Clark Whittington is inviting the world to be a part of the growing Art-o-mat family of artists, hosts and collectors, with over 170 machines across the United States as well as Canada, Australia and Austria. You can track the locations with an online map, so you are “never artless” in your travels, but you don’t have to leave the Triad to find an Art-o-mat machine. Whittington’s concept of encouraging more art consumption while reaching audiences that artists may have never accessed is keeping old vending machines out of the landfill and repurposing them into art dispensing machines where people can buy art on their own terms for $5.
Local Art-o-mats can be found in Greensboro at Revolution Mill and in its hometown of Winston-Salem at the Southeastern Center of Contemporary Art, the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Foothill’s Brewing Tasting Room, Mary’s Gourmet Diner, A/perture Cinema, Salem Fine Arts Center, Artwork’s Gallery, Krankies Coffee, Earl’s, Jugheads Growlers & Pints, Wake Forest University, Wherehouse Art Hotel, The Olio Glasshouse, St. Paul’s Episcopal, and the Benton Convention Center. From locations in Walnut Cove, Durham, Cary, Boone and beyond North Carolina, Art-o-mats are on the move.
Whittington, an artist and native of Concord, owned Rococo Fish Gallery in the Charlotte’s NoDa (North Davidson) Arts District in the late ‘80s before he moved to Winston-Salem. He said his art comes to him from his experiences and ideas. One day, he observed a friend’s Pavlovian reaction to seek a vending machine upon hearing the crinkling of a cellophane snack wrapper, he sketched out his first Art-o-mat machine, a piece of art itself created from retired cigarette vending machines.
In 1997, he transformed his first old cigarette machine into a functional piece of art to dispense his black and white peel-a-part Polaroids and later invited other artists to be involved creating “Artists in Cellophane” for his conceptual work that included an Art-o-mat.
“I love how artists take this format and make it their own,” he said. “I enjoy seeing people come up with great ideas and getting them into an Art-o-mat and keeping their art alive. When artists and buyers connect through an Art-o-mat, it’s tangible, it’s real, and it’s something people can take with them and enjoy.”