This is an art project that centers on capturing images of a community-made sculpture installation. The project uses the townscape of Manitou Springs and 1,000 chairs borrowed from the town's residents to make the sculpture. In the photographs, the townscape will be completely empty, no cars, no people, except for these 1,000 empty chairs arranged in a single line as far as the eye can see, facing the early morning sunrise.
The Chair Project, as we've been calling it, is about this image, but it really builds on the unique charms and character of Manitou Springs. Manitou is a small town of 5,000 people and covers about three square miles. It sits in a high mountain valley at the base of Pikes Peak, in Colorado. It has eleven natural springs scattered throughout the town. The Ute Indians consider the area sacred and have used the waters for healing for centuries. The town we see now was settled a couple of centuries ago by prospectors and outfitters aiming to get rich. In the 1970's the place was overrun with hippies and bikers. It's a bit different now, but it still has this quirky, small town charm about it. And, the community today is very art-leaning, so it's a natural place to launch this project idea.
One of the central precepts of the project however, is an idea - more a question - about whether art on a large community-wide scale can benefit the community that supports it.
This was an idea that occurred to me back in 1996 while brainstorming on contemporary art possibilities at the Business of Art Center in Manitou. The BAC is a non-profit arts incubator that seeks to foster the development of artists and an art supportive environment. If successful in helping the community of Manitou, The Chair Project will expand the story of the BAC, help it in fulfilling its mission, and demonstrate to Manitou and the region that art has this greater practical value and is worth the community's investment and support. Beneficence and pro-art, that's the goal.
This project is "green," too. The town is already here. The chairs are already here - just in people's homes. The photographers are already here and they need work. No new chairs will be made. No trees cut. No new steel forged for this art piece. Everything is already here and just comes together for a photographic moment, then all is returned where it came from. Normal life resumes, but somehow different, because the community came together for a art idea. The images will show this. The project intends to make the images available to the all the merchants in Manitou and to the tourism board to expand the story of Manitou Springs and increase the welfare of its social system, as inclusively as we can keep it.
There are more aspects to the project including education & economic programs, plus a working plan to thank the community for allowing the project and helping to make it happen.
We're going to the Kickstarter community to see if we can't raise funding to give stipends to all the artists and community volunteers it will take to realize the installation. We're also trying to pay the city workers their regular wages for coming out before dawn on a Sunday to close off the avenue where the installation takes place. If we realize enough funding, we'll be able to produce a catalog of artist and community created images arising from the installation, and perhaps a second catalog of portraits of people with their chairs and their personal stories.
More can be gleaned for our website and blog. You can also find some images there of the backer rewards. manitouchairproject.org
We'll provide a periodic updates to this page on project developments and images of the installation once we get them. Thanks for the support!
Manitou is irresistibly photogenic and it's full of artists and an art loving community. For this project, the buildings are all visually interesting and varied and will relate to the many varieties of chairs that will come from that community. The street winds up the mountain pass and this will help show all the empty chairs and add movement to the image.
A chair is a three-dimensional outline of a human. We describe a chair with the same anatomical terms we use to describe our bodies: back, seat, legs, feet and arms. But another factor is that chairs are endlessly variable in the expression. Plus, anyone on the planet who can see the images will be able to relate to the chairs and connect to the images. A very cool part is: all the chairs needed for this artwork are already in Manitou Springs.
A line is an organizational idea and a form found abundantly in nature. The avenue on which these chars are placed follows the line of the creek running down the mountain valley and right next to the avenue. In these images, the line expresses and idea of time. The spaces between the chairs make them appear accessible, but also suggests interval, another expression of time as we tend to think of it and use it in our daily lives.
An empty chair conveys opportunity to someone as they view the chair. Just as an occupied chair closes off this opportunity to everyone but the person in the chair. The accessibility of the chair is very important to me in this artwork. Another important thing is how the assortment of empty chairs expresses an idea of equality and inclusion. Except for site visitors identifying their own chairs, no one knows who all the chairs belong to. There's a deep meaning to this as you walk beside them and see them stretching as far as the eye can see.
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- (42 days)