As a school, you should be able to set up an account with a wholesale
distributor of art supplies. These should be listed in your yellow pages
under "art supplies--wholesale". Some wholesale companies are more sticky
about it than others, since they see their retail accounts (art supply and
craft stores) as their main customers. Selling wholesale to students and
schools might not make their retail stores very happy. I got around it in
one city I lived by telling the wholesaler that we had a bookstore in our
school and we sold art supplies in it. We did have a bookstore! Still,
most wholesalers are happy to make big sales to schools.
With a wholesaler, you pay about 40% off retail and there are usually
bigger discounts on some brands that the wholesaler deals with in quantity
(say, Strathmore for instance). Many teachers I know say, "well this
school supply company gives me free shipping," but if you carefully check
your prices, its still not as cheap as wholesale. Some wholesalers allow
you to come into their warehouse to shop, others require you to do it all
from catalogue. This can be burdensome--price lists are separate and
sometimes the wholesale price must be calculated by you according to a
complex set of discount schedules. Take my advice, this is always worth
As an artist, I have taken advantage of my teaching positions to buy my own
art supplies wholesale which I see as a major perk of this profession. I
can usually buy office supplies like push pins, scissors, and tape too.
There are still some things that have to be bought out of specialty
catalogues or on trips to big city stores (like unusual rice papers or
unusual tools) but I find that I have more money to spend on those things
if I buy the meat and potatoes like paint, brushes and paper from the
I just took over as director of a long running summer arts program and
found the waste of money on retail supplies to be mind boggling. I am now
ordering for all the classes instead of having each teacher order their own
supplies and its helping a lot. You might be able to stretch your money by
doing more bulk orders with other teachers in your school or combining
orders with several schools.
Let me know if you have any question or comments.