Artistic Vending Machines
Category: Resource
Written by Kellie Hanna

I added a link to Art-o-Mat in the message boards last week. I thought I'd write about it because I think it's a fun, unique, and exciting concept. It's an innovative way to spread visual art to the masses; and an interesting way to recycle tired old cigarette machines, retired since the passing of harsher laws against cigarette vending. What a great way for an artist to display his or her work!

Of course, if you are a traditionalist who believes that your art should only be hung on a wall, set on a mantle, or displayed and not touched, then Art-O-Mat may not be for you. If you are a fine art enthusiast, you might balk at the notion of vending machines for art. Of course, you are reading this at an online gallery, and perhaps have even considered displaying your work online; so you might consider Art-O-Mat a new and exciting way to market and enjoy works of art. I certainly do.

As of this writing, there are currently 39 machines in operation throughout the country. Sadly, most of them exist on the East Coast; but at least one can be found in New York, North Carolina, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Hundreds of artists from all over the world display and sell their work through Art-O-Mat machines.

The machines are works of art by themselves. They are all refurbished, refinished, and given a new face. Then they are filled with small pieces of art created by participating artists, and put on display in museums or placed in food stores, schools, galleries, art centers, and hospitals. Voila! instantly accessible art for anyone to purchase or collect. Just walk up, insert your coins or bills, and pull the lever for the art work of your choice.

According to the Art-o-Mat Web site, the idea sprang from the mind of artist Clark Whittington in North Carolina--one of the tobacco centers of the United States--in 1997. He used it first to vend his black and white photographs for $1.00. He later teamed up with another artist and they formed Artists in Cellophane, which sponsors Art-o-Mat. A.I.C.'s mission is "to encourage art consumption by expanding access to artists' work."

That said, they are looking for new submissions. If you are an artist looking for a new way to display and sell your work, get your name circulated, and spread the joy of art to everyone, go to, read their guidelines and go for it.

If you are an art enthusiast, a curious passer-by, or a wanna-be collector who just doesn't have the money to buy a more expensive piece of art, check out their Web site for machines and events in your area. While there, click an artist's name for a taste of what's inside the machines. Then, find an Art-o-Mat near you and have fun purchasing the work of your choice. I know I will.


Do you know of an interesting resource? We'd love to know about it! Write Kellie Hanna with your idea.

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