The Anatomy of an Art Cart

cart watermark
A few months ago, we ran a mini-series about teaching art on a cart that included an in-depth interview, resources and lesson ideas. Today, I want to show you how I use carts within my classroom to keep things organized. The carts help me transfer and store specific materials with ease. You can find 3 tips to get you started along with details about my carts below.

3 Tips for Setting Up Carts

1. Think about the best home for your supplies.
When setting up a cart for a specific medium, think about which supplies will live on the cart and which supplies will live elsewhere. For example, I keep water cups under my sinks instead of on the paint and clay carts because I use them with multiple mediums. Your carts will evolve and change as you figure out what is necessary and works for you and your classes.
2. Organize your space, storage, and materials in a way that makes sense.
Store your materials in a way that is organized and efficient. Keep similar materials together. You should be able to easily grab materials without having to dig around or go on a massive scavenger hunt in your room. Consider how often you use a material or medium. I use my paint cart very frequently, but I use my clay cart much less frequently. I placed what I consider my “messier” and heavier supplies on carts for easy clean-up but also for easy access.
3. Only have one cart? Don’t have any carts? Don’t Fret!
If you have organized your storage space by mediums and tools, you should be able to easily grab and stock your one cart as necessary. Then, you can return any materials to their spots when you are done with them. If you don’t have a cart, consider plastic Sterilite bins and containers. These usually have handles that allow you to carry and transfer materials.

 How I Use Carts in My Art Room

Below are images of my two main carts: the liquid tempera paint cart and the clay cart. The little cart below them is one that I can change out as needed throughout the school year. Currently, it’s working as a home for my found object sculpture center for my third grade architecture unit.

Paint Cart

1paint cart

*Special Note – Press’n Seal wrap is my new favorite paint accessory. It was suggested to me a while ago to help prevent my paint pumps from drying up and becoming blocked. It can also be used to seal just about any container!



Clay Cart

1Clay Cart

*Special Note – I keep separate mats for paint and clay so there aren’t contamination issues. The mats were donated to my colleague, and the extras were shared with me. They are basically oversized mouse pads. I haven’t had any luck finding out where something similar can be ordered. (Let me know if you do!)

Project Cart

1Project Cart


Need another idea? Jessica shares a handy yarn cart in this video.


Whatever you decide to do with your organization and carts, make sure it’s something that works efficiently for you and your students. Efficiency, organization, and preparation truly can make all the difference when planning, creating lessons, and managing the classroom. Please share your tips below!

How do you store materials in your classroom? What does your storage space look like?

Do you use carts to help you stay organized?


Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek


Alecia is an elementary art teacher in central Iowa who is passionate about teaching and reaching her students with an innovative and meaningful arts education.


  • BossySnowAngel

    Even though I have my own classroom, I teach different classes. I find it very helpful to have a different cart for each class. So my drawing class has rulers, pencils, erasers, charcoal and colored pencils along with paper and a turn in shelf on the bottom. My painting class has bins of acrylic paint tubes, cups, brushes and various mediums, canvases and a turn in shelf on the bottom. It’s so much easier to move carts in and out the middle of the room than dealing with materials left on countertops-often in the way of cleaning up.

    • Vicky

      I teach K-6 Art. I don’t have a room but have been given an area to teach Art: the gym! It’s not as bad as it sounds-I have large tables (as many as I want) and can use as much space in this area as I want. No activities are allowed to happen in this area the day I am there (I only teach one day a week). I have positioned myself in the corner next to the kitchen, which I am free to use. (water source, as well as a refrigerator for my lunch and a microwave to heat it with). My tables are set up for me and taken down for me as well. I have a tote on wheels that I have been using, but could use a cart with more shelves. This tote, along with a carryall and portfolio type bag, contains all the supplies I use. Presently I take them home with me, but if I could find a cart with shelves on it there is a place I could leave it at the school. Does anyone know where I can get a utility cart at a reasonable price?

      • Jorena

        Years ago I was hired to teach Art on a Cart with no cart and no money for one. After inquiries, the school PTO purchased me a cart. I looked through different art/school supply catalogs until I found one I wanted.

    • Alecia Eggers

      I am right there with you! Carts are such space-savers!

  • Susan

    I teach pre-k through 5th grade. I have found that using the medium plastic storage bins without the tops to be a huge help. I put each grade level supplies for the lesson into each bin. As each class rotates through the day I have everything ready for each different lesson. I mainly put the paper needed, visuals, notes to self about the lesson and any particular supply needed. I keep basic supplies (pencils, scissors, markers and glue in a location that students have been “trained” to use as needed.
    I also have a special paint cart like many of you.

    • Alecia Eggers

      Hi Susan!
      The plastic bins sound like a much better (and more sturdy) idea than my cardboard box lids! I have a similar set up so I can easily access and store the special supplies for each project. Efficiency is key!
      Thank you for sharing!

  • Wendy

    I see on your Paint cart you have placemats. I’m assuming they are for each student’s desk. Are these a product you have purchased somewhere? If so, where?

    • Alecia Eggers

      Hi Wendy. Yes, this helps to keep each student work space relatively clean when we paint or use clay. I received these as a surplus from another art teacher in my district. She had a lot donated to her and shared the extras. I haven’t been able to find them anywhere, but essentially they are oversized mousepads. My best guess would be to seek out options at a business furniture retailer.

      • starsandchalkdust

        …heavy material works well as clay mats, Wendy :)

  • Mr. R

    Hey you all,

    This is a prezi on mastering art on a cart. This is from a wonder teacher in my district. She has truly mastered art on the art.

    Watch the prezi. If you have question. She most likly will have the answer.

    • Alecia Eggers

      Wow! That cart is truly impressive! Thank you so much for sharing that awesome resource Mr. R!

  • Stars and Chalkdust

    Hi, great article. A note on the clay mats. After getting really fed up with clay sticking to plastic type mats, I started to use heavy pieces of material as clay mats. It’s a revelation… so much easier :)

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