by Kate Branum | photography by Two Eagles Marcus
Flat River Gallery and Framing prides itself on being an inviting creative haven for local artists of all trades; however, the driving force behind the business is much more than art, it’s also a passion for helping the community. This year, Flat River Gallery and Framing has joined forces with LowellArts, the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, Gilda’s Club of Lowell and Pink Arrow Pride to facilitate Chair-A-Tee, a community-wide, art-centric event designed to raise funds for those battling cancer.
The idea for the project was largely a joint effort. The idea to work with Pink Arrow, a Lowell-based organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the treatment and cure of many forms of cancer, came from Brian Meuser, an artist at Flat River Gallery and a stage-four cancer survivor. After months of brainstorming among board members, Kendra Postma, president of the gallery, had the idea to send each artist home with a chair to paint in an effort to liven up the building. After seeing the beautifully painted chairs, gallery member Sheryl Ruiter was reminded of a similar past project that helped raise money for a member of her family who had battled cancer. The pieces fell into place.
The board members of Flat River Gallery decided to organize a painted chair auction that combined creativity with good cause to raise money for Pink Arrow Pride. The project plan was pitched to merchants throughout Lowell in the hopes that they would allow the finished chairs to be displayed outside of their businesses and organizations while the auction runs. Chair-A-Tee was accepted with open arms, and more than 50 locations jumped on board.
The next order of business was to recruit an army of talented local artists who were willing to complete a chair. Within days, project organizers found their inboxes flooded with requests from individuals looking to dedicate a chair to a loved one combating cancer or paint one to commemorate their own brave struggle with the disease. Currently, there are 70 chairs being painted for the auction and each will be placed outside of a different building in the city of Lowell.
“It’s a good thing to be involved in (this project) because it makes you stop and think about how lucky you are to be alive, to not have cancer, to be cured of it or to be in remission,” Flat River Gallery artist Patti Sevensma emphasized.
Finding chairs to paint proved to be easier than anticipated. Flat River Gallery has received an abundance of support (and furniture) for the auction from surrounding businesses, including Grand Rapids Chair Company, which donated eight brand new chairs for the project, Flat River Outreach Ministry and a few local antique shops. All artists also have the option of using their own chairs, stools or benches. While all of the pieces must be made from wood or paintable metal, artists have free range when it comes to design and decoration; in fact, they are encouraged to think outside of the box and make the chair personal.
“Art is very healing, and we are collecting stories,” Vice President and Events Coordinator at Flat River Gallery Kim Gill shared. “Every chair will have a tag saying who the artist is and which merchant [the chair is at]. On the flip side of the tag, the artists have the option of writing their story, who they created the chair for or why they wanted to do it.”
The silent auction is set to begin Wednesday, July 5. Those interested in taking home a chair and supporting Pink Arrow Pride will have the opportunity to submit a $75 minimum bid on the piece of their choice. After the first initial bid, the price increases in $5 increments. For travelers visiting from out of town, or those who want to buy the chair on the spot, there is also an option to purchase it for a flat rate of $300.
The Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce will be producing a convenient “Map of Chair Locations” brochure readily accessible to eager bidders. The detailed pamphlet includes the name of the artist, the chair ID number, a photo and each location address.
The chairs will remain scattered around Lowell until Friday, August 18. The following day, all of the chairs will be moved to LowellArts (223 W Main St, Lowell) where they will be exhibited for the public. The auction concludes Saturday, August 26, with a large reception facilitated by LowellArts to celebrate the artists, Pink Arrow Pride and those who contributed to the project.
“Very seldom do [artists] get a chance to have a voice in the community–the full community, not just the art community,” Sevensma noted. “So [Chair-A-Tee] is a way for us to step out of the art community and into the full community and show them that we care, that we’re not just there for [the public] to come in our doors and look at our art; we’re there because we want to be part of the community.”
When: Wednesday, July 5 through Saturday, August 26
Where: Wednesday, July 5 through Friday, August 18 at various locations in Lowell, Saturday, August 19 through Saturday, August 26 at LowellArts, 223 W Main St, Lowell
Cost: Bidding begins at $75 or automatic purchase for $300