Cigarette vending machine now dispenses tiny works of art

An old cigarette dispenser has become a purveyor of tiny art in a treehouse near a lake in Mulgrave-et-Derry, Que.

Machine that dispenses small art pieces spending summer in a treehouse in Quebec

The Art-o-mat vending machine, which formerly dispensed cigarettes, sits in a treehouse near Lac La Blanche, about an hour's drive northeast of Ottawa. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

An old cigarette dispenser has become a purveyor of tiny art.

The Art-o-mat was repurposed by a group of artists in Ottawa and usually spends its time in the city. But this summer it's residing in a treehouse near a lake in Mulgrave-et-Derry, Que., about 70 kilometres northeast of Ottawa.

​Myka Burke, who founded Artspace613, told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning there are more than 400 artists who contribute works for more than 100 Art-o-mats around the world.

The machine currently sitting in a treehouse in west Quebec is the only Art-o-mat in Canada.

"​I love it when you can repurpose and inject beauty and art and creativity in places where people didn't originally imagine that. It's definitely what's happening here," Burke said. 

Myka Burke stands in the treehouse where the Art-o-mat is spending the summer. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

The treehouse, on Lac La Blanche in Mulgrave-et-Derry, was built mostly with reclaimed materials and is wheelchair accessible.

"I think art should be in all kinds of places and there should be the opportunity to interact, especially in a playful way, with art, in ways that we don't necessarily do in a museum," Burke said.

Burke and two other artists from the Ottawa area contributed pieces of art for the Art-o-mat. She said she also stocks the machine with art from the U.S.

Art costs the equivalent of $5 US. You get a token, put the token in the dispenser, and then a small box pops out with your new work of art, she said. 

Artist Virginia Dupuis said she was intrigued by the idea that an old cigarette dispenser could dispense small works of art. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Virginia Dupuis, one of the local artists who contributed pieces for the Art-o-mat, said the concept intrigued her. 

"Mainly because of the idea of what it had been before, that it was dispensing cigarettes, and now it would dispense works of art that were originals, so turning that whole thing around into dispensing some art and culture," Dupuis said.

And as an artist used to working with bigger canvases, the small size required for the Art-o-mat was an interesting new challenge.

"I was a little perplexed because the work is so tiny. I had to think about that for a while, like a challenge that I could not resist to make small works of art for a change."

Anyone who's interested in visiting the Art-o-mat in the treehouse can email Burke at artspace613@gmail.com.

A vending machine spits out a tiny piece of orginal art. 6:12