Almost a decade ago, my CPA and fellow art enthusiast, Kevin Breard of Breard & Associates, was kind enough to forward me an article he thought would interest me. It featured a remarkable vintage cigarette machine that dispensed artwork instead of cigarettes. What a novel idea – making works of art available for purchase to the public in public places! I was intrigued and had to learn more.
A Google search turned up a company by the name of Art-o-Mat®. According to the website, Art-o-mat® machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. I emailed the owner and brilliant mind behind the idea, artist Clark Whittington who graciously took the time to reply and answer my questions.
I’m pleased to share this information with you.
But, before I wrote this blog, I must confess, I had to see a machine up close and personal.
According to the website, there are over 100 active machines in various locations throughout the country. Luckily, the eclectic Farmers Daughter Hotel in Los Angeles, across from the original Los Angeles Farmers Market, had one just down the hall from their lobby. My hubby and I scrambled over there to try it out. I purchased two tokens for $5 each from the lobby clerk. General Manager, Michael Spencer warmly greeted us and showed us to the machine. The results are in.
I was hesitant to pull the knob, wondering if the mechanism or the artwork would get jammed. Neither happened. The knob pulled smoothly. When I heard the kerplunk and saw the artwork appear in the tray below, I felt like a kid about to receive a treat. Fun!
The two works of art I purchased are each fastened to a solid wood block measuring approximately 3-1/4″ long x 2-1/8″ wide x 7/8″ deep – about the size of a pack of cigarettes.
One is an original alcohol ink painting by artist Mary T. Barton. Opening the cellophane wrapper revealed a personally signed note from the artist. Her signature is printed on the back side of the block. On the side is the name of the piece, “Kaleidoscope Gardens”. She has a nice Facebook page, too.
The watercolor and gouache abstract was by artist Kitty Russell of Arlington, Virginia. A printed note from the artist was inserted on the back of the block, advising that each of her pieces represents a season. The block however, did not indicate which season was being represented, but it was signed in the lower right hand corner. Although no website was listed, the artist provided her email address email@example.com.
My encounter with the Art-o-Mat® started my mind racing…..
•Should Pastimes for a Lifetime buy a machine and fill it with its students’ artwork? Sadly, the price tag, commitment accompanying a machine and lack of physical space makes owning one not feasible right now. The public would have limited access to the machine, available only during school hours, too.
•Maybe the Westfield Fashion Square might want to collaborate! I just need to find time to make a connection with their marketing management team.
•Better yet, I’d like to encourage my art students and fellow artists to consider creating artwork for the Art-o-Mat® machines already in existence. The Guidelines for Artists webpage is quite extensive yet easy to understand. If you still have questions about submitting art, you may contact the company directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The eclectic Farmers Daughter Hotel is a fun place to visit and an ideal host for an Art-o-Mat®. Here are some photos we shot while there. I encourage you to stop by and experience an Art-o-Mat® yourself! Please be sure to comment in the blog below if you do. Thanks. Here’s to making affordable original artwork accessible and available for purchase in public places!
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Pastimes For a Lifetime Art and Piano School is located in Valley Glen, California. 818-766-0614. School is open Tuesday – Saturday year round, except for major holidays.
You can learn more about Pastimes for a Lifetime’s Art Curriculum and founder/instructor Linda Wehrli, on the website.
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