Fritos bags and Coca-Cola bottles are normal vending machine sights, ready to be dispensed at the touch of a button. But artwork?
Two art vending machines are headed to Mancos, to be stationed by Fenceline Cider and Fahrenheit Coffee. It will offer a space for artists to sell and display their work, and perhaps make art more accessible to buyers who don’t visit galleries, said Alex Bond, a local blacksmith and board member of the Mancos Creative District.
“It’s a different kind of art-buying experience,” Bond said.
The idea for the vending machines came up earlier this year, Bond said, after he pitched some artwork to a prestigious gallery and was turned down.
“I was really sad and defeated as an artist, hearing that,” Bond said.
He started thinking about more accessible ways artists of all types could market and sell their products.
“I started thinking about how they sell other stuff, like food, and how it can be really hard to sell food in a restaurant, but a lot of people are doing it right out of a vending machine,” he said.
Bond spent some time talking over the project with an art vending machine proprietor for insight.
Bond then pitched the idea to the Mancos Creative District, which felt it was “timely,” as did the Artisans of Mancos gallery members. The gallery, which he belongs to, has been closed for the past few months, making it tough on local artists who rely on sales from the downtown art cooperative for income.
“The idea of having art available 24 hours a day, for all different types of artists, was really attractive,” Bond said.
They purchased two used snack machines out of Flagstaff and refurbished them, with artsy additions.
The machines will operate similarly to the Artisans of Mancos cooperative model. Artists will pay $3 or $5 for a small or large spiral, respectively, to be filled up with whatever artwork they wish.
Artists will set their own prices, from 10 cents up, and will take 100% of their profit after spiral fees, which will go toward machine upkeep and possibly future machines.
The machines don’t take credit cards yet, but the Creative District is raising funds for credit card readers.
By placing the devices at two main gathering places in Mancos, the Creative District hopes to draw the attention of patrons while also adding an attraction for the businesses themselves.
“The hope is that it’s a really symbiotic relationship,” Bond said.
He wants to bring young people into the project too. Right now, he’s presently seeking about 12 high school students for a woodcarving workshop this summer. Students will learn to harvest wood, carve objects such as spoons, and then sell them out of the vending machines, practicing the business and marketing side of art creation.
“There’s a validation that comes from selling art,” Bond said.