Fine art vending machine,
sponsored by Art Soup • $1 each
Edge of Urge • 18 Market Street
Steve Gibbs, founder and organizer of Art Soup, called for submissions a few months ago and asked artists to make pieces small enough to fit into tiny plastic balls found in quarter-operated vending machines. Known as ArtBalls. Gibbs is putting them all in a machine that charges one dollar per ball for holiday shoppers.
“This is an idea I’ve had in the back of my brain for several years,” Gibbs says. “Being a father, I think I enjoy the toy gumball machines more than most kids do. I love turning the handle and opening that capsule for the first time. It’s easy, simple fun. Four quarters, and you get a surprise gift. It’s a true treasure of spontaneity.”
Accessible art is an idea that Gibbs is fully behind. He says that in financially trying times, it’s important to make all people feel included in the arts instead of presenting it as an unattainable luxury. “People are sometimes hesitant or too broke to buy artwork or to support the arts,” he says. “The thought behind ArtBalls is to make original art available to people in a new, entertaining format. It’s sort of a vending machine for art.”
His favorite part of the idea is the random nature of the machine, which holds 180 unique balls. “The consumer doesn’t get to select the piece or the artist they wish to purchase,” he notes. “Instead, they just add coins, turn the dial, and out comes prepackaged, original art.”
Gibbs is more than aware of how some critics are viewing the machine. For anyone who might initially see the project as a way to commercialize or cheapen art, Gibbs promises that the motive behind the project is meant only to publicize the artists involved.
“It doesn’t lessen or belittle the art or the artist,” he says. “It actually serves as a marketing tool for each ballmaker, as every capsule includes the artist’s name, website and contact information.”
In this economy, no artist can afford to turn down smart marketing. Gibbs reminds that not all patrons are locals, so the idea of ready-to-take art is a good way to spread artists’ names outside the city.
“In a tourist town, you never know who’s going to pick up an ArtBall,” he says. “Curiosity is a disease. Art is the cure. ArtBalls make a simple, contemporary remedy. All artists currently working on the ArtBall project are professional working artists with lots of creativity to offer in a two-inch capsule.” Gibbs intends to make the project a permanent fixture, refilling the ArtBalls as needed with new art and more artists. The first batch will include mini work from Addie Wuensch, Teo Nincovik, Nicole Dobias-Shaw, Ryan Lewis, Kristen Patton, Gregory Junt, August Traeger and Jonathan Royal. Gibbs has been impressed with the level of creativity each artist brings to the project.
“We received everything from sculpted silverware, found-object assemblage, artist prints, drawings, sketches, paintings, photographs and more,” he says. “Some pieces are abstract, some are more traditional. Most of all, they’re original, local and fun!”
Art Soup chose Edge of Urge as the primary location for the vending machine. Gibbs is hoping that the creative atmosphere of the store will be the perfect home for ArtBalls, bringing in just the sort of contemporary crowd that will appreciate them. In the future, he also hopes to expand the project by having a few other locations and some more artists involved. For now, the balls are mostly for adults, and Gibbs warns parents to inspect the art pieces before letting children play with them. However, he hopes to bring kid artists into the mix soon, letting them contribute and use the machines to raise money for their classrooms.
Anyone interested in submitting art for the project must keep their piece no larger than 1.5” in diameter and contact Gibbs at www.art-soup.org. All proceeds of the ArtBalls machine go to support Art Soup’s arts and education programs.