About two years ago, I was surfing the web and came upon the website for the Art-O-Mat. This is a very interesting project wherein former cigarette machines are transformed into art vending machines. The idea originated in Winston-Salem, NC, and now there are about 75 in the USA – 1 in Surrey, England.
Since reading that article, I have revisited the idea of contributing. I read an interesting entry by Teresa Villegas wherein she took part in the San Antonio art school Art-o-Mat machine. The vending machine is decorated with images from her Loteria installation. It looks like fun, but it also is a bit restrictive. There are very specific dimensions and instructions on what to submit and how. It has to be the exact size of a retro-pack of cigarettes. If you submit “flat” art, it has to be attached to a wooden block of those precise dimensions. They sell the boxes and the blocks, of course, but I think that it would be nice to print my own boxes on the laser printer. The blocks or boxes have to be wrapped in acetate and contain no balloons, peanuts, or magnets.
In preparation for embarking on this project, I finally visited the only Art-O-Mat in Atlanta. It is located right next to the exit door of the Whole Foods Market on Briarcliff and LaVista. After browsing the store and tasting cheeses and candies, I bought some bread and some lovely smoked trout and cream cheese spread. Then, I had to go to Customer Service and buy tokens for the machine. When I called on the phone to inquire as to whether or not the machine still existed, I was encouraged by the fact that the employee knew about it.
I went to the machine, and tried my best to survey the contents, all the while dodging exiting shoppers with their carts (this is NOT an ideal place to put a vending machine!). I was disappointed that some of the slots were sold out – I really wanted to check out a self-published booklet, but there were no more. I finally decided upon one product packaged in a box, and one piece of art attached to a wooden block.
My first piece was a work of Styrogami (registered trademark) by J. Jules Vitali. It is entitled “Tree House” and is inscribed and signed in tiny tiny letters by the artist. A strip of paper inside of the box says that, if I contact him and let him know which piece I have acquired, that he will title a piece with my name to be sold in an Art-O-Mat somewhere. Cool, huh? And this guy has been exhibited, which leads to my big question of the year:
Why don’t I have an exhibit? 😉 Where is MY exhibit!!!???
My second piece of art was a lame crayon and ink rendering of a palm tree beach sunset. The back of the piece is signed “designs by donna”. No contact info. I guess you can’t win them all! I should have gone for the animal collage guy! At any rate, I did receive the block of wood, which is scored to act as an easel for the piece.
All of that, for $10.00! The artist gets $2.50 of the $5.00 sale price. But that, of course, does not include investment in boxes, wood blocks, and your time. Still, I think that it is a brilliant promotional gimmick! And I will eventually have to take part!
Oh, the trout dip was yummy, too.