Downtown State College has a new feature on the sidewalk: a vending machine that dispenses tiny works of art.
State College residents, friends and business partners Julie Verdon and Kieran Holland purchased a vintage cigarette machine from eBay in April and fixed it up over the summer. Instead of cigarettes, the “Art-to-Go” machine now dispenses miniature art pieces for $15.
“All of these pieces are really cool because they’re all handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces, and I just don’t know how you beat that,” Holland said.
The Art-to-Go machine is inspired by a similar vending machine Verdon saw years ago at the Whitney Museum in New York City. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Verdon and Holland decided to create their own art vending machine to help promote local, “struggling” artists.
The duo partnered with 3 Dots Downtown as a site for the machine.
Spud Marshall is the founder of 3 Dots, an arts and innovation center in downtown State College.
Marshall said he and his colleagues at 3 Dots struggled with “supporting artists in a non-virtual way” during the coronavirus pandemic. When they were presented with the Art-to-Go machine, he said “it was a no-brainer.”
“When people think of downtown, they think of fairly traditional staples,” Marshall said. “I love that this machine is adding a little bit of a curveball. We’re known for more than just that. We’re known for all of these other creative endeavors that are happening.”
According to Holland and Verdon, every piece is designed to fit inside a container the size of a cigarette box. Buyers won’t know exactly what is inside the box they purchase — it may contain a miniature painting, sculpture or even a piece of jewelry.
“It’s kind of like getting a little surprise. That’s part of the fun,” Verdon said.
The machine takes credit cards as well as contactless payment like Apple Pay and Google Pay. The boxes contain artists’ social media and contact information, so it also serves as a marketing tool for artist promotion, according to Holland and Verdon. The pair contacted 10 “pilot artists” to feature their work.
Amy Frank is the founder and the director of The Makery in downtown State College, an art studio that also features the work of Pennsylvania artists. Frank’s work — as well as other artists’ work from The Makery — will be available in the Art-to-Go machine.
Frank said the Art-to-Go machine provides a “funky” way for local artists to “get their work into the community.”
“What a great way to make local art accessible to people in town,” Frank said. “Anything we can do to infuse the downtown with fun, vibrancy and weird, quirky delight is great.”
Amber Scott owns Mt. Nittany Creations, a jewelry business based out of the State College area. Her handmade leather jewelry will be available in the Art-to-Go machine.
“For $15, you not only have something beautiful, but you get to give back during this hard time,” Scott said. “I think it’s a unique opportunity to reuse something to add back into our community.”
Holland and Verdon said they would ultimately like to see the machine be a permanent fixture inside a building. For the foreseeable future, the Art-to-Go machine will be located on the sidewalk outside 3 Dots for passersby to easily visit.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Art-to-Go machine was held on Halloween outside 3 Dots.
There is currently a call for more local artists to submit their own original artwork to be featured in the Art-to-Go machine.
“I would love to have some student artists represented,” Verdon said.
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