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.
If you’re on the road and jonesing for a fix that only art can provide, check out www.artomat.org to find a location near you. The website is also a great place to view the art, see the vintage vending machines, and, if you are an artist, learn how to submit your work. The Santa Fe Art-o-mat, as yet the only one in the state, is turquoise and features New Mexico’s iconic Zia sun symbol. For information, call Brown at 795-1783.