Cigarette vending machines have gone the way of dinosaurs. No longer do they grace the lobbies of restaurants, hotels, and bus stations, providing easy access to their deleterious products. Art-o-mat vending machines, on the other hand, are growing in popularity (and their contents are much healthier, too). Art-o-mats are cigarette machines that have been retired and converted into devices to dispense art. More than 100 machines are currently in use across the United States, and a few are in operation overseas. This month, Santa Fe adds its name to the roster of locations when an Art-o-mat (nicknamed MAThilda) comes to the hallway of El Centro de Santa Fe (102 E. Water St.).
For the art collector in you who can’t afford high-end gallery prices, the Art-o-mat offers an opportunity to purchase an original cigarette-box-sized artwork for $5 — that’s cheaper than most packs of cigarettes these days. Clark Whittington, founder and creator of the Art-o-mat, and Victoria Brown, the program’s Santa Fe host, conduct a meet-and-greet at the Santa Fe launch on Saturday, Feb. 16, from 1 to 5 p.m. Local artists inter- ested in participating are invited to attend.