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Art Packs Prove Good Things Come in Small Packages

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RALEIGH — Recycling is good for the environment, and an inspiration to many artists. Materials most of us throw away sometimes end up in a studio to be reborn as a work of art. Now some of those works of art are being sold in cigarette machines.

Joey Howard spends most of his time in the studio, working on big projects. Lately he's spending more time on smaller jobs, work the size of a pack of cigarettes.

Howard likes to recycle leftover materials, and turn them into something new. "I don't smoke but friends of mine smoke, so I collect tons of them, they save them for me," he says.

Howard fills the cigarette packs with a little silicon and stuffing, and he has an "Art Pack."

Howard, and many other local artists, have been surprised to find these "Art Packs" are their fastest sellers.

They aren't hanging in a gallery, or on the walls of trendy restaurants. They're tucked away in the back, in an old recycled cigarette machine.

"I've been in there from time to time to check on it," Howard says. "Generally I wait a week before I go back, and generally they're all gone by that time."

Two dollars in quarters is all anyone needs to own a piece. But Howard says it's not about the money.

"It's trying to put art into people's hands and it's more promotional than anything," Howard says.

Twenty-five cents goes to charity; 25 cents goes to machine maintenance. The artist gets back $1.50, enough to buy more silicon for the next batch.

Artist George Doles of Winston-Salem came up with the idea, to market and promote the work of local artists.

There are 4 Art Pack machines in Winston-Salem and one at Vertigo in Raleigh. There are also plans to place one in the Whitney Art Museum in New York City.

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Rick Armstrong, Reporter
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