Culture » Visual Arts

Chavez Art Gallery's vending machine adds a dose of whimsy on the cheap

The Cut


Liese and Kris Chavez with their art lottery machine. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Liese and Kris Chavez with their art lottery machine.

Feed a buck into the art lottery machine at Chavez Art Gallery and choose from a selection of creations made by gallery owners Liese and Kris Chavez. Perhaps a birthday-pug keychain. Or a bag of tea with packaging graced by a dour March Hare. If you're lucky, the machine might also drop a bonus (hence the machine's moniker) in the form of a miniature drawing or a piece of jewelry.

The machine's offerings change as the gallery's exhibits turn over. During last year's Alice in Wonderland-themed show, the Chavezes added the bags of sweet mint tea from nearby Yellow Mountain Teahouse and brought the March Hare to the package.

The machine was originally built to dispense travel-sized pill packs, which puts some constraints on its current contents.

"It's kinda challenging coming up with things that small," says Kris. "In general, artists don't like limitations. They'd rather do things according to their whims. But having limitations sometimes helps you get creative with what you're producing."

He's designing a set of paper dolls to be released soon, titled "Cupcakes in danger." They'll depict walking cupcakes in droll peril: One will run toward a banana peel with scissors in hand.

The Chavezes were inspired by an Art-o-mat machine — an old cigarette vending machine refurbished to sell small art objects — at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California.

The art lottery machine has been popular. At the opening of new exhibits, Kris says he has to refill the machine with some frequency. Children in particular enjoy using it, and Kris says it often turns passers-by and casual viewers into art buyers.

"People narrow in on it when they come in," he says.

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