Friday night about a hundred chairs will fill the Battle Creek Country Club. But not just any chairs; each one is a unique piece of art. Every year artists and first-timers alike paint old chairs and enter them in the Painted Chair Affair, where they’ll be auctioned off to benefit the Woman’s Co-op. The auction starts at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Joanne Leche is one of the co-op’s founding members.
“Woman’s Co-op helps women help themselves. Their mantra is a hand-up not a hand-out. And none of the women get anything for nothing. They must give back and that’s the whole object of the co-op part," she says. “Our big mission I guess is to provide education and training for the women so that they can improve their lives. And we offer opportunities to gain a high school diploma—not a GED but an actual diploma. And then we also provide opportunities for training at KCC.”
Jan Cramer participates in the Painted Chair Affair with her students every year.
“I have an advanced 8th grade art class and we make it a point to do a lot of community service,” she says. “We do multiple projects. So this one fit right in naturally and they just really thought the idea was intriguing and they’ve seen previous classes do it so they were very interested when they were going to participate.”
One of Cramer’s students painted a chair that looks like it’s underwater, with a small fish on it much like the children’s book The Rainbow Fish. Cramer says the book was the student’s inspiration. Another student carefully upholstered a chair with brown and gold faux fur. Cramer’s own chair was a bit more sentimental with a meaningful quote painted on the seat.
“It says, “Love your parents. For you will know their value when you see their empty chair,” she says.
Cramer placed a small book and a pair of reading glasses on one of the arm rests.
“As if that person is no longer there,” she says. “They just left that chair, you know. They were just sitting there reading and they left momentarily.”
Kathy Keller is a retired teacher who’s on the Painted Chair Affair committee for the Woman’s Co-op.
“Each of the artists write up a description about their piece: where their inspiration came from, where they might have gotten the piece, what medium they used to paint the piece with. That type of thing,” she says. “Then everybody who comes to the Painted Chair Affair gets a brochure that’s registered to bid. So it’s kind of fun to read about who did it and where it came from.”
Painted Chair committee member Jan Ludwig says the event has expanded to more than just chairs. Ludwig herself made a chair-less artwork for the auction. She put part of an old quilt and placed it beneath a picture frame that looks like a window. Ludwig then glued tiny buttons all over the picture frame.
“Now we have found that people have too many chairs and so we’ve branched out into other things. So now we have pictures and we have benches and more stuff for kids," she says. "So we still do a lot of chairs but we’ve done other things other than chairs. So anything as long as it has a little bit of paint on it works.”
One artist transformed an old TV stand into a kids toy kitchenette with a sink and a little stove.
“It’s always so inspiring to see what the different artists have come up with,” says Leche. “How they can turn a piece of what was just nothing into something wonderful is always just fun to see and amazing.”