There’s a new art project coming to town and it’s going to be extraordinary! I spoke with curator, Chester Hopewell about his inspiration, here’s what he had to say…
[erin the great, etg] What is the quARTer art machine?
[Chester Hopewell, C.H] The quARTer Machine (pronounced Quarter Art Machine) is a vintage candy vending machine that will now dispense small pieces of original art from creative people across the country and around the world. All of the work has been created on inch-and-a-half wood squares or circles. The machine will debut here at home in Atlanta, but who knows what the journey ahead entails.
I came across the vintage vending machine by accident, first on Instagram, then on Etsy. Luckily the seller was close, and I got to check it out in person and make sure the machine still worked properly. A few fixes would be necessary but nothing major, so I bought it and brought the beast home. I actually didn't have much of a plan for the machine. I knew I wanted to use it for some kind of art project, but the idea hadn't surfaced quite yet.
[etg] I love it when that happens. Sometimes you are just drawn to something and you know you will make something cool out of it. I found 2 antique photo albums and kept them for years before I finally came up with the perfect project to use them for.
How many artists participated and where did you find them all?
[C.H] There are about 70 artists who have contributed 350 pieces to the project so far, and I expect both of those numbers to increase in the weeks ahead. Many of the artists are based here in Atlanta, and many of those artists are part of the free art community. There are also dozens of creatives from cities near and far participating in the project: Athens, Charlotte, Austin, LA, San Fransisco, Denver, Portland, Seattle, New York, DC, Brazil, the U.K., and elsewhere. These are all artists who inspire me, and many I discovered through IG.
[etg] Wow! So each artist has contributed around 5 pieces. I love the “free art” community in Atlanta. It’s really a special project. I had heard about it many times and didn’t understand hashtags…so embarrassing. You were the person who explained how it worked to me and I’m so happy to be a part of it! You can search #FAFATL on IG to find pictures of the project and try to get your hands on one!
Do you have a favorite piece?
[C.H] This is an impossible question to answer. Every time someone drops off his or her pieces on my porch or I pull a package from my mailbox, I have a new favorite. Right now, as I work on logistics and building enough inventory, I get to live with all of these amazingly creative pieces of art. I'm surrounded by all of this wonderful work, and I can't wait to share it with other lovers of art. I'm blown away by what people have made, and the diversity of the pieces — in style, medium, subject matter — is really off the charts.
[etg] I bet it feels like a childhood birthday party, opening those packages filled with presents. I loved seeing the pieces you had when I dropped some of mine off. I remember wandwoods pieces stood out to me and didn’t realize she was your wife! Ha ha!!! I love walking into artist’s homes, it’s kind of a magical place filled with art and yours did not disappoint. I bet you are going to miss all those pieces when the project opens.
When is the grand opening?
[C.H] It’s a surprise.
[etg] Tell me more about the project.
[C.H] Each piece in the machine will be packaged in gold foil, adding a fun element of surprise whenever someone drops in a quarter.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of this project thus far has been making connections with other artists, both virtually and in person, and watching participating creators discover each other as well. There is a sense of community building around the quARTer machine, and that's been nice to be a part of.
[etg] You are an Atlanta transplant artist. How has Atlanta inspired your work?
[C.H] This city has a great creative vibe. There's an openness. There are communities of like-minded creatives and makers. There's a whole lot more encouragement than discouragement, no matter who you are, where you come from, or how much experience you have. That's a conducive environment for creativity.
[etg] I love that you put up poetry around the city and similarly mail postcards to strangers. Do you get interactions from these even though you are not around the piece when it is experienced? Or has it ever started interesting conversations or moments between you and your audience.
[C.H] First off, thank you! The Telephone Pole Project, which I actually started when living in Savannah several years ago, has been received wonderfully in Atlanta. I'm glad people have noticed and appreciated them. The whole point is to expose more people to more poetry. It's always nice to hear from someone who was touched by a poem in some way or just likes the concept of the project, whether that's in person as I staple them up or later when he or she posts a pic of one on IG. The Postcard Poem Project, which is much more intermittent and a bit less of a focus for me at the moment, is interesting if only for the fact that I have no idea who I'm sending them to or if they've been received. So far, I've not heard back from anyone who might have discovered one in his or her mailbox. But the mystery of it all is fun.
You can follow the project and Chester at quARTerartmachine and ChesterHopewell on IG. Use #quARTerartmachine if you use the machine! I can wait for it’s activation!
Chester Hopewell is an Atlanta based artist/poet and part of the Free Art movement. He uses a hot air balloon often in his art, as if to symbolize the adventure you have when experiencing his words. You can find his poems on telephone poles around the city of Atlanta or visit his website chesterhopewell.com