A couple weeks ago I was painting with my friend. It was on a Wednesday morning, of course. When we get together we talk about many things, but mostly about making art. I’ve probably learned more about painting from my friends then I ever did a college class (maybe because I skipped a couple of classes…OK, a lot). I asked my friend what she did about working over a dried painting. She recommended using retouch varnish spray. So I said, “Well, I’ll go down to the Co-op Bookstore and get a can on the way home.”
“ Oh!” she said. “Didn’t you know Co-op’s going out of business?”
I was stunned! Yet another of my “happy place” stores was shutting their doors.
Back when I first moved to Baton Rouge there were no national chain stores where one could buy art supplies. There were local stores such as Yarberry’s, Baton Rouge Blueprint, and Co-op Bookstore. When I first started going to Co-op, it was on State Street by LSU, and it was like a candy store for artists. Nearly anything an artist could possibly need was on the shelves. As any artist can tell you, it’s important to feel the texture of paper and feel the snap of a brush, something you cannot do when ordering online. I often found treasures I didn’t know I needed.
The best thing about the store was the service. Billy, whose family started the Co-op in the 1930’s on the LSU campus, was extremely knowledgeable about everything in the art department.
He personally filled my school purchase orders and gave advice on my own art materials. When I purchased paper, a gentleman wrapped it in brown paper so it would not get damaged.
The State Street store was razed for an apartment complex some time ago, and while the new store was pristine, I have to say, the art department still had a bit of the character found in the old location. Ordering of books and, yes, art supplies, online has taken a toll on Co-op. I went to shop a couple of times after learning the store was having “One ‘L’ of a Sale” (that’s what was written on the entrance) with the guilty knowledge that my purchases at Dick Blick and Jerry’s Artarama were partly to blame for the closure. The paper purchase I made was wrapped in brown paper. Billy and his core group of employees were there.
And I will always have memories of touching my paper purchases and snapping my brushes.