It’s a kind of art gallery inside a vending machine. There’s a new effort to raise the profile of artists and creators in Chicago and put money in their pockets. Producer Marc Vitali leans into the lighter side of buying artwork — and other fun stuff — sometimes just to go with your beer.
Marc Vitali: At Metropolitan Brewing in Avondale…
And the Chicago Cultural Center in the Loop…
Repurposed vending machines are filled with vintage paperbacks, novelties and… art.
We scored a signed print for $15.
The machines are owned and operated by local company Good Things Vending.
Steph Krim, Sale of good things:
Good Things Vending is a creative vending machine project. It offers local, vintage, and nostalgic art, as well as practical convenience store-type items.
I will try just about anything within the limits of the machine. There is a price restriction which is $1 to $20 and there is a size restriction. It should be the size of a bag of chips or the size of a candy bar.
Vitali: Products may include a game of Bird Bingo, jewelry or embroidered patches.
Steph Krim says business is booming, with machines needing to be replenished weekly. A third machine is in preparation.
Krim: Before there was Good Things Vending, there were just a few vending machines in my garage, which is not normal to see in someone’s garage. I have been in the hospitality industry for years. I was in the arts in the city, that’s what brought me here, I went to the School of the Institute of Art and the thing that I really learned there was is that what makes any education or community beautiful is everyone involved in contributing.
Vitali: The vending machines themselves are a canvas for the local artists commissioned to paint them.
And the elements inside are suitable for the public. At the Cultural Center, for example, things are more family-oriented.
But you have to visit the brewery if you want a locally made lapel pin that identifies you as a “cheese slut”.
Krim: I love when people reach out to collaborate, especially when they come up with ideas that come out of what I’ve done before, because it’s its own little satellite retail moment that doesn’t have really the same kind of rules that a brick-n-mortar shop would have, so we can get pretty playful.
Vitali: A collaborator is Hannah Sellers, the creator of the Cat Drool coloring books and more.
Hannah Sellers: Cat Drool is my art practice that was born out of the pandemic, and I’m a designer by trade and so Cat Drool allows me to set a lot of design rules and just process my emotions and my life. It’s called Cat Drool because my cat drools when he’s happy. So I thought that was pretty unique. I found out that other people have cats that drool too, so that’s kind of funny.
It totally gives my art a different shape and form, and it also gives me a different place. Like I’ll never get my art at Metropolitan Brewing. Someone might just have a beer and they’re like ‘oh what is this’ and they’ve never heard of me or my art and then they just grab a coloring book or a pack of stickers, and I’m still floored that people buy them. Steph will be like ‘Your line is sold out again’ and I’m like ‘What do you mean?’ Like someone bought my drooling cat sticker pack?
Vitali: The machines accept cash or plastic, and the profits are shared.
Krim: Right now the way it’s organized is that the artists’ assets are in the machine on consignment. It’s 60/40 in favor of the artist. If the items are really popular and I have trouble keeping them in stock, I sometimes buy works in bulk. What we have found is that small draws are the best, so someone will produce 10, 12, maybe 20 of something and when that draw is over, that draw is over.
Usually it’s that feeling of joy, that’s what I feel the most because that person who decided to walk, they’re probably into who I am. And seeing someone do something like open a purse or discover a new artist’s product while it hangs here or you see people playing the games or comparing the socks they have, that sort of thing makes me feel like the project is really coming to life and its more than this static vending machine, but it’s this community. That’s what I feel.
Good Things vending machines can be found at the Chicago Cultural Center and the Metropolitan Brewing. A third machine will be installed at the Way Out bar in Logan Square next month. Find out more on their Instagram page via the website.