by Dorothy Conigliaro
Many hands make light — and artful — work when put to a good cause. This was the case when a group of volunteers lent their time and talents towards the decoration of Adirondack chairs for our community.
Christina Blatt, Art Director for the Neighborhood House in Tarrytown, first imagined the idea, and wondered how it might be done. She recalled, “ArtsWestchester had awarded us a grant to paint a travelling mural. Everyone enjoyed the process of creating something that enhanced the neighborhood in some way. With that in mind, I remembered how Adirondack chairs brought back memories of happy summer vacations.” She discussed the possibility of painting the chairs and placing them around Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, calling on the advice and resources of Francesca Spinner, Chairman of the Neighborhood House board of directors, and Karla Fazzino, the program coordinator.
Because ArtsWestchester provides programs and services that enrich the lives of everyone in Westchester County, it was felt that this project would fulfill those goals admirably. Chris, Francesca, and Karla wrote the proposal, and hearing of its approval, Francesca commented, “We are so pleased that the matching grant (through the New York Council for the Arts) helped to provide a creative outlet for the Art Workshop members, and showed that funding for the arts benefitted the whole community.”
Getting down to business, Chris and Karla searched to find sample painted chairs. Then they found just the right chairs for their project at Home Depot, which were reasonably priced and already primed and painted. Volunteers were enthusiastic about the project, including a youth group, middle school students, and special ed students who rent the Neighborhood House facilities. In addition, talented seniors in Chris’s art class, many of whom come from countries as diverse as Iran, India, Poland, in addition to our own rivertown residents, were eager to take part in the project. Chris has inspired many of her students to use their talents in their own individual ways.
Now it was the job of the volunteers to put their creative ideas into action. After lightly sanding the chairs, they went to work creating their own patterns. Some painted patriotic designs, inspirations from Van Gogh, and some painted lighthouses, flowers and animals. The variety of the finished products is a testament to their ability to express their inner artistic skills.
“There were about 20 seniors and students working on the chairs,” says Chris, “and the special ed students painted their chair in the “style of Jackson Pollack” — by carefully throwing paint on their chair (use your imagination!). It will be placed in their garden at the middle or high school. Other students worked on their chairs over the summer, and these will be placed in the school quad. Three chairs have been placed both at the new Tarrytown pool, and at Warner Library (painted by Chris herself), and last week two chairs were presented to Sleepy Hollow.
Not only are the chairs a novelty, but they’re functional as well, and anyone is welcome to sit and relax in them. In the end, the project was a huge success, uniting residents of all ages in the rivertowns in a collaborative effort toward a common goal — the beauty of the community.