It’s not often you see a vending machine that dispenses anything other than high-sugar beverages and highly processed snacks in crinkly packaging. Sure. Every once in a while, someone tries something new, like a Champagne vending machine, an oyster vending machine, a pecan pie vending machine or a baguette vending machine. But it’s rare to see a machine that offers anything that really lasts.
Enter the Art-o-mat. For just $5, this particular machine will spit out a work of art.
The Art-o-mat company takes old cigarette vending machines and repurposes them to dispense original works of art. What started out as a single art project turned into a collective and you can now find these machines at hundreds of locations across the country.
According to the Art-o-mat website, the idea to create these art vending machines came to artist Clark Whittington in 1997. He was set to have a solo art show at a cafe in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and he used an old cigarette machine to display and dispense his artwork.
But that wasn’t the end of this creative idea. The exhibition space’s owner asked to keep the machine permanently, and soon other artists became involved. The Artists in Cellophane group was formed, and they’re still working to ensure these machines are filled with original artwork today.
Their goal is to make art accessible and approachable, but it doesn’t hurt that the machines look pretty cool, too:
Here are just a few examples of the machines you can find around the United States.
This retro beauty can be found in Fletcher, North Carolina:
Some of the machines can be found in art centers, such as this one from Dayton, Ohio:
Others are in even more unexpected places. For example, you can see this one on display at the Whole Foods in East Lansing, Michigan:
You can find an Art-o-mat near you by checking out the website’s location finder. And if you’re interested in submitting your own artwork, all submissions are open and welcome. There are just some pretty strict sizing and other rules that need to be followed to ensure your art will properly fit and dispense from the machine, so be sure you check out the information on the Art-o-mat website regarding art guidelines before submitting.
These aren’t the only vending machines dispensing unexpected items for art lovers. A vending machine that dispenses books is available for public use at a bookstore in Toronto, Canada, called Monkey’s Paw. It’s called the Biblio-mat, and it’s pretty incredible. You can see how it works in this YouTube video:
Even if vending machines like these aren’t close to you, seeing them in person would definitely be worth a road trip. Who’s excited to hunt down one of these over the long weekend?