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University City has two florists, three shoe stores (plus a cobbler and a shoe shiner) and last time I counted there were four Mexican restaurants on the 40th Street corridor alone.

Yes, I keep track.

As an architecture student, I also keep count of all of the art-supply stores in and around campus — which comes to a grand total of zero. That’s right, despite the thousands of students enrolled in art classes across PennDesign, the College and Drexel’s art and architecture programs, there isn’t a single University City art store. You can’t go 500 feet without running into a taco joint, but you’ll have to travel 20 blocks for some oil pastels.

Adding to the list of redundant services on campus as of last month is a new prototyping lab on Market Street. For a fee, members can bring a wide variety of projects and make use of expensive prototyping technology. But, any student who needs a laser cutter or 3-D printer and actually knows how to use it probably has access to Penn’s Fabrication Lab. Granted, the lab will also service local high-schoolers and the University of the Sciences, but it seems pretty extravagant for an area that doesn’t have a basic art store.

And no, Barnes and Noble’s overpriced and understocked “art nook” doesn’t count.

Like every other art student, I regularly schlep across the Schuylkill to purchase my basic school supplies. To outsiders, the 20 blocks to the Utrecht on Chestnut or the El ride to Blick on Broad may seem like no big deal. But try carrying a large canvas across the Walnut Bridge — catch a stiff breeze and you might actually fly away. Or worse yet, bring that same unwieldy canvas on a packed subway. At best you’ll get a bunch of annoyed looks and at worst you’ll rip it on a turnstile.

All of a sudden, it’s not so convenient and the need for a campus art store becomes clear.

The University City District (a nonprofit largely sponsored by Penn), has been known to court developers and encourage new businesses. While I love Urban Outfitters and Distrito as much as the next student, developers need to do more than provide us with retail chains and trendy tapas. They must also recognize their role in community building and providing students with the resources they need to learn.

An art store could add a lot to the community by becoming a hub that this area is severely lacking. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Slought Foundation and Rotunda are all great venues for students to view and display art. But when it comes to ordering that obscure modelling clay, finding out what kind of paint to use or just checking out the latest goodies, students are missing out. Neighborhood art stores do more than sell supplies. They should be like the bar in Cheers — “where everybody knows your name.”

A store would also introduce art to students who normally don’t venture downtown for watercolors, but are still interested in finding a new hobby. After all, students don’t need to be a member of the Addams’ Hall crew to benefit from a local art store.

During my first supply run of the semester, I usually run in to a number of Penn students — some are fine-arts veterans who make a bee-line to what they need, but others are bewildered freshmen making their way off campus for the first time and there are always a few second-semester seniors finally getting around to taking that ceramics class pass/fail.

University City should take a cue from those second-semester seniors — it’s never too late to get in on the art scene. And, I hear there might still be space left in the Radian.

Ashley Takacs is a College senior from Buffalo, N.Y. Her e-mail address is Ash Wednesday appears on alternate Wednesdays.

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