The Rapidian

Third Annual Chair Affair Auction Steps It Up, and Every Chair Has a Story to Tell

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On November 9th Arts in Motion Studio West Michigan will host it's third annual Chair Affair auction event. Every year, this event raises funds for the creative arts, dance, music, and drama workshops and performance opportunities that are offered by AIM.
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More information on Arts In Motion and the Chair Affair auction

The Chair Affair auction is taking place from seven to ten at the East Grand Rapids Public Library, in rooms 101 and 102 in the basement. Tickets are available through the Arts in Motion website or via phone by calling 616-446-7452.

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Artist Molly Marshall's chair, in progress

Artist Molly Marshall's chair, in progress /Molly Marshall

Molly Marshall's finished chair

Molly Marshall's finished chair /Molly Marshall

Philip Viening's "Peace, Love, Chocolate Milk" chair from last year's auction.

Philip Viening's "Peace, Love, Chocolate Milk" chair from last year's auction. /Chloe Viening-Butler


On November 9th, from seven to ten pm, in rooms 101 and 102 in the basement of the East Grand Rapids Public Library, Arts in Motion Studio West Michigan will host it's third annual Chair Affair auction event. Every year, this event raises funds for the creative arts, dance, music, and drama classes, workshops, and performance opportunities that AIM offers to students and artists with a variety of social, behavioral, physical, and cognitive disabilities. At the auction this year, more than fifty hand-designed chairs by local artists will be up for bid, and every chair- as well as every chair designer and every student and artist helped by the funds raised- has a story.


Last year Flip Mulliner knew long before the auction which chair he wanted. Flip and his wife Pam have been involved with Arts in Motion for a long time- Pam was president of the board of directors last year and Flip is a member of the AIM marketing committee. They know the AIM students and mission well. So when AIM student Philip Viening's "Peace, Love, Chocolate Milk" chair showed up in the hallway of the studio as an auction preview item, it called Flip's name. Anyone that knows Phil knows about his love for chocolate milk. He is an avid photographer who has his own blog where he frequently posts images of his chocolate milk bottles. One of his chocolate milk photos hangs on the wall of the studio, and others have been featured on the walls of various coffee shops and resteraunts in town. So "Peace, Love, Chocolate Milk"-a simple wood chair painted orange and brown with the words "Peace, Love, Chocolate Milk" and an image of a bottle of chocolate milk painted on it- invoked the simple joy of Philip and his favorite drink. "I just smile every time I walk past it!" Flip has said about the chair...he and Pam have plans to take a long-term boating trip next spring, but when he spoke about the chair he said,  "When we go, I don't know how we're gonna fit it on that boat, but it's gotta come with us!"


Bonnie Miller, who is one of our designing artists, bought a chair last year, too. But it wasn't the chair she had planned to buy. Bonnie's daughter Michelle is an Arts in Motion student. One of the chairs up for auction that night, designed by Brenda Howland, featured roses, lace, and a feathered hat. Bonnie hadn't really noticed that chair- she was so taken with a different one. But when Brenda Howland's creation went up for auction, Michelle grabbed the bidding paddle from her mom and started waving it. She won... and while they were loading it into their car that night, Bonnie asked Michelle what it was about that particular piece of furniture that had caught Michelle's eye. "It's my Guns n' Roses chair, mom!" Did I mention that Michelle is a huge Guns n' Roses fan? The next week, Bonnie took a picture of Michelle with her chair and uploaded it to the Guns n'Roses Facebook fan page with the story. A few days later she received a message from the band's manager letting her know that he thought Michelle's story was very sweet and that he was going to forward it to the band. I'm sure you can imagine what that meant to Michelle.

Not every chair story is happy, though. At last year's event,  Brad Foltz,  a Portland area musician and high school teacher, won an amazing chair  depicting the Slavic myth of Baba Yaga in stunning detail. Tragically, only a few months later, Brad was killed in a car accident coming home from a musical performance. His wife- knowing how much he loved the chair and wanting to give something both emotionally and educationally important to the high school where Brad had worked- donated it to the school library, where it is, today. The students of the school can enjoy it's beauty, remember Brad, and hopefully be inspired to learn more about the culture and myth that sparked it's creation.

This year, chair artists are being inspired by their cultures and heritages, their favorite foods (Philip Viening has a pizza chair in the auction this year!), their state (BRad Ecklesdafer's Michigan inspired chair is awesome),  pop culture, nature, and many, many other aspects of their lives and interests. Several of them this year asked for chairs with the disclaimer "I don't really consider myself a real artist, but I have an idea I've been wanting to try, and this looks fun."... but lo and behold- by their own hands, by accessing talents they've been using in other areas of their lives, and by the technique of trial and error... every chair artist is a real artist... just like every chair has a story to tell.  And maybe that's why the students, artists, staff, board, and friends of  Arts in Motion so enjoy the Chair Affair process: the idea that everyone's story should be treated as significant and powerful is deeply rooted in what we do.








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