Mead Public Library is home to an Art*o*mat™, a recycled cigarette vending machine which sells original works of art for $5 a pull. The Mead Art*o*mat was the third in Wisconsin and is one of just a handful located in a library (most are in stores or museums).
Each Art*o*mat is unique. Mead’s was made by National, a well-known vending machine manufacturer, during the 1950s. It was recovered from a third-generation vending company business located in eastern North Carolina and was most likely used in a bar.It is located on the first floor of Mead Library, near the elevators. The machine will accepts a $5 bill and in return, the buyer will get a small original artwork packaged or created to be the size of a package of cigarettes. The proceeds are shared by the artist, the Friends of Mead Public Library, and Art*o*mat’s creator. The Kohler Foundation helped to fund expenses associated with Art*o*mat installation.
The artworks available through Art*o*mat come from more than 400 artists and 10 countries. Many are small paintings on a block of wood, but they also include such things as a ring, toy robot, stained glass, handmade paper, or a puzzle. Each package also identifies and gives contact information for the artist.
“Exposure is a key point” for the artists, said Art*o*mat creator Clark Whittington. Many are very loyal to the concept of affordable and accessible art. Some have had commissions or sold work based on their Art*o*mat participation, he said.
Artists in Cellophane (A.I.C.), the sponsoring organization of Art*o*mat, is based on the concept of taking art and “repackaging” it to make it part of our daily lives.