I see this quirky little machine every time I walk in Whole Foods HQ downtown to get a healthy helping of freshly made vegetable juice. But I’m usually in too much of a hurry to pay much attention to it. I kinda always knew what it was, just never *really* looked at it. However, I had a few seconds the other day and I FINALLY took a closer look and was just as charmed as I always thought I would be!
It’s a vending machine for reasonably priced art ($5!)! Yay!
According to their website:
The inspiration for Art-o-mat® came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane. When the friend heard someone opening a snack, he had the uncontrollable urge to have one too.
In June 1997, Clark was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie in Winston-Salem, N.C. He used a recently-banned cigarette machine to create the first Art-o-mat®. It was installed along with 12 of his paintings. The machine sold Clark’s black & white photographs mounted on blocks for $1.00 each.
The show was scheduled to be dismantled in July 1997. However, owner Cynthia Giles loved the machine and asked that it stay permanently. At that point, it was clear that involvement of other artists was needed if the project was going to continue. Cynthia introduced Clark to a handful of other local artists and the group Artists in Cellophane (AIC) was formed.
These little machines are all over the nation, with four locations in Austin (they are currently in Whole Foods Global HQ on Lamar, Whole Foods @ Arbor Trails, Whole Foods in Bee Cave, and the Mercury store in the 2nd Street District – Whole Foods @ The Domain is in the works). I LOVE this concept because I think these little pieces of art make great gifts, and are a way better way to spend $5 than on a coke and a couple of candy bars or useless pieces of junk that you may get from other vending machines.
I was so intrigued that I just had to find out more. So, I got in touch with the owner of the concept, Clark Whittington. First off, he had only positive things to say about Austin, which is not surprising in the least. He says that Mercury was the first venue in Austin and they’ve been there about 6 years or so – he says that Mercury has been great to work with. Whole Foods then contacted him and has since taken the concept under their wing, which he says has taken the concept to a whole new level.
He also told me that, even though the machines are throughout the US, there are several Austin-based artists who have work in the Art-o-mats. Here’s the list of current Austin-based artists:
Clark says that the real mission of the project is to promote artists. They have about 120 machines and about 300 or so participating artists. He describes the concept as the balance of art versus commerce.
I asked him how the concept has grown over the years. How it had started from one machine in a coffee shop in Winston-Salem to 120 machines across the nation. Here’s what he said:
I don’t really contact people because when I do I get treated like I’m selling vinyl siding, so I wait until I hear from people and then go from there. We’re an art project – it’s not the best business model. It’s really weird how art centers and museums – if I pitch someone – they just start crunching numbers. Lots of times, businesses like Whole Foods and Mercury understand that there’s more too it than every little nickel and dime. Art-o-mat is not pretentious – we are reaching out to everyone, everyone is invited to participate.
I just want to share this with the world – with people that do get it. The last thing I’d want to do is expand in a way that doesn’t mesh with what we’re doing. We have to be calculated and relaxed with how we do things. Artists and hosts have to find us on their own.
Logistically, every machine is owned by the studio – not only to control the quality of inventory – but because, at the end of the day, this represents Clark’s livelihood. There are a few collectors that own their machine, but most are on a lease. Then the host buys art from Art-o-mat on invoice, as needed. Clark works with artists to curate and distribute the art for the machines.
Clark says they are in need of artists, especially Texas artists. If you, or someone you know, has an interest in either hosting a machine or providing art for the machine – you can visit Art-o-mat’s contact page on their website. He seems to be pretty responsive. Want to see some amazing samples of the type of art work in the machines? Visit their Flickr page.
Jude and I ride the Amtrak Texas Eagle from Austin to Little Rock at least once a year to visit my family.
We get a private cabin and find train travel to be a great alternative to the hassle of air travel – the slower pace IS the luxury. We bring several books and just enjoy a relaxing day of reading and appreciating the scenery.
But, DAAAAAAMMMMNNN! – Now that I’ve seen Patron Billionaire John Paul DeJoria’s private passenger railcar up close and personal, while enjoying sips of $600/bottle Patrón Burdeos and noshing on delicious tex-mex cuisine, every single other travel experience I’ve ever had pales in comparison. Shout out to Michael Tashnick (local hero and owner of the best Austin sports bar) for extending the invite to us.
The railcar, originally built in the 1920s and owned by DeJoria since 1996, has been lodged at the Amtrak station just to the west of downtown Austin since last week (if you live at The Spring Condos in downtown Austin and face west – you may have seen it through your window), and last night Patrón held a special, intimate gathering to promote their fine, fine liquor and show off The Patrón Tequila Express. I ate to my heart’s content, took a ton of pictures (including one with the billionaire himself – I die!), and reveled in all the cool stuff (special things happening all the time, that don’t make it to the mainstream) that happens in Downtown Austin!
I think the pictures speak for themselves! (Many thinks to friend and Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association President Mitchell McGovern for sharing some of his pics, too!). Just FYI, this was pretty much Jude and I’s reaction faces the whole time we were in the train:
Gallery after the jump…. [Read more...]
Downtowner Chuck Smith is a lover of history, a proponent of Texas charm and knows how to create spaces in Austin that keep people coming back. The restaurateur is warm and welcoming, and loves Austin for its “energized people and positive vibes.”
Smith is one of the creative minds behind the Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, located at 4th and Red River. Architecture and travel are important to Smith, who would rather read a book on urban spaces than watch the Food Network, and loves visiting small coastal communities with his family.
“I’m a big fan of the coast, and small communities that are designed for mingling and a back-to-basics lifestyle,” he said.
But Moonshine, Smith shared, is less about “other things seen,” and is a result of its own history and what it was. A hotbed of trade and commerce in the late 1880s, the mansion that now houses the best brunch in Austin and a “culture of comfort” is what Smith describes as a place that “calls to all.”
Along with cofounder Larry Perdido, Smith wanted to instill that “back-to-basics” vibe, which tells a good story and speaks to the people of Austin. He and his team have managed to do this for 10 years this month at Moonshine.
Smith said giving back to the community is a major reason for his restaurants’ growth and success downtown, where he is known as a generous supporter of many community-driven causes.
“I can’t give a number, but we pretty much say yes to just about every fundraiser that approaches us. It’s important for us to build community in that way, and contribute to those groups.”
For the future of his businesses and Downtown Austin, Smith said he hopes that amid the city’s growth and change people will still “maintain that Texas charm of looking each other in the eye and giving friendly nods as we pass.”
No matter what the future brings for the city, downtowners can be rest assured they’ll find those “positive vibes” at the Moonshine when Smith is around. He said that Austin is a city where people are thriving and succeeding, but we can’t loose the character that makes the city and its people unique. When asked why he loves the restaurant business, Smith said he values the friendships he has made and the people he has been able to bring together, and has even seen employees marry and start families together. “It’s a blessing,” he said.
Claim to Fame: One of the first 3 people to paddleboard in Austin. “People looked at me like I was crazy…I have a custom wooden paddleboard from Talking Fish.”
Favorite Band: U2. “I love their message and what they stand for.”
Favorite Book: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. “This book was that groundwork for me in creating a culture in my business.
Downtown Favorite: Easy Tiger. “I absolutely love what those guys are doing!”
I never turn down a free lunch. So when Alex, the GM for Slake Cafe in downtown Austin at 7th and Brazos (where Bakerman’s Bakery used to be) sent me a note inviting me to come in for just that, how could I say no?
The weather was beautiful, so I walked from the office to Slake at around noon the other day. There were several patrons in line already, and the tiny little front area of the cafe (apparently, the entire Slake space is about 3,400 sf, but it’s mostly kitchen) had a bit of a chaotic, but not bad, feel (there were people in line, people milling about waiting for their order, couple of folks eating at the sparse interior tables, 4 or 5 folks behind the counter – kind of a lot going on in not a lot of square footage). They are about to [Read more...]
The Downtown Austin Alliance is hosting a meeting this Wednesday (you can RSVP here) to discuss whether downtown Austin is ripe for a public market. They’ll also be bringing in a public market expert from a group called the Project for Public Spaces to discuss them with us.
I’m no expert but to me public markets are different than farmer’s markets. They should operate every day, often have options to sit-n-eat, and enjoy a cosmopolitan experience. Above all, a public market should be a “place,” a “destination,” and unique experience that melds cultures where you would take in-laws visiting from out of town.
Where would it go?
There are only a few sites downtown that could host a large public market. Fortunately, most of these sites desperately need more activation.
Below are four site options in order of best opportunity! (Hat tip to mi amigo, Jake Dirr, who helped brainstorm with me on this)
1) Convention Center Parking Garage ground floor (600 E 4th St): The ground floor of this city-owned parking garage is set up for retail, but fell victim to years of litigation regarding the original property owner, Harry Whittington. It’s adjacent to transit, and surrounded by parking. The ground floor could be gutted to create an indoor bazaar and market. Because this option is climate controlled, it offers a year-round option, where as open aired public markets will suffer considerably in the 100-plus degree heat.
If you have ever looked for parking behind the Continental Club on South Congress, you may have been surprised to see the Kimber Modern hotel quietly tucked along the back street.
The Kimber, with it’s clean, manicured building lines, has become a favorite destination for people visiting Austin, or even Austinites taking a staycation.
Though the notion of a Kimber Modern in the Rainey District has been percolating for a while now, the principals have been very tight lipped.
For the first time, we have an original rendering of the project that we can share, and can confirm that it will be called, simply, “Kimber Modern Rainey.”
Here’s what we know…
- 30 hotel rooms (approx.)
- Four above grade floors
- One floor of underground parking
- Street level lobby, bar, pool, and restaurant open to the public
- Three floors of rooms
- Designed by Burton Baldridge
- Will be operated by Kimber Modern Team
- Co-Developed and built by Acero Construction
In almost poetic contrast to some of the recent cookie-cutter development in and around downtown, the Kimber Modern Rainey will be one of a kind.
It’s always refreshing to see a development putting forth a bold design vision. Despite how much downtown Austin has evolved, many of us feel a bit let down by safe “beige box” aesthetic of several new buildings. Hat tip to Burton Baldridge on the design.
The site for the chic bed & breakfast’s 2nd location will be on East Ave (near the corner of River St), sharing an alley with the core of Rainey Street. Made up of two adjacent lots: 62 & 64 East Ave, it will welcome people into the neighborhood.
I’m excited that owner Kimber Cavendish and Vicki Faust are bringing this kind of quality, home-grown hospitality into the Rainey Street area, four years after they launched their South Congress base.
Notably, the South Congress location picked as on of 13 winners (out of 227 entries) in 2012 to receive the Texas Society of Architects Design Awards from a total of 227 entries.
The Kimber joins Hotel Van Zandt in the neighborhood, which finally erupted into construction earlier this year after years of smoke. Just outside the ‘hood the mega-luxury, mega-size Fairmont is also looking to get underway soon.