Eiteljorg Musuem Blog

Upping your art intake

by Claire Quimby, Eiteljorg intern | Jul 02, 2013

Climbing the stairs to the second floor at the Eiteljorg, you are likely to be drawn to the large steatite Buffalo Dancer sculpture by Doug Hyde before making your way to the main galleries. It’s easy to miss a very intriguing work located in this foyer. Tucked in the corner, like you used to see in the entry of every bar and restaurant, is a shiny cigarette vending machine.
Did you do a double-take? Aren’t cigarette machines a thing of the past? And why would a museum be promoting tobacco consumption? This isn’t an ordinary cigarette vending machine – it’s an Art-o-Mat. The Art-o-Mat is a “fine arts vending machine,” refurbished and given a new purpose by artists Clark Whittington and Reed Maxwell. Whittington and Maxwell have reclaimed over 100 vintage machines and stocked them not with cigarettes, but small works of art for purchase.
Clark Whittington unloading a machine to be refurbished.

The machine itself is a beautiful piece of industrial design (check out a gallery of their machines here). What’s inside is equally cool. Spend $5, pull a knob, and the Art-o-Mat will deliver you a piece of mini art from one of ten featured artists – anything from prints and paintings to small ceramics, pendants, and even tiny quilts.

A sampling of artworks for sale from the Art-o-Mat
The inner workings of the Art-o-Mat

It’s fun to pull the knob and claim your prize, but with the Art-o-Mat, you’re engaging in a different type of consumption from your typical vending machine purchase. Art feeds your brain and your soul. It’s good for you. And $5 in this vending machine isn’t just a monetary transaction. The Art-o-Mat helps disseminate the work of talented individuals. It also encourages people to appreciate something small but significant – a work that arose out of someone’s creativity and inspiration.artomat whittington
Whittington helped found Artists in Cellophane, an organization dedicated to promoting art consumptions and making art more approachable.

It’s amazing to see those kinds of benefits from an old cigarette vending machine. In fact, I think that’s the wonderful thing about the Art-o-Mat. Sometimes we think of art as being a thing you find within a museum or a gallery, something you see on a special outing, or something you have to go out of your way to experience. The Art-o-Mat is all about distributing art to the world through a mundane machine, making it commonplace and easier to enjoy. And we should enjoy art everyday – not just the days we spend in museums. If you can’t get to an Art-o-Mat (here’s a map of the 100+ machines nationwide), don’t worry. Here are a few ideas from our staff on other ways to get your daily dose of art:

 -          Scan the flyers and handbills posted at your favorite coffee shop. Local budding artists are always looking for new audiences.
 -          Step outside your usual routine and listen to a new genre of music.
 -          Stop to admire a public sculpture.
 -          Go the digital route and add a Daily Dose of Art to your Facebook newsfeed.
 -          Browse your favorite artist or medium online – many museums now offer access to their collections through their websites. (I like perusing the costume collection on the MET website.)
-          Engage your inner artist and make something!

Art is not something confined to a frame or inside a gallery. It is in everything and everywhere, but it is up to us and how we perceive beauty and novelty. – Paulina Constancia of


Claire Quimby
Eiteljorg intern


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