Artists in cellophane®


What a concept. At last, art that works on all levels, is cheap, yet priceless. Art that’s accessible to the masses and available at fine national galleries of art or perhaps a health food supermarket near you. Art that takes the environment into consideration. If there ever was a entrepreneurial venture in art that was fair and square and decent, then Art*o*mat™ is what you are looking for.

What is Art*o*mat™? Art*o*mat™ is the brainchild of one Clark Whittington who lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. What Clark does, as an expression of art, is to acquire old cigarette machines and turn them into a means for the common man and renowned art collector alike to have full and equal access to art created by more than 350 artists worldwide.

How does this work, you ask? Well, it’s quite simple actually. Clark has found the means to rescue old cigarette machines from landfills and convert them into art dispensing entities. What he does is ask artists to create art in their usual milieu on a block the size of a pack of cigarettes or create something that will fit in a small box the size of a pack of cigarettes...(heck, for a small fee, he’ll even send you the boxes). When your piece is finished, it gets wrapped up neatly in a strip of cellophane and violà… Artists in Cellophane! You are then given a slot in one his Art*o*mat™ machines. How much does this art cost? Five bucks is the going rate. This price is the same regardless of who created the art. True socialism. His slogan is "Don’t Go ‘Round Artless".

Clark has about 50 of these remarkable wonders around the country. Some of the more prestigious venues to have Art*o*mat™ machines include the The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, but also included on the list of venues are bookstores, cafes, and health food markets.

One of my first thoughts was, "Just how rich is this guy getting?" Well, I called him to find out how the money part works and a few other questions. The five bucks gets roughly split up something like this; a dollar goes to Whittington, two to two-fifty goes to the artist for each piece. and the rest goes to the exhibiting museum or charity and whatever other administrative costs there might be. I feel this idea is a true art exhibit. Whittington said he wants this to be an artistic expression and not a commercial venture. He has been approached by profit seekers with propositions and has consistently declined their offers and proposals. He is an artist himself and is listed as one of the participating artists in his machines.

To further elaborate on the five dollar part… it costs the artist more to make a piece than he or she will ever get back for it. I would be willing to guess that money-wise it would work out to a level somewhere below minimum wage and abject poverty. So why does one participate in this type of venture? I think cause it’s art. It is a great way to get a sample of your work around the country. It is a nice way to spread a little joy. It’s a fantastic way to keep a few of these big ole dinosaur cigarette machines out of the landfills. It shows how the entrepreneurial spirit and the imagination can meld and come up with something that can be appreciated at all levels and by all ages and a small cost. Anyway, if you want to scope out the Art*o*mat™ site on the web, it’s at

This is not sounding too slightly of center, is it? There must be some little point of self righteous indignation that spits a gob into the face of humanity that I can leave you with. My state, like all states in the country, is in the process of trying come up with creative ways to raise money to support it’s ever burgeoning self, so it’s coming up with new things it can tax, which are really old things that were free before. This is true ludicrousness at its apexual maximum. Something that was fine and dandy yesterday...and free, now becomes something to tax today by dint of perhaps the state’s poor spending habits and a stroke of the pen. Huh? When you take more money from me, as for instance in a speeding ticket or whatever, it’s like a punishment for being bad. The only thing is, with these new proposed taxes, I ain’t been bad and you tell me you’re going to take the money anyway. I wonder why the cost of everything always go up even though I know why in my ever burgeoning little head. It has something to do with greed and stuff like that. Who wants to hear this bull? No one. You know what would be nice...maybe a something like a Tax*o*mat. Some sort of contraption where one group of people put some small effort into some govenmental thingy or another and then some other people come along and put a small pittance into it and something useful came out, like a simple form that people could understand and that when filled out in less than three minutes would cause something governmenty-like to duplication, replication, rumination, osculation or fermentation.

J. Jules Vitali is a sculptor, columnist and poet who resides in Freeport, Maine. He is the creator of the art form, Styrogami (tm) which can be seen on the web at He is also an Artist in Cellophane.