Dispense with art

LOS ANGELES — Santa Clarita, Calif., officials are hoping residents might forgo the chips and soda next time they buy from a vending machine and opt instead for something a little more edifying: a piece of art.

On Aug. 2 at the Art Walk in downtown Newhall, Calif., the city debuted its new Art2Go vending machine in an effort to whet the public's appetite for culture. Deposit $10 and the machine dispenses a miniature piece of original art, such as oil paintings, watercolors and tile work.

"The idea is to get people to start appreciating art," said Jeff Barber, Santa Clarita's arts and events supervisor.

Most of the participating artists live in the Santa Clarita Valley, and proceeds from their work will go toward funding city-run arts education programs, city officials said.

"The artists who have created the paintings have put their heart and soul into these little tiny pieces just to support us," said Donna Avila, Santa Clarita's community services coordinator.

Getting young people to embrace art is what prompted watercolor artist Sandy Fisher to contribute to the project.

"Kids don't get enough exposure to art in schools anymore," Fisher said.

Ten artists each contributed 10 original creations for the debut of the vending machine, which will move to other venues. There were oil-painted landscapes, floral cascades in watercolor, portraits of Native Americans in regal headdresses and mounted, multicolored origami sculptures.

Inside most of the packages — measuring about 5 by 5 inches — were a mini easel and a note from the artist who created the piece. Fisher's note speaks of her "love to catch the magic of light, form and color in nature."

Artist Pablo Cevallos, whose pieces were inspired by Santa Clarita's Old West history, said it's "just as difficult to do small pieces" as it is to create on a larger scale.

It took Michele Thompson 20 days to complete her oil-painted contributions, but she said she considers the effort well worth it.

"So many people are looking for a way to dip their toe in the water," Thompson said. "It's a great introduction for someone who is just looking to start a collection."

Artist Lisa Barr, whose works included depictions of a blaze of poppies at the reserve in Lancaster and pieces of sushi, was also enthusiastic.

"People get to purchase original art for a very reasonable price," she said. "I hope the public really latches on to it."

Barber said 19 pieces were sold from the vending machine at the Art Walk.

Among the buyers were Carol and Rich Rosenberg. Already owners of three of Thompson's larger works, they snapped up two of her small pieces from the machine.

"It's a lot better than junk food," said Carol Rosenberg of the vending-machine art concept. "It's food for the mind."

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