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The Free Art Machine Pays a Visit to Jackalope

By Casey Cora | February 3, 2013 8:12am

BRIDGEPORT — Behold the Free Art Machine.

Initially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, it’s the self-perpetuating concept in which a pair of Chicago artists solicit online photo submissions, then turn them into a pieces of art to be displayed at places like coffee shops and galleries, where patrons can take one home for free or for a small donation.

The more submissions and donations collected, the more the “machine” can sustain itself.

Now, it’s headed to Jackalope Coffee and Tea House, 755 W. 32nd St., on Thursday, part of the café’s first-ever BYOB art night from 7-9 p.m.

Also displaying work on Thursday will be Bridgeport-based Vivienne Marie and Anastasia Khabirova and Dorothy Zhu, a pair named as the first members of Robert Morris University Painting Guild, a new scholarship program for promising student artists.

Jackalope’s January Overton said she and co-owner John Almonte said they're hosting the art night "to give local artists a chance to showcase their work to a constantly changing audience and also to give our customers something new to look at when they come in….and to give people from the community a reason to get together and see each other at a positive event.”

Musician Alex Colston will play live in the café, a first for the popular coffee shop.

The new artwork making its debut Thursday will accompany the café’s already colorful walls, filled with creations by John Airo, Marshall Grady, Joanna Dornick and Melinda Pirtle.

If you’re interested in getting in on the art machine action, you’ll have to act quick — once it’s gone from the Jackalope’s walls, it's gone. Free Art Machine co-creator Leo Rosen, 24, of Humboldt Park, estimates they'll leave upward of 500 photo blocks at the coffee shop and expects them to last maybe two weeks. 

Miss your chance? The Free Art Machine will rise again in February at The Coop, a shared office space at 230 W. Superior St. and again in March at Plenty, a Wicker Park grocery store and Lakeview's Bow Truss Coffee.