists.
Today I tried to go to the local Michaels store to make a personal connection, to discuss my school and my classes with someone, to maybe put up a flier, to discuss the kinds of art materials I tend to put on my required materials list.
No one was helpful in allowing me to feel anything else but a Michaels consumer code. Though the assistant manager, filing in while the manager was away, did discuss with me the fact that all the art supply ordering is done by computer at a higher-than-store level, and that they have no influence over the process. I believe he would have helped me if he could, but clearly the Michaels rules are otherwise.
An art student should have a relationship with his or her art supplies, and especially with his or her art supply store. An art students should be able to have conversations -not just be guided towards a sale- with knowledgable retail staff, who gain some of their knowledge from the working artists in the community. If an artist or art instructor visits the store at recommends a material not currently for sale, a wise retailer would consider whether or not his or her customers, whom he/she knows personally, might be interested in them and order some and discuss them accordingly.
The Michaels system does not allow this. It stifles dialogue between artist and retailer.
Additionally, there is no place in Michaels to advertise or promote an outside arts or crafts class. Michaels seems to have no in interest in doing this. This is ridiculous.
Why is this ridiculous? An art store should be a part of an arts community. A community which has a free-flow of ideas between artists, art students, art stores, art schools, etc. Part of this free-flow of ideas is a bulletin board of nearby art classes posted at the art store, as well as a public and shared belief at the art schools that the stores share an interest in what goes on in their classrooms.
The current model of stonewalling managers and ordering computers breaks the chain of this dialogue. It removes Michaels from the chain of community. For Michaels, there seems to be the Michaels community and none other. Or it seems that if Michaels is a part of the Gainesville, FL community, it will be on the company headquarters’ terms.
When I began teaching in town, I visited the local art supply store, Central Florida Office Plus (CFOP). I mentioned a paper I was fond of that they didn’t stock. The employee ordered some on his own will to test out with his clientele. It sold successfully, and now they regularly stock it.
I will tell my students to go this store, to try supplies and to talk with the staff. I in turn will go to CFOP myself to discuss new materials that have come my way, or see what they have recently stocked that I don’t know about.
I can’t do this at Michaels. Students will not have a personal relationship there. The Michaels corporation does not want to be a part of the local arts community. This is why I will tell my students not to go there.
I’m guessing the corporate nature of this store system is good for the profits, so I wish you well with those.
Instructor, University of Florida,
Director, Sequential Artists Workshop