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DISPENSING ART

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At least one North Carolinian has found a new use for banned cigarette vending machines.

Inspired by a friend "with a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane wrapping," Winston-Salem, N.C., conceptual artist and graphic designer Clark Whittington has conceived the Art*o*Mat, a refurbished vending machine that dispenses various artistic creations for a fee.

Whittington retools vintage machines picked up around the tobacco state's cafes and bars, then stocksthe units with work collected from as many as 230 artists.

The artist, whose résumé includes stints at North Carolina shops Trone Advertising in Greensboro and The Woodbine Agency in Winston-Salem, first used a machine in a 1997 one-man art show, filling the individual slots with his own work.

Since then, 34 machines have been leased to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, among other venues.