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Art-O-Matic for the People

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The Art-O-Mat Vending Machine

New art collectors on a tight budget may find a unique dealer at the Whole foods market on east Franklin Street. Close inspection of the 1960s cigarette machine near the store's exit will reveal it to actually be vending genuine, one-of-a-kind art. Selections range from a tiny CD full of music, to miniature oil paintings, to "toys for circus cats"; anything hand-made that can fit into a cigarette box-sized pack, and can be wrapped in cellophane can be found there. The art costs five dollars each and only takes Sacagawea golden dollars, made available at customer service inside.

Clark Whittington, a young artist living in Winston-Salem, NC, began Art-o-Mat seven years ago as a means of encouraging art consumption by expanding access to artists' works. His converted machines can be found in 10 countries around the world and package the work of over 300 artists. North Carolina, with its history of tobacco farming, plays host to more of these former smoke venders than any other state in the Union.

Visit www.artomat.org for more information.

The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill

All Text and Photos © 2004.