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The Manitou Chair Project

Chairs can symbolize many things, yet cut across all cultures.
Chairs can symbolize many things, yet cut across all cultures.
Sean O'Meallie

Sean O’Meallie is taking sculpture to the max. The artist has long been known for his vibrant and often comical sculptures of ordinary objects turned extraordinary. But that’s not enough for him.

He’s the main force behind “The Chair Project," which is intended to turn Manitou Springs into a very large work of art. He’s been percolating the idea since 1996. Now, he envisions a line of 1,000 chairs from the Business of Art Center at 513 Manitou Ave. to Tubby’s Turnaround, a little more than half a mile northwest.

The installation is tentatively scheduled for early to mid-October 2011. It will take place for three hours early in the morning to minimize disruption for businesses, residents and visitors.

O’Meallie is holding project presentations for groups that are interested in participating. He’ll also host a series of free community meetings; the next one is 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, in the BAC’s Venue 515, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs. Call 685-1861 for information.

Why chairs?

“Chairs are understood by people across most cultures and of all ages as a device ready to accept a human,” O’Meallie said. “Chairs commonly share specific physical characteristics, yet they support myriad variations on how they are design-interpreted. All chairs reference the human body. An empty chair is an open invitation. It can represent loss and it can represent potential.”

He’s working with Manitou’s city management to negotiate the logistics – for one thing, plans call for that portion of the street to be clear of traffic and parked cars.

He also is seeking groups and individuals working in the creative and performing arts to participate in various ways, from wrangling chairs to photographing the completed installation (the BAC will host an exhibit of the resulting photos) and selling T-shirts to commemorate the event. Proceeds will benefit the BAC, Manitou residents and local artists. Go to the site’s Get Involved page to sign up to receive updates and to volunteer.

Although the project focuses on Manitou and its residents, “outsiders” are welcome to participate.

“I hope the project demonstrates that artistic thinking has value to the mind and spirit and can be employed in ways it hasn’t for the benefit of the community collective –inclusively. I think the scope of the creative programming and artmaking possibilities of this project will spark realization of the many opportunities and possibilities for art and that it will convey an idea that the playing field for artful ideas, audiences and material resources is enormous.”

O’Meallie is working with the BAC’s Liz Szabo to find grants to pay for project expenses; it’s also very easy to give through the site’s Donate page.

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