Monday, July 18, 2011

UPDATE: Chair Project: A communal affair

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 5:20 PM

Chair Project organizer Sean O'Meallie wants to clarify what he meant by the final quote in the post below.

"The project claims to create value from reorganizing existing materials for a few minutes and putting it all back. If society can agree that this has value, it sort of follows that value can be created simply, using things lying around us."

——- Original Post, 12:33 P.M., Monday, July 11 ——-

On July 5, Manitou Springs City Council granted a permit shutting down Manitou Avenue for four hours on October 9 for the long-awaited Manitou Springs Chair Project. The art project, which will feature over 1,000 empty chairs spaced 6 feet apart and facing east on Manitou Avenue, is two-thirds of the way toward its fundraising goal of $26,000, according to public relations person (and Indy freelancer) Rhonda Van Pelt.

Chair logo
  • Chair Project logo

From here, organizer of the project and renowned sculptor Sean O’Meallie says that they will focus on nonprofit fundraising and meetings with organizations. “We want this to come at no cost for the people of Manitou to make this. One part of this art piece is to take responsibility for all expenses [since] we would like to pay people and not just ask for volunteers.”

The staff thus far consists of Manitou Springs photographers, a logistics team and a planned chair posse.

While the photography and logistics teams have been for the most part filled, the chair posse, which will include students and members of the community, will not be hired until later.

OMeallie with photographers
  • O'Meallie with photographers

Regarding the chairs, O’Meallie says that “a lot of people have offered up chairs, but we are not accepting them yet. We are still spreading the word [and] working on the outline of what has to happen as far as organizing the chairs. Once things start to move, I think things will happen quickly.”

O’Meallie says that he is interested in typical chairs, from desk and school to dining room and parlor chairs as long as they don’t obscure the view of the chair behind them. Those wanting to loan chairs can communicate through the website.

The project was first conceived 15 years ago in a meeting on contemporary sculpture programming with former director of the Business of Arts Center Jean Gummpper and late artist Louis Cicotello, as the result of thinking about an “art event that could get national exposure for the area [while] chang[ing] people's opinions on how art can happen here,” says O’Meallie.

Due to other work, O’Meallie was unable to progress with the project until 2011, and in January 2011 O’Meallie had a small business meeting to introduce the project to the public followed by a meeting before the Manitou Springs City Council to assess the feasibility, which was approved.

Concerning the aesthetic of an empty chair, O’Meallie believes that it "communicates something to me on a very basic level that can't be communicated to me if there is something between me and the chair. And that level of communication is very deep and innate and very personal. Also, that communication occurs no matter the age of a person or even the nationality.”

OMeallie presenting the project to Manitou Springs Superintendent of Schools Ed Longfield and school principals
  • O'Meallie presenting the project to Manitou Springs Superintendent of Schools Ed Longfield and school principals

The project itself has a far reach in terms of community involvement, yet O’Meallie’s planned collaboration with Manitou Springs High School is perhaps most intriguing.

As part of the chair money component, Debra Brewster’s art classes at Manitou Springs High School will receive a presentation on money from the American Numismatic Association Money Museum and will then create money that will be exchanged for the chairs donated by Manitou Springs community members.

People who loan their chairs will receive this money. They can then use it at participating businesses in Manitou for a 10-percent discount. Math classes at MHS will keep track of the exchange.

“The project claims to create value from reorganizing existing materials for a few minutes and putting it all back. If society can agree that this has value, it sort of follows that value is created,” says O'Meallie.

Assuming that the Chair Project goes well, O’Meallie hopes to create a biennial art program with the Business of Art Center where they will look for projects from around the world that celebrate the beauty of Manitou Springs.

Additional participants in the project include the Manitou Art Theater, Manitou Springs Art Academy, Green Horse Gallery and the Business of Art Center.

For more information on the project, as well as donation information visit the website.

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