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New Art Distributor Arrives In St. Louis: A Repurposed Vintage Cigarette Dispenser

(Courtesy Serendipity Gallery)
Lisa Anne Houdyshell, manager of Serendipity Gallery, with the newly arrived Art-o-mat.

Fifteen years ago, Clark Whittington was searching for a way to make his art more sellable. Inspired by a co-worker, he came up with the idea of a vending machine dispensing art.

“I used to work at a company where a friend of mine had a Pavlovian reaction to snack wrappers. When he’d hear the crinkle of cellophane, he’d buy something for himself. So that gave me the idea to put art in a vending machine,” said Whittington.

Cigarette vending machines were easily accessible because Congress had recently outlawed their use in public places. So he began refurbishing them and finding places to put them, while simultaneously creating collaborations with other artists to help fill them with art.

“You can tell the artists that really get what we do,” said Whittington. “At the end of the day their pieces stand alone.”

Because of the setup of the dispensers, called Art-o-mats, purchasers don’t know ahead of time what they will be getting. They could be getting a painting or a sculpture or a piece of jewelry.

St. Louis is now home to its very own Art-o-mat at Serendipity Gallery, christened “Artie” by gallery manager Lisa Anne Houdyshell.  

“My husband is a fine art photographer, and he saw one of Clark’s machines in Key West, Florida, and he sent me a picture, and said you’ve got to call this guy,” said Houdyshell. “I like the idea of - our gallery has a bunch of repurposed pieces, this is repurposed. And then, for me, having a cigarette machine retooled to do something fun meant a lot because my mom was a cigarette smoker, and she died of lung cancer.”

During the opening reception for Clark Whittington’s Art-o-mat, Serendipity Gallery will be raising donations for the Lung Cancer Connection, a St. Louis charity.

Related Event

Serendipity Gallery Presents Clark Whittington

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Serendipity Gallery, 6161 Delmar

For more information, call 314-449-6400 or visit the Serendipity Gallery website.

Reservations to the reception can be made at rsvp@serendipity-gallery.com.

Cityscape is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer, hosted bySteve Potter and funded in part by the the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis, the Regional Arts Commission and the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.