Never stop giving something, especially if you create it yourself.
That’s the philosophy of Brendon Entwistle, a painter and mixed media artist who co-owns Strumento Art Materials with his fiancée Gina Soo Golden. She’s a painter and craftsperson who restores pictures frames, jewelry and small furniture.
Strumento, which means tool in Italian and at least two other languages, opened this summer. It's located up the narrow staircase on the second floor of the Art Bank gallery (811 Mass Ave.). The well-regarded art gallery converted from a historic bank that John Dillinger once robbed, retains its walk-in vault. The "Book Nook" vault at the back of the bank features works by local authors. And the gallery itself has broadened its role in the Indianapolis arts scene, by also hosting a church that caters to artists.
Gallery director Joy Hernandez says the addition of its upstairs art materials store filled a much-needed void, since the departure of Dolphin Papers from the Murphy Arts Center in Fountain Square.
“Regarding Strumento, personally, I love that they're there,” she says. “We don't really have anything available in the downtown area. There are office supply places, or CVS or Walgreens if you need scotch tape or something, but if you want paint and canvas, the art essentials, you have to go to the edge of town or the suburbs. Prior to Strumento's opening, I'd have to plot out time to drive to Southport or up to Castleton and keep an eye on coupons or deals.”
Tucked in a small room on the second floor of the Art Bank, Strumento offers professional-grade art supplies to area artists.
Strumento carries all the professional-grade art supplies required of incoming Herron School of Art and Design students at IUPUI, as well as a growing variety of brand products, including from Da Vinci, Prismacolor, Panache, Moleskin, Old Holland and Artograph. In other words, real art supplies for real artists. Additionally, items that aren't stocked in the cozy shop (due to space), can be specially ordered.
So creative types living and working downtown no longer have to drive out to a chain stores, which don’t have as wide of a selection anyway, according to Hernandez.
“We have one artist in particular at the Art Bank that doesn't drive,” she says. “She lives near the gallery, but has no real way to get to, say, Southport. Previously, she'd coordinate with one of us with cars to pick up something for her. Now, Strumento has her covered--she can literally walk to her art supply shop.”
There’s much talk of food deserts, and the same concept applies to the arts, Hernandez says.
“The Indianapolis downtown has been working so hard to revitalize itself, and so, so many people have been moving into the downtown area,” she says. “Not all of them are office dwellers. Many are artists that live not only in the downtown proper, but in the surrounding neighborhoods that have always been kind to artists. And we have Herron--both the high school and at IUPUI. There are artists in Indianapolis, and they need supplies. So, Strumento has made sure that downtown Indianapolis isn't an art supply desert also.”
Businesses like Strumento help make the area more livable and more competitive with the suburbs, because a large part of the appeal to living out in the burbs is the convenience of shopping, says Hernandez.
“We need clothing shops, we need art supplies, we need bike shops and electronic shops,” she says. “Those kinds of places truly make a downtown livable, and not just a place you go to eat delicious food.”
These establishments are also vital to drawing new artists into the area, and replenishing it with fresh blood, Hernandez adds.
- Courtesy The Art Bank Gallery
More than 30 artists display their works in the historic building at the far end of Mass Ave.
“They have new ways to look at things, not just in the creation of their art, but in their marketing or presentation,” she explains. “It keeps us, both the artists that have been around for a minute, and the Indianapolis art scene, in general, from feeling stagnant. Just when you think you've seen it all, someone new, from any of our many galleries, pops up, makes you tip your head sideways, and draws you back in. They also draw in new people, patrons, that maybe hadn't found their ‘cup of tea’ yet, and now they have.”
Strumento has grown significantly since its inception as an online-only store, Entwistle says. The response from artists has been tremendous.
The store has built a reputation through word of mouth and by marketing, such as through the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. There's a definite need, and Strumento fills any specific orders artists have.
Some high-profile artists have walked in to make purchases, but Strumento is still trying to get its name out there in the local arts community.
“We’re just trying to have fun with it,” Entwistle adds. “We’re just artists who make cool things and own a business.”
If you haven't had a chance to stop in the Art Bank Gallery, which houses the art supply store, take a virtual tour of the creative space in the video below.