2009 September 25 02:24 pm | by John Boatwright


Filed In Art

On my recent visit to Chicago, I madly searched for an original, meaningful, yet inexpensive gift for John’s birthday. While visiting The Chicago Cultural Center I found a treasure chest of gift possibilities in the Art-o-mat.

Art-o-mat machines are retired cigarette vending machines converted to vend art. Each slot carries an original, hand made piece of art that fits in a 2” x 3” x 1” box (a cigarette box). The artwork varies from tiny paintings, photographs, jewelry to sculpture and soap. There are more then 400 contributing artists from 10 countries and no two pieces are alike. 

The idea started in 1997 by Clark Whittington in the cigarette capital of the world, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And when you see the Art-o-mat you will think to yourself “damn, I wish I thought of that!” 

Find an Art-o-mat machine near you.

Art-o-mat vending machine

Person choosing artwork from an Art-o-mat vending machine

Diane Keys artwork

Artwork by Diane Keys of Elgin, IL. John received one of her pieces for his birthday.



noun | a box or crate used as a makeshift stand by a public speaker:
[as adj.] a soapbox orator.
figurative a thing that provides an opportunity for someone to air their views publicly
chiefly historical a box or crate in which soap is packed and transported.