Hidden in a small two-building industrial park in Tempe is a treasure trove for artists, crafters, teachers and the merely curious.
Art Resource Center has rows and stacks of art supplies for non-profit charities and teachers to use for free. Sherrie Zeitlin, executive director of the center at 1860 W. University Drive, Suite 102, says others can get supplies too, for a nominal fee.
“Everything has been given to us by somebody,” she said, including buckets of paint, brushes, fabric, handmade paper and more.
“The first question anybody asks me is, ‘Are you sure it’s free?’”
There are so many free supplies that Zeitlin is having trouble finding enough room for them.
“We get way too much fabric,” she said, but then clarified. “Actually, not too much, but it comes in so often. We’ve given away a lot to this one woman who makes quilts for Ronald McDonald House.
“One theater group came in recently. They’re staging ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.’ They saw this wavy brown fabric we had, and they’re using it for the chocolate river in the play.”
Many schools don’t have art programs anymore, or don’t have enough supplies. That’s where ARC, as it’s called, comes in.
“Teachers come in all of the time,” Zeitlin said.
One of their favorite items is the egg cartons, which have many uses for the creative teacher.
“People use them constantly,” she said.
Gently used items, such as half-filled paint buckets or old markers, are still useful to the artists.
“We get to share great ideas,” volunteer Suzanna Yazzie said. “For example, old markers, you can make watercolors out of them.”
ARC has paper by the ream, some given to them from an Alphagraphics store up the street.
“They give us broken lots, and stuff they don’t need,” Zeitlin said.
ARC also gets clay supplies, broken tiles and even glass.
“Someone donated some fabulous glass for flat glass, or stained glass,” Zeitlin said. “It was yummy.”
She never knows what’s going to be donated to the center.
“We had a teacher who retired, brought us boxes and boxes and boxes of cut magazines that were categorized,” she said.
A quick flip through the files revealed such categories as “Clocks” and “Faces.”
“Those would be great for collages,” she said.
As artists retire or pass away, supplies they’ve left behind find their way into the center.
“Every year, we get an entire studio donated,” Zeitlin said. “Easels, paints, brushes – everything.”
The center also loans out bigger pieces, such as fabric looms, sewing machines or papermaking frames.
Groups come from all over the state for ARC’s supplies.
“We had a non-profit from Tucson show up. They have special-needs adults that they take care of,” Zeitlin said. “We filled their van with supplies.”
One unexpected ARC beneficiary is a local homeless woman. ARC gives her art supplies, and she paints in a nearby library.
ARC runs on volunteers – even Zeitlin doesn’t take a salary. Because of those limited resources, the center is open sporadically.
“We open when we can. We try to open at least one weekend a month,” she said. “We tell people to follow us on Facebook so they’ll see our next hours.”
Zeitlin says the one big need is not donated materials, but money.
“We need more money to keep the ARC afloat,” she said with a glint in her eye.
The ARC operates with 3,100 square feet now. It’s a big leap from its first location, which was 480 square feet in Phoenix. Now, staring down the barrel at a new lease, with a likely hike in rent, ARC is actively looking for a new space.
Zeitlin would like to have 10,000 square feet somewhere nearby because now, “I turn away a tremendous amount of stuff.”
“We had a vertical blind company that wanted to give us pallets of material,” she said, “But we had no place to put it.”
The struggles with space and money won’t keep the ARC from going forward, though.
“I’m not closing the doors anytime soon, that’s for sure,” Zeitlin said.