The term “art collector” can often be associated exclusively with the wealthy. For visitors to the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts, however, owning one-of-a-kind artwork can be very affordable and use very (very) little display space.

The Heard-Craig Center held a reception Friday to celebrate its new Art-o-mat machine, a converted vintage cigarette machine that vends original, nationally curated artwork for only $5 a piece.

The Art-o-mat is the brainchild of Clark Whittington out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Artists in Cellophane, a collection of about 400 certified artists who create the cigarette pack-sized pieces that populate the vending machines. The small original works are dispensed from Art-o-mat machines across the United States, Australia and even Vienna.

The art is all original and spans a large range of art mediums including block prints, collages, mixed media, oils, watercolors, sculptures and more, according to Linda Bonner of the Heard-Craig Center. Every time the machine is refilled, new art packs from varying artists are used, so the art will always be different.  

The Art-o-mat installation, which has found its place in the Heard-Craig carriage house, is part of a funding partnership between the McKinney Community Development Corporation and the Heard-Craig Center.

“We are very grateful to the MCDC,” Bonner said. “And we’re excited that can call it McKinney’s Art-o-mat. We really want the public to come and enjoy it.”

Heard-Craig Executive Director Karen Zupanic found out about the Art-o-mat via an advertisement and was eager to bring the work of so many artists to McKinney.

“It’s hard to describe what it is,” she said. “When you see it, it makes perfect sense to artists. They say, ‘I want to do this.’ It makes original art affordable to everyone.”

McKinney artist Leslee Ortega was excited to check out the machine on Friday because she’d previously seen an Art-o-mat on a trip to Palm Springs earlier this year. While visiting local art galleries, Ortega watched as other people put their money in the vending machine and out popped some original art.

“I was super excited about it,” she said, so when she found out McKinney would be getting its own, she was eager to see it. “The whole thing is just an artist’s dream. I think the idea of having accessible art for $5 – I mean, you could bring your kids over here and say here’s $5 and you can pick anything you want, and introduce your kids to art in a way that would be fun and exciting as kids.”

The center is open Monday through Friday, and weekends are by appointment. The Heard-Craig Center for the Arts is located at 205 W Hunt St. in McKinney. Visit for information.

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