CHICAGO — Putting vending machines filled with local creations and nostalgic treats around the city is Steph Krim’s “love letter to Chicago,” she said.
Through her company, Good Things Vending, Krim has placed five vending machines throughout the city to distribute goodies from more than a hundred local creators. Three of the machines were installed this summer, she said.
The vending machines are located at the Chicago Cultural Center Downtown, 78 E. Washington St.; Roscoe Village’s Metropolitan Brewing, 3057 N. Rockwell Ave.; Logan Square’s Way Out, 3213 W. Armitage Ave.; Kaiser Tiger in West Loop, 1415 W. Randolph St.; and Kimball Arts Center in Wicker Park, 1757 N. Kimball Ave.
Each vending machine is decorated by local muralists to suit the character of its home and intended to “share a peek into what’s happening in the city,” Krim said.
Krim connects businesses with vending machines and artists, then collaborates with the group to develop a rotating collection of items to dispense so there’s “something for everyone,” she said.
The machines can be stocked with anything that’s smaller than a bag of chips and costs less than $20 dollars, Krim said. From decks of cards to mini prints to tiny coloring books, the machines contain countless treasures designed to ignite the kind of “joy and playfulness” that leads to connection.
“I think the joy you feel from finding new art, a game to play or a nostalgic knick-knack is all a similar kind of feeling,” Krim said. “It’s about taking a little bite of all Chicago has to offer and putting it in some place unexpected for people to find.”
Krim planned to leave Chicago after she graduated from the School of the Art Institute about fifteen years ago, but she fell in love with the city instead. She started her business because she wanted to find a way to contribute her talents to Chicago’s vibrant community of artistic collaboration, she said.
“These vending machines feel like the thing I can offer back to the city that’s given so much to me,” Krim said. “It’s amazing to live in a place where so many people choose to create and so many others love to support creators.”
Krim first became fascinated with vending machines when she visited Japan as a child and saw how prevalent vending machines were. She was in awe of the way the machines can act as a “utility” that makes all kinds of items more accessible, she said.
In 2018, Krim learned how she could bring vending machines to Chicago after connecting with an online community of people who design and stock vending machines that match the energy of their hometowns.
Through installing vending machines, Krim hopes to create more opportunities for people to “bump into” art while going about their days and help local creators share their work with the community.
She said, “I’m grateful to provide a venue for people to get their work out into the world, even if that’s a comic book someone made in their basement and never expected to share.”
Anyone is welcome to share their work within the vending machines, Krim said. She enjoys helping artists who’ve never distributed their work before and often collaborates with them on packaging, pricing and other details that can be “intimidating” to navigate, she said.
“It can really just be that you make a thing and are proud of the thing you make and want to get it out into the world,” Krim said.
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