Art-O-Mat at American Conservatory Theater Costume Shop

by Admin on 04/01/2013

Unveiling next week on April 8 at the American Conservatory Theater’s Costume Shop location on Market Street, the Art-o-mat® machine created by North Carolina artist and curator, Clark Whittington prompts a truly novel and unique dialogue between artists and audiences, as well as providing new opportunities and points of access for collecting art. SF Art Enthusiast spoke with The American Conservatory Theater’s Denys Baker and Kevin Kopjak, and its creator Mr. Whittington about how the Art-o-mat® came to A.C.T’s Costume Shop, this unique partnership, and its place within San Francisco’s dynamic art scene.

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Art-o-mat® at American Conservatory Theater’s Costume Shop

Denys Baker began the partnership when she inquired to Whittington about hosting an Art-o-mat® at A.C.T.’s Costume Shop Theater. Says Whittington, “San Francisco is a city deep in culture and positive energy. It all meshed together perfectly. The placement of the Art-o-mat® in non-visual art spaces not relevant to me, but has to be integrated into the overall mission of the venue. A.C.T. seems to get it and understand that reaching out to local artists is very beneficial.” An intimate performance space dedicated to new works, The Costume Shop houses an eclectic lineup of performances: from A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program productions to work by local artists and performing arts companies. Says Kevin Kopjak, “A.C.T Costume Shop’s mission is to expose people to theatre who may have never experienced theater before. Art-o-mat® interests people who may have never collected art.” Converted from restored cigarette vending machines, each Art-o-mat® customization is a collaborative process. Founded in 1965 and its opening night debut in 1967, A.C.T reflects its Pop Art-era roots with brightly-colored star-burst designs and mid-century style.

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Art-o-mat® at American Conservatory Theater’s Costume Shop

Within San Francisco Bay Area, there has been and continues to be a definite interest in affordable art collecting, from prints to one-night-only sketch events. All the objects sell for $5 apiece– with a 50% commission, money is not a high priority for artists because the Art-o-mat® does something more significant: it creates a fundamental creative dialogue between artist, buyer, and the vending machine host. The greater mission is, as Whittington explains, “the connection that happens when someone vends from our machines and they feel compelled to share their experience to the artist, to their family, their Facebook friends. It is not about volume or traditional retail theories. We are about engaging people in art.” Kopjak says over 200 international and national artists have participated in this art revolution: “The Art-o-mat® contains a combination of emerging and midcareer artists. it’s a great vehicle for artists to get their work out to a broad audience.” People collect specific artists, finding all different versions of their work. And there is more than just paintings, photographs and prints. Zipper pulls, earrings, and small sculptural objects are all found within the machine.

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Art by Mark Bulwinkle and Bryan Cunningham in Art-o-mat® at American Conservatory Theater’s Costume Shop

The Art-o-mat® also recovers the lost art of vending machines, and the tangible, immediate connection to a purchased object. There is an excited anticipation pulling the knob back and the clanking sound as the object falls to the bin, wondering what exactly the purchaser will get. Denys Baker related to Art Enthusiast that supporters and audiences have arranged Art-o-mat® vacations, going to various machine locations to find specific artists. Whittingtion relates this kind of positive, tangible connection with art to the influence of the digital age, and the recent interest of purchasing artworks online. Says Whittington: “There is a huge amount of hype surrounding the Web. There are wonderful images of art on the web. However, it is generally fleeting. With Art-o-mat®, people can hold a piece of art made by a living artist and live with it. Hopefully that connection will result into a relationship where they have a dialogue…Americans like to own, touch, experience, etc. Art-o-mat® fills that void.”

The Art-o-mat® at American Conservatory Theater will be unveiled on April 8, 2013 at 6pm to 7:30pm — More information about the event can be found on the Facebook event page. Learn how to submit your artwork to be featured in Art-o-mat® around the United States here.

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Art-o-mat® at American Conservatory Theater’s Costume Shop