You won’t find any smokes in this retro cigarette vending machine. Feed it some cash, and instead of a cigarette you’ll be rewarded with little pieces of art.
What was started in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1997 by artist Clark Whittington as a temporary art exhibit has now grown into an expansive project. Today more than 100 refurbished cigarette vending machines stocked with work from more than 400 artists are spread across the United States and beyond.
Whittington transformed the machines, which were banned by many towns in the late 20th century, into what are essentially little art stores. All you have to do is donate $5 and crank the handle to receive your own original, handmade souvenir. Anything from paintings, jewelry, little sculptures, or drawings will fall into your hands.
The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, houses the one of the largest single collections of machines throughout its lobby and hallways. There are six such classic Art-o-mats within the Cosmo. Finding them is half the fun … choosing which artist to purchase a treasure from is the other.
Know Before You Go
Visit the Art-o-mat website for all vending machine locations, and help support local artists. Machines take exact change: $5 bills only.
In January 2024, three of the machines at the Cosmopolitan were empty.