May 26, 2009

Racine's summer art project is sitting pretty

All day long, the artists came, bringing their colorful cargo in pick-up trucks, rental vans, stuffed into the back of SUV's with the rear seat lowered.

Their destination was a warehouse on Mound Avenue, where DRC was collecng this year's summer art project: colorfully painted Adirondack chairs that make up Sunny and Chair... Summer '09 Tour.

By the end of the day, almost all 56 chairs had arrived: chairs, benches, rockers, even a high chair or two. Each a work of art as well as a practical best seat in the house for summer.
Kelly Witte,
with her Cheerfully Charming Chair

This is the eighth year the Downtown Racine Corporation will place public art all over Downtown. To be honest, after dogs in 2002, followed annually by cats, bears, fish and otters, birds and birdbaths in 2006 we thought the project had played itself out. But DRC followed those with lighthouses, then imaginative spheres in 2008 and ... now for something completely different, Adirondack chairs. The chairs were built by Racine's Cedar World Furniture Corporation out of red cedar. There's also an oversized, 7 1/2-foot tall Adirondack chair called Big Boy that will be displayed at Monument Square all summer. It made its debut during the city's St. Patrick's Day parade.

Terry Leopold, DRC's special events coordinator, who was checking in the chairs today, said the project changed from what was originally envisioned. At first, it was just going to be another art event... but DRC quickly realized that the chairs, as artistic as they are, are also ... well, chairs. And so, when you're walking around Downtown this summer, and your feet are killing you -- feel free to sit a spell. That's what they're for, too.

Megan Hunt unloads Sitting Pretty from her SUV

Artists received a $100 stipend to help with the expenses of decorating a chair. For most, however, the work is a labor of love; Joyce Medina, for example, told us her chair -- Ant Arondack, a lovely chair with ants moving in on a painted lunch while a sculpted cat attached to the chairback watches intently -- cost far more than that to create; the material for the cat alone cost $90; the clear-coating at an auto body shop another $100. No matter; "I do it for the love of it," Medina said.

Other chairs were equally original: a pirate chair with a moving ship's wheel and a palm tree; an intricately carved chair with tiny squirrels in the back and two birds' nests / drink holders in the arm rests; chairs in stripes, the Stars and Stripes, flowers, trees, leaping fish, Racine landmarks, picnic table cloths, upholstered arm rests... you name it.

They'll all go on display Downtown starting Monday, and will sit outside all summer, only to be auctioned off at the end of the season.

Their first public display, however, will be at a special preview Saturday night at Wingspread called "Wingstock" (well, this is the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock concert), that will feature the chairs as well as an Alice's Restaurant Buffet (for all you Arlo Guthrie fans), 'cool' psychedelic cocktails, 'far out' '60s music, a 'hang loose' silent auction and 'trips' through Wingspread. Tickets are an un-hippie-like $125 per person, from DRC.

Erica Meredith helped paint mom Connie's Adirondack chair,
Everything's Coming Up Roses


  1. I can hear a musical conchairto rising above the 6th street jackhammers.

  2. Thanks DRC for another COOL public art project

  3. I always look forward to the art projects. We have some talented and creative people in our community. Keep the projects coming!