The Art-O-Mat was born in 1997 when artist Clark Whittington (Winston-Salem, NC) exhibited a selection of his paintings at a local café, the Penny Universitie. Alongside the paintings, Whittington dispensed his photographs from a then-recently banned cigarette vending machine. At the conclusion of the exhibit, café owner Cynthia Giles asked Whittington to make the machine a permanent installation. It was at this point that the two rounded up local artists to participate in what would soon become a National sensation.
Now, more than 25 years later, Art-O-Mat vending machines distribute artwork in more than 200 locations nationally and internationally at the low price of $5. Venues include cafés and hair salons, along with galleries, art museums, and even casinos. Each machine is a lovingly restored antique cigarette vending machine uniquely decorated by Whittington and his team.
Featured in major magazines (Newsweek, Art News, Southern Living, and Reader's Digest among others) and news outlets (ABC, The Washington Post), Art-O-Mat's mission is to increase access to art and provide exposure and promotional support to artists. (Participating artists receive the largest share of proceeds from the machines.)
The curated selection in each machine varies, and artists are encouraged to submit prototypes to Artists In Cellophane for review and possible inclusion in the program.