August 1, 2009

Chair-i-ties: Art with a message you can sit on

Cody Denneau showed off Lattitude (and his colorful Mohawk!)

Every chair, every rainbarrel, every ... um, toilet-converted-into-garden-mosaic told a story at the Chair-i-ties auction Saturday.

Take, for instance, Shaniece Kelley's mosaic, Tea Time. "My inspiration was the teacup because it is such a beautiful item. With a teacup, you can do anything with it, like execute a floral design or a heart pattern...I used broken bowls and plates in various colors to fit my design. I also used a teakettle on the top of the toilet to add an additional creative touch..."

Got that? "...a teakettle on the top of the toilet..."

Shaniece is 14, a graduate of San Juan Diego Middle School who will be attending Case High School. What she also learned is this: "I found that anything you set your mind to do, you can pull it off."

Or Sitting Pretty, right, a chair painted by Alissa Casteneda and Arielle Exner, who said, "We both wanted to do the chair, so we decided to work together."

And that is what the Main Gallery's summer art program is all about: teaching kids that if they work together they can do anything. This summer, 40 youngsters participated in the six-week program: researching art and the environment, repainting the flag-motif banners hung downtown, and finally transforming their found-object chairs, rainbarrels and discarded toilets into art befitting this year's theme, "Green Racine."

The auction of the 34 pieces sold today brought in $4,515, and the accompanying silent auction of matted and framed photography and live plants from the Racine Urban Garden Network brought in $687.

Some of this year's best-sellers were:
  • "What Kitties Do Best," a kids' toy chest with cushion painted by Katie Wright. The chest itself was found by the artist's mother, thrown out as garbage. It fetched $275.
  • "Poe-Tree of Life," a collaborative poetry/photo rain barrel, brought $225. Kids from photo group made collages of tree bark photos to create the image of a tree on the side of the barrel. Paint was also used and original poetry written by the youth is hand-painted on the barrel. Local poet and Volunteer Sandy Christiansen took several of the youth to the REC center along the Root River and they wrote short poems inspired by our waterways.
  • "Make Art not War," a chair painted by Alissa Castaneda, sold for $200.
Artists who led the youths during the program were Denise Zingg, photography; Toby Priolette, multimedia; Dave Castaneda, furniture painting; and Jane Cascio, mosaic.

Main Gallery is sponsored by the City of Racine, Parks and Recreation Department and the Racine Arts Council. The program costs about $50,000 each year, with most of that paid to the participating youth, who work 18 hours a week for six weeks for minimum wage. Auctioneer Saturday was Dave Castenada, with MC help from Jason Mars, recreation supervisor at the Humble Park Community Center who oversees the program, and Jessika Mikol, executive director of the Racine Arts Council.

Mars and Castenada presented a plaque and painted chair to Lois Solberg, who now heads Habitat for Humanity's Re-Store and who is a long-time supporter of the arts in Racine (and an enthusiastic bidder.) Solberg noted that youth in the program keep a journal of what they're doing and what they've learned each day. "It's 'waterworks' when you read them," she said.

Monument Square was filled with bidders...

Chuck Tyler, former head of Parks and Rec, who helped start
the Main Gallery in 1995. That's Hannah Gudbauer's
In the Key of P.

What Kitties Do Best, by Katie Wright

Make Art Not War by Alissa Castaneda

Serenity by Ali Sabrine, with its new owner, Jose Palacios

Cheer Up by Veronica Cameron gets a hand

Tea Time by Shaniece Kelley was a handful

Arts Council director Jessika Mikol framed by Serenity

Dave Castaneda and Jason Mars honor Lois Solberg

Signing up for RUGN's silent plant auction


  1. Hiz Honor must not have been at this wonderful event, otherwise there would have been pics galore and a mention of it.

  2. Anon, 6:30: Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

    Why don't you give it a rest?

  3. Anon 6:30: It's time you left the dark cave and get out in the light!

  4. Pete:

    Respectfully, if you guys wouldn't gush over him on everything he does, I would give it a rest.

  5. Anon, 9:05: Saying he's at an event, even publishing a picture, is not gushing.

    Most people like to know what their mayor is doing, and value his appearance at public functions.

  6. Thanks to Dave Castaneda, his colleagues, and his students for a positive and fun event on the square.

  7. I get tired of the Mayor bashing. It is so immature, nonproductive and just plain, well stupid.

    Pete, thanks for stepping up to the plate, so many of us are thinking the same thing - give it a rest, some of these bloggers are jerks, plain and simple.

  8. So proud of the youth. The chairs and rain barrel look amazing. This program is a real asset to Racine youth!

  9. I love this event - I also love the art of bidding.