Real Estate

Artwork to 'chair'-ish

Pacific Art League and The Woman's Club of Palo Alto collaborate for 'The Painted Chair' project

Discovery of 60 wooden folding chairs dating back to the 1930s hidden in ancient rolling drawers underneath a stage has inspired The Woman's Club of Palo Alto to give new meaning to recycling and repurposing.

The members decided to rescue the aging chairs and asked local artists to transform them into eccentric, expressive works of art. These chairs, which were displayed at different stores in downtown Palo Alto, are the focus of "The Painted Chair" project coordinated by The Woman's Club and the Pacific Art League (PAL). They will be shown at The Woman's Club on Friday, March 28, before a gala and auction the next day, during which members of the public can bid on the chairs to take them home for their own.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Pacific Art League's Capital Campaign and The Woman's Club of Palo Alto's Philanthropic Giving and Historic House Preservation Fund. Both organizations are housed in historic buildings (Woman's Club's is a Julia Morgan-designed structure dating to 1916; the Pacific Art League's landmark 1926 building at 668 Ramona St. is under renovation).

"It is absolutely fun," said Jan Murphy, a Menlo Park resident who participated in transforming a chair. "You have one chair, which is plain and old, but people transform it into something different. It is amazing."

Murphy decided to depict local images on her chair: the Dish walking trail, Stanford University campus, the famous Stanford Theatre on University Avenue.

Isaias Sandoval, a technical sales engineer and Pacific Art League member, said his chair was inspired by a painting he created for a past technology-on-canvas exhibit.

"The original dark mahogany/walnut stain of the chair inspired me to use only earthy complementary colors," he said. "The dominant burnt sienna and complementary colors like yellow ocher and cadmium used in different tones and shades created the illusion of a tunnel. I used black for the legs so I wouldn't distract from the main patterns, earthy colors and tones."

Jodie Stowe, a graphic designer from Menlo Park, painted her chair in a classic, simple color scheme of a black, gray and white. She then printed different sayings that relate to her grandmother's saying "Let's sit a spell" in graphite paper on her chair.

"It (the Painted Chair project) gets different artists seen by the community," Stowe said. "It is raising funds for two very good organizations, and it has been a fun project for all the artists involved."

The Painted Chair committee chairs, Sue Krumbein and Lolly Osborne, have been members of The Woman's Club, which was established in Palo Alto in 1894, for decades, drawn to its philanthropic mission. Through the years they've gone out to the community, collecting things that are needed for homeless people, taken women on history walks and enjoyed monthly lunches with a speaker.

"We have pursued supporting various groups over the years. We started with Downtown Streets Team and we got an education about an organization trying to really help the most down and out, and move them into something that was better," Krumbein said.

Most of the members, like Krumbein and Osborne, are volunteers who spend thousands of hours and donate hundreds of dollars to local nonprofit organizations.

To kick off "The Painted Chair" Krumbein and Osborne sent out an email last October to solicit interest to the Pacific Art League, the club's partner on this project. PAL then redirected their email to its members.

"Within 24 hours, we had over 100 responses," Osborne said.

In November, all interested artists had the chance to pick up a chair at the Woman's Club, where Krumbein and Osborne said they sat out front to chat with anybody coming to pick up a chair. The process was first come, first served, but as all 60 chairs were quickly picked up and many more artists wanted to participate, they added an additional 20 chairs.

"I was a little late," Murphy recalled. "All (the) chairs were gone. In February, I got an email that a chair was available.

"The two organizations are unique and special in this community, so I just wanted to give back a little to them."

Nancy Woods, a graphic artist from Burlingame, said that "it was a grand idea to get one item all the same and have different artists each put their own stamp on it." Her chair's design idea sprang from the saying "Change your words, change the world" using a sunrise mirroring itself and decorative legs, Woods said.

The chairs will be auctioned off at the March 29 event, starting at $50 per chair.

The hosts were reluctant to speculate on how much money the chairs might raise.

"I've heard various high amounts bandied about -- $2500 is what I've heard. We'll see," Krumbein said.

What: Art Exhibition (view the chairs and meet the artists)

When: 5 to 7 p.m., Friday, March 28

Where: The Woman's Club of Palo Alto, 475 Homer Ave., Palo Alto

Cost: Free

Wha: Gala and Auction (wine, hors d'oeuvres, music and bidding)

When: 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, March 29

Where: The Woman's Club of Palo Alto, 475 Homer Ave., Palo Alto

Cost: $35 in advance; $40 at the door

Info: Woman's Club

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