Instead of the usual array of candy, chips and soda, the old-fashioned vending machine on the second floor of the Fine Arts building offers students something a little healthier: art.
For $2 to $5, a selection of pocket-sized artworks are lined up in rows for a viewer to purchase. Some pieces come with short explanations from the artist, while others leave the buyer guessing.
The machine is called the Art Drop project and is run by Garth Amundson and his ART 495 Professional Practices seminar class. It’s designed to get art students to think about their preconceptions about “selling out” and what it takes to produce art for a public market.
Senior Kimmiree Bolla said “my [class] believes the opportunity to see how this operates in the right environment will be a great learning experience, and a great way to experience art and commerce first hand.”
Bolla is majoring in Studio Art and is on the classes’ public relations team for the Art Drop machine. She will also be contributing her own art for sale.
“Since our class is a mixture of studio art majors you can expect to see many different types of small art works,” she said in an e-mail.
The machine acts as a class project, requiring students to work together to create a machine that will be successful with general public. Students are divided into five groups, responsible for areas such as maintenance, promotion and marketing and money management. They must also decide if they want to create their own art, or solicit others to fill the machine, and if so, whether to give the creators a percentage of the profits.
Students are encouraged to think about what type of art is sellable and popular, such as jewelry, magnets and pins. The course description tells students “the intention of the project is to figure out how you can rub two sticks together to make money, with as little overhead as possible.”
Amundson said the art department has owned the machine for about 10 years, after B&P vending donated it to the school at his request. He said art department is lucky to have it as a real-life experiment for students to experience art marketing. The idea came from a similar national project the reuses retired cigarette machines to vend art.
“I approached [B&P] after seeing an Art-o-mat [machine] at a major museum,” he said, “I definitely drew inspiration from their successful example.”
The vending machine even has its own Instagram and Facebook page, “WWU Art Drop,” which Bolla said will feature artists who have contributed to the machine.
“I think students are contributing art because it’s interesting to see if something will sell or not, she said. “They are only small works, but it’s exciting to see people enjoy your art work.”
This quarter’s selections will be officially unveiled December 7, as students in the class work on projects to fill the machine throughout the quarter.