Asheville’s new Curio Machine dispenses art and other oddities

Curio at Storm Rhum Bar (2) (1)

All the art is locally-made and purchased wholesale by the Curio team. | Photo by Bunny Eaton

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Vending machines that contain snacks are officially passé. The first Curio Machine, an upcycled local art vending machine, has arrived in Asheville and it’s dispensing everything from DIY dinosaur kits to funky shoelaces to mystery prints.

After chatting with creators Ben Loomis + Bunny Eaton to learn more about the device, we then stopped by Storm Rhum Bar (125 South Lexington Ave.) to indulge our curiosity.

Scrappy beginnings

Ben and Bunny, both WNC-based artists, originally became friends in 2017 through — in the words of Ben — “a now defunct, very rowdy art gallery and punk house” in Boone. The duo — inspired by the wacky machines in Portland (stay weird, PDXtoday) and the Winston-Salem Art-o-mats — decided to try their hand at dispensing regional art through old snack vending machines they found on Facebook Marketplace.

Though Ben admits he zapped himself a few times in the process, he and Bunny (who inherited an engineering mind from her dad), devoured enough manuals to successfully convert these 600+ lb machines into functional, modern, and visually stunning devices.

What’s this thing dispensing?

Nothing in the machine costs more than $20. Much of the art featured is playful + interactive. You’ll find things like origami practice kits, the “Scratch Fable” storytelling game, and handmade puzzle boxes. There’s also quirky, vintage items like paperback books and VCRs. Editor Laura’s favorite offerings were the mystery prints, magnets, stickers, and key charms.

B4 you even ask…

Presently, there are nine of these machines in WNC (with eight of them parked in Boone). Curio has plans to install several more in Asheville in the near future — along with another in Charlotte.

“We’ve both spent a lot of time in Asheville and know it’s a hub for artistic endeavors in our area,” Bunny said. “We’re aiming to keep developing Curio into a regional network and beyond.”

Ben added, “We want to create a new frontier for artists and local creators and provide a new way for them to make it financially out here.”

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