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The Arts

Deep-seated fundraiser

Local artists add unique touch to benefit for Hospice

BRATTLEBORO—On Saturday, Nov. 3, from 4 to 8 p.m., at the VFW on Black Mountain Road, Brattleboro Area Hospice will present its annual fundraiser, an auction with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres called “Chair-ished Goods.”

Yes, the name of the event is a pun, because not only could the fine items being auctioned be called “cherished,” but the centerpiece of the event is the selling of a series of chairs that have been refurbished, hand-painted, and otherwise embellished in unique ways.

Local artists Kris McDermet and her sister Lynn Hoeft, Jackie Abrams, Cindi Hutcheson, Dianne Shapiro, Joan Peters, Petria Mitchell, and an artist new to the area, Marci Selig Smoger, all have contributed their work for this auction.

Brattleboro Area Hospice — which was founded in 1979 by a group of community members who wanted their dying and grieving neighbors to receive compassionate and appropriate assistance — wanted to try a new idea for its annual fundraiser after last year’s “Night on the Cat Walk.”

Barbara Gentry, who is coordinating publicity for the event, said the idea for this year’s auction came after Experienced Goods Home Furnishings on Eliot Street closed.

Brattleboro Area Hospice decided to consolidate that shop, which sold higher-end items, with the still-open Experienced Goods store on Flat Street.

Experienced Goods remains a major source of funds for the hospice, but Gentry said that instead of moving the best of the items left over from the Elliot Street shop to Flat Street, which by and large would not be the best venue to sell them, they decided to make their central fundraising event this year an auction.

“Chair-ished Goods” consists of both a silent and live auction. It starts at 4 p.m. with the serving of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, as well as a preview of items featured in the live auction. During this time (and throughout the evening), guests are encouraged to bid on the many interesting items in the silent auction.

The live auction begins at 5 p.m. presided over by Kit Martin, an auctioneer from Townshend Auction House. The live auction features high quality antique furniture, jewelry, paintings, china, glassware, and decorative items. And of course, those very special chairs.

Why chairs?

Anne Fiedler, vice-president of Brattleboro Area Hospice board, says that the event needed a hook to make their auction something special.

“We kept looking around to discover something exciting and interesting,” she said. Organizers stumbled on something called the Chair Project from Montreal, where local artists refashioned old chairs.

“We gathered a list of all the area artists we could think of, and sent out invitations. To the 10 or 12 artists that agreed to help us out, we sent them a series of photos of chairs we had at Experienced Goods Thrift Store, so that they could pick the one that spurred their imagination.”

The chairs are very different from one another. Some, like Cindi Hutcheson’s with floral motif decoration, function as a charming piece of furniture, while local artist Dianne Shapiro‘s chair Science Club, 1910, is more like an eccentric object d’art.

Well known area artists Joan Peters and Petria Mitchell bring their unique vision to their refashioning of the chairs. Peters says, “I want the buyer to bring the chair into their house to sit on.”

Petria Mitchell also wants her chair to be sat on, albeit a little uncomfortably.

“I call my piece the Meditation Chair,” says Mitchell. “Meditation is a big part of my life. The chair is painted with several flavors of purple and employs a series of omega mirrors around a mask. The way the chair is constructed it forces the sitter to remain in an attentive mindful position. While I was making it I kept saying to myself, ’That’s not comfortable,’ forgetting that this was the whole point.”

For Jackie Abrams, aboriginal art has been a great inspiration which is reflected in her chair. Jackie’s chair is inspired by the piece Tingari Cycle by Walala Tjapaltjarri.

Marci Selig Smoger, an artist who recently relocated to the area from the Philadelphia suburbs, entitled her chair Memories. It uses nostalgic materials and there is space to incorporate personal photos and memorabilia from the winning bidder.

La Luna, the chair created by sisters Kris McDermet and Lynn Hoeft, was based on the image of a luna moth landing on a flower.

“When they told me their inspiration for their chair,” says Fiedler, “I did not see how they were going to realize it in their media.” Hoeft is a watercolor artist, while McDermet works in fabric and is author of the recent book, Combining Rug Hooking and Braiding.

“My sister has long been a committed member of hospice, so we decided to help out with a chair,” Hoeft says. “We then thought, ‘Why not do it together?’ We were going to split duties, and I would do the painting while Kris did the hooking/braiding for the cushions, but it did not quite work out that way. We chose the luna moth because, well, it is such a good looking creature. Is it a chair or an artwork? Well, both. The back of the chair has a silk cushion suggesting a pair of wings, which can be removed so it can be used as a regular chair.”

Hoeft ended up doing less intricate painting on the chair than she initially anticipated, so she also donated to the auction a watercolor of a lunar moth.

Other art works donated to the auction continue the chair theme, including an original ink on paper drawing by Leonard Ragouzeos, Adirondack Chair. The auction also will include such unusual items as an African photographic safari, a new bicycle, a kayak, and two snowboards. For a list of items for the auction go to the Hospice website at www.brattleborohospice.org where you can also find photographs of some of the painted chairs along with information about the artists.

Fiedler speculates why these artist and community members were so generous to help out the “Chair-ished Goods” auction. “These people for one reason or another believe in the mission of hospice,” she says. “Everyone has his or her own story to tell.”

Tickets for the “Chair-ished Goods” auction event are $25. Call 802-257-0775 or visit www.brattleborohospice.org for more information.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #175 (Wednesday, October 24, 2012).

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