Virginia store celebrates milestone with a new art-focused addition

National
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NEW MARKET, Va. (WDVM) — Most people know what a vending machine is and have an idea of what’s typically inside of them. 

“When I think of a vending machine, I would think about soda or candy.” Jon Henry says. 

But the Art-O-Mat might change the way you think about vending machines. The Art-O-Mat project was started by North Carolina based artist Clark Whittington who saw the outlawing of cigarette vending machines as an opportunity to vend art instead. 

“It’s also an approachable way to introduce people to buying art that’s not scary, you’re not dropping a couple hundred dollars to a thousand dollars, you’re just dropping five bucks and you get an original piece of art,” he says. 

There are over 100 Art-O-Mat machines across the world and the Jon Henry General Store in New Market is the first in the Shenandoah valley to host one. And Jon Henry says since it arrived last week, its been a hit. 

“They’re explaining what it is to younger folks and the younger folk are totally confused that you used to be able to buy cigarettes that way.” he says.

Henry who went to school for art says he’s always trying to find new ways to highlight the arts in the valley.

“A lot of them are on display, and the samples are up here, they’re actually wooden blocks that are the size of a cigarette box.” he says. 

The project works with 400 artists to include them in the Art-O-Mat distribution network. Henry says he hopes even more stores and sites in the valley will look into getting one.

“We’re excited to be the first and we hope we’re not the last, I think it’d be really cool if it becomes normalized.” he says. 

There are Art-O-Mat machines in the Richmond, Charlottesville, Norfolk and Farmville areas. Other national hosts include the Boston museum of fine arts and the Smithsonian.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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