May 18, 2006

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Vanguardians sit down
Teen artists transform unwanted chairs in imaginative ways

By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

The Vanguardian artists are hard at work on “Take a Seat,” an exhibit for which this teen art group at the Revolving Museum in Lowell, Mass., is turning unwanted chairs into art.

The two-year-old program is free and attracts kids serious about art. Its first graduates are heading to college in the fall: two to MassArt, one to Montserrat College of Art and T. Stover, 17, of Lowell, will head to Loyola University in New Orleans for sculpture.

Stover is turning a standard metal folding chair into a mouth. “Something about the line on the chair made it look like a mouth,” he said.

“Usually, a lot of our stuff has a political or social message,” he said, but the chairs are “random.”

Stover chose Loyola last year. “Strangely when Katrina hit, it made me want to go down there more,” he said.

Melissa Giles of Tewksbury, 16, painted a chair flesh color and covered it with “very cliché tattoos.” Another has a suicide theme, and she wants the piece to make people think.

One kitchen chair has a hole cut out with a hot plate inside, and flames on the seat. Another is a chair of nails instead of a bed of nails. Someone is using a toilet seat cover, someone else “took it upon himself to monitor how often he sat during a typical day,” said Diana Coluntino, the teen arts group coordinator.

“Take a Seat” evolved from brainstorming sessions with the teens who also take part in their curriculum development. They finished a major mural project in March, and last summer the group was hired to decorate two teenagers’ bedrooms, “extreme home makeover” style. With this exhibit, they just wanted to let go.

“As artists we always keep our eyes open when we’re driving by a pile of trash,” Coluntino said, and chairs are always being thrown out or hidden in basements.

“Where we live in Lowell, there’s all kinds of renovation and cleanup going on so we thought it would be kind of a statement ... take trash and make it beautiful.”

The idea of “using and tossing, and using and tossing – that was an important thing we wanted to address,” she said. In the future, they might use objects pulled from Lowell’s canals to weld together into a giant gate, she said.

She likened it to an old-fashioned barn-raising that “brings people together to be productive.”

“Art can allow people to see things in a different light than they normally would,” she said. “Once you start growing up, you’re not able to see things from a child’s untainted eyes anymore,” she said. Vanguardian Art is made up of 10 to 12 teens who meet twice weekly after school.

The chairs are available for purchase by silent auction.


Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com

Ayyy ... sit on it
Take A Seat: Youth Program Exhibition
Opening reception: Saturday, May 20, 2-4 p.m., free
Exhibit through June 18. 
Silent auction through June 17. 
Revolving Museum, 22 Shattuck St., Lowell, (978) 937-2787, revolvingmuseum.org


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