AUSTIN, Texas - They call it 'Those Vending Machines.'
It's on the back patio at Spider House near UT Austin, and it has no candy bars or chips. It's more kitsch, with items like pez dipensers, funny glasses, happy meal toys, and art pieces. The machine is the brainchild of Jeff and Karen Mills to help LGBTQ artists.
"We put their art in the machine free of cost, they sell it and they get 100 percent of the proceeds," Jeff Milles explains.
Profits from the non-art items are also added to help the Mills to cover costs, but their focus is the artist they want to help. "It's nice because it gives people a chance to get their stuff out there in small doses and make a profit and get their name out there," Jeff said.
A pair of earrings in the machine are from Markie Neace, who jumped at the chance to sell her work this way. "There are some places where it can be difficult as an artist of color or transgender artists like me," Markie explains. "It can be hard to get your stuff into businesses where some of the requirements may be difficult, sometimes there's too many hoops and this is a fun way to showcase your work."
While the Mills are helping marginalized artists, this machine is also helping Jeff, a former marine with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. "It's proven to be a grounding toll to get me back out in society and not be such a recluse," Jeff told us. "I'm seeing a doctor now taking my medicine, I'm feeling like my old self. If we made millions the money wouldn't match how we feel as a couple and individually."
Jeff says this is their way to continue to serve, and it's also a lesson for their children. "It's near and dear to our hearts and I want to set a good example to our kids. That there's always somebody out there who can use some help and this is a great way for us to help people out."