Thursday, July 29, 2021
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Taking ‘Art To Go’: New Vending Machine Supports Local Artists Amid Pandemic

Late-night hangouts by the halal cart just got a lot more interesting thanks to the installation of a vending machine that sells local artwork just a few steps away.

A vintage cigarette machine was converted into an “Art To Go” vending machine that allows State College creators to sell their work to the public at a low cost.

Julie Verdon and Kieran Holland from Ten Thousand Villages State College, the nonprofit fair-trade market, debuted the project outside of 3 Dots Downtown, 137 E. Beaver Ave.

“We were looking for a home in an arts and culture setting with good foot traffic,” Verdon said. “We thought it might add a cool, funky touch to the venue but give the art in the machine the exposure and visibility it would need for sales.”

The vending machine features 22 slots of jewelry, pins, puzzles, clay dishes, and just about any piece of artwork that is small enough to fit in a cigarette-sized box. The artwork is completely original and sells for about $15 each.

Photo courtesy of Julie Verdon

The inspiration for the project is from a similar piece Verdon saw at the Whitney Museum in New York years ago. When the pandemic hit, the two decided to launch their project to help out local, struggling artists.

“This project started out with an idea my partner Kieran Holland and I had when the pandemic hit and our businesses were shut down,” Verdon said. “He and I love to brainstorm business ideas, so it actually started out as an outlandish idea, to sell our goods from a vending machine.

“But then we quickly realized that we each had skills we could combine to make it a reality,” Verdon continued. “We never imagined it would take off the way it is doing.  We had several stalls with it, but we kept on going. Now it has become my favorite project and what has helped me keep my focus on something fun and forward-thinking during this year of turmoil.”

Artists need support this season, and Art To Go provides great stocking stuffers and exposure to talented local artists. Many events are shut down for selling opportunities, but artists that are featured in the machine have online shops for larger works.

“I am not sure we could have done this without 3 Dots,” Verdon said. “They have a site, [and] they gave us a grant to help get it off the ground and they have introduced us to the community.”

Verdon explained that 3 Dots co-founder and director Spud Marshall was integral in referring her and Holland to other potential collaborators, which has developed and grown a wonderful partnership with the local downtown arts community.

Artists who are interested in selling their work in the Art to Go vending machine downtown can email Verdon at [email protected].