Nestled within Fine Arts 236, the Art Co-op provides a haven for creative minds. The student-run co-op welcomes students and community members Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to access affordable, quality art supplies. Unlike many campus organizations, the Art Co-op is an Student Association (SA) business, not a club. The organization is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing Binghamton University students and community members together, hosting sales and opportunities for students to access affordable materials.

As the only fine arts store at Binghamton, the Art Co-op provides supplies unavailable in typical craft stores like Michaels. The Co-op achieves its primary goal of affordability by selling supplies at cost, undercutting the prices of larger department stores.

Samantha Ballin, co-president of the Art Co-op and a senior double-majoring in painting and English, elaborated on the Co-op’s efforts to be an accessible space for all individuals.

“What I love most about the Co-op is how we exist to bring quality supplies to students,” Ballin wrote in an email. “We are here solely to help students. As an art student I greatly appreciate being able to get what I need for my courses in the same building as my classes without having to pay for shipping or wait weeks, sometimes months, for supplies.”

The Art Co-op is entirely volunteer-run and offers volunteers perks for their efforts, including a 15 percent discount in exchange for working a minimum of one hour per week. Ballin encourages students to volunteer, a process as simple as emailing or stopping by the Co-op to learn more about volunteering.

Kaitlyn Park, co-president of the Art Co-op and a junior double-majoring in biology and mathematical sciences, reflected on the Art Co-op’s role in connecting people.

“We’re always eager to have new volunteers to join, and volunteering is a great way to get some retail experience, meet other volunteers with similar interests and enjoy a discount on already great prices for everything that we sell,” Park wrote.

Since reopening in the fall of 2021, following a temporary close shortly before COVID-19, the Art Co-op underwent two years of renovations to make the space more inviting for students, including a new window, freshly painted walls, new shelving and an accent wall designed by art student at BU.

Ballin expressed her satisfaction with the improvements.

“Over the last two years, the art Co-op has become a passion project of mine,” Ballin wrote. “There is such a difference between when we reopened to now, like night and day. It is just so special to see that the [hundreds] of hours we have put into it was well worth it.”

Park added what her favorite parts of the business are.

“My favorite part of the Co-op is its role in bridging gaps at [BU],” Park wrote. “Although my majors are completely unrelated to art, I’ve met a lot of really cool people through the Co-Op, whether they’re volunteers, professors or just someone who stopped in to check out the Co-Op.”

The Art Co-op organizes opportunities for students through sales, with discounts of up to 60 percent on over 100 items. Ballin looks forward to hosting another sale later this semester. Moreover, the Co-op has started displaying student art, allowing students to showcase and even sell their creations.

In addition to sales, the Art Co-op introduced class kits in spring 2023. These kits are collaboratively created with professors to provide kits tailored to art classes for the upcoming semester. The Co-op orders the supplies in bulk, saving significant costs and provides students with supplies during the first week of classes. They also cover shipping costs.

Looking ahead, the co-presidents aim to welcome more volunteers and continue increasing the Co-op’s presence on campus making it a go-to place for art supplies.

“I hope we can contribute to the art community at [BU] and bring students together,” Ballin wrote. “I hope we become students’ go-to place for art supplies. I want the Co-op to be a place where everyone feels welcomed.”

Park elaborated further.

“My biggest hope would be to continue our current momentum in increasing our presence on campus,” Park wrote. “Many people still aren’t very familiar with us, and having people interested in volunteering is what makes the whole thing work. We have a great group of volunteers, and some of them will eventually take over when the current E-Board graduates, so their passion for improving the Co-op will allow it to continue thriving.”

The Art Co-op, through the dedication of its passionate co-presidents and volunteers, has become an affordable and welcoming resource for art supplies. Their commitment to serving the campus community and fostering creativity is reflected in their ongoing collaboration with professors. For updates on sales and events, visit their Instagram (@bingartcoop) and discover the many ways the Art Co-op is making art accessible to everyone.