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Priceless Art From a Vending Machine

My blog posts are usually about homeschooling and homeschool related reviews and such. Once in a while, something personal happens that I just want to share with everyone. About a month ago, I saw the coolest thing on PBS. It was a segment about an artist who refurbishes retired cigarette vending machines to vend original art. His name is Clark Wittington, and he is the mastermind of the unusual Art-O-Mat. Check out the six-minute segment that I saw, then come back to read the rest of the story.

After I learned of the Art-O-Mat vending machines, I became intrigued, and looked them up to find their locations. I was happy to see there was one in Concord, NC, where we were about to attend a Bible conference. During our afternoon break, just me and the kids went out for a treat at Starbucks, then onto downtown Concord to find this Art-O-Mat. We of course found it at the Cabarrus Arts Council Building. What a gorgeous building it is! It is the former county courthouse, built in 1876 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. I love old, unusual buildings, and was excited to go in.

We entered the building, and were the only ones there, except for the friendly lady at the information desk. I explained to her about the segment on PBS that I saw, and that I would like to purchase a piece of art from the vending machine. I could already see it shining at the end of the narrow hallway. We chatted for a couple more minutes, then I asked if I could walk on down and choose a piece. Then came the bad news. “Sure, you can – just wear a mask.” I stood there for a moment, and kindly told her I could not wear masks. I really thought since we were the only ones in the entire building, and I had already spent nearly five minutes talking to her, I would certainly be able to walk down the hall with less than thirty minutes before closing time to grab a piece of art.

Fortitude or Foolishness?

I can count on one hand how many times I have worn a mask. Three have been in medical facilities, once so my son could get his driver’s permit, and the other was to pick up a gun permit. I believe they are an attack on one’s identity, and are not at all intended as health protection. Sure, we have missed out on stuff, but have managed to live a normal life. I have done my best to set the example to stand, when others are blindly following, even if it means we “miss out” on something. Doing right, having integrity, fortitude, and remaining graceful are qualities that I hope I have passed on to them through all of this.

One may think I’m foolish for not complying. I mean, it’s only for a few minutes, it’s not going to kill me. Well, that is true, but I’m pertinacious. Plus, I really want this to end, and mass non-compliance is the only way for that to ever happen. Since the beginning of all this, I have analyzed what is a necessity and what is not when it comes to whether or not I will comply. That is where good judgement and common sense come in to play. So, I stood there, considered my using the Art-O-Mat was not a necessity, and kindly left the building….. disappointed.

As I lingered, and took a couple more pictures of the outside of the building, my teenage son said that he would go in and get one for me. I quickly said no. He insisted that he would go in, that he really wanted me to have one. I could sense his sincerity. I was humbled and flattered that he would do that for me, but again I said no. Then I started to think about how they have watched me approach situations, and when I “took one for the team” out of necessity. While this was certainly not a necessity, I appreciated the fact that he thought it was important enough for me to “take one for the team” this time. My satisfaction was what he deemed a necessity…..and also the fact he wanted to just use the vintage machine.

Priceless Art

That kid made me proud that day, as he does most days. His life will be filled with decisions, that may not always match mine. It’s time he begins using the skills his dad and I have taught him, and respond as he sees fit. Before we know it, he will be a future husband and leader of his own family one day. Not only did he get a box for me, he got one for his sister and himself. He laid them on the marble steps and we each chose a box. We opened them in the car, and smiled at the tiny, five dollar masterpieces.

To me, mine is priceless.

About the art

The piece in my small package contained a “palette painting” by Heather Brewster. It is recycled from the artist’s dried up palettes of paint. How neat is that? Heather is an artist from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The fish is a piece of pottery created by Ronda. With the addition of a few beads, it can be used as a pendant to create your own piece of jewelry!

The leaf block by Sara Method is inspired by fossils of shells and plants she found while hiking. She has created a series of mono prints, preserving the impressions of the plants.

To find out more about Art-O-Mat, check out

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