Five-town arts guild asks local donors to take a seat

BRISTOL — Attendees at next week’s Fourth of July celebration in Bristol will get yet another chance to be sitting pretty — by bidding on one-of-a-kind, work-of-art chairs painted by local artists. The 5 Town Friends of the Arts’ “Chair-ity” event is part of the group’s annual silent auction fundraiser.
“Funky chairs can be really fun in your house,” said Chair-ity organizer Vera Ryersbach.
Six local artists are contributing this year’s chairs they have painted in a variety of creative and funky ways:
•  Thacher Hurd, children’s book author and illustrator and son of “Good Night Moon” illustrator Clement Hurd. Hurd grew up partly in Vermont, has lived most of his life in California and returns to Starksboro each summer. One of his best-known books, “Art Dog,” tells the story of how a masked dog avenger helps reclaim Leonardo Dog Vinci’s stolen masterpiece, “Mona Woofa.”
•  Starksboro landscape painter Cynthia Kling exhibits at Art on Main in Bristol and is part of the gallery’s artist cooperative.
•  Deborah Rickner is the art teacher at Bristol Elementary School and a Monkton resident.
•  Nancy Carroll of Starksboro has recently begun to devote herself to painting after retiring from 37 years as the Beeman Elementary School librarian.
•  Barbara Moffi, a textile artist, interior designer and landscape architect runs the Windy Dog Hill bed and breakfast in Starksboro.
•  Chair-ity organizer Vera Ryersbach, a Starksboro resident, taught art at Robinson Elementary School (as well as in Lincoln and New Haven) for over 20 years.
5 Town Friends of the Arts added the Chair-ity event to the annual silent auction about five or six years ago, Ryersbach said, as a way to bring fun, functionality and fundraising together. The group starts from donated chairs and then lets each artist “do what they like to do.”
“People seem to just like the idea of having a chair that’s something totally different and not machine made, something that’s an object they can use but clearly hand created by a local artist,” said Hurd.
Many patrons have come back year after year, said Ryersbach, to see what new chair a familiar, returning artist has on offer. Ryersbach said she’s always on the lookout for new local artists who want to participate and also likes reaching out to local art students. Last year’s silent auction, for example, featured a chair by Alicia Stone, a recent Mount Abraham Union High School graduate who’s now studying drawing and painting at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Connecticut.
Nancy Carroll is contributing her first chair to the Chair-ity silent auction. Carroll’s chair, which she humorously describes as a “Lilly Pulitzer wanna be,” features poppies against an intensely spring green background with a pink raw silk seat.
Said Carroll, “Making things more beautiful is a wonderful thing to do. The idea of making an everyday object more beautiful quite appeals to me.”
Landscape artist Cynthia Kling has contributed a Chair-ity chair since the event’s inauguration. For Kling, painting a seat for the Chair-ity auction is a way to support the important work of 5 Town Friends of the Arts, especially its artists’ cooperative gallery, Art on Main, which features Vermont artists and artisans in a variety of mediums. Kling is painting two chairs for this year’s auction: one presenting Starksboro landscapes, the other using European folk motifs.
Thacher Hurd said he’s often drawn to contrasts. The antique, spindle chair he’s starting from this year is inspiring an outer space-related design.
Ryersbach said that her own chair for this year will be inspired by hand-loomed, hand painted mud cloth from Mali. Mud cloth is a traditional Malian textile art that features bold geometric patterns — painted using a kind of indigenous mud — in black and ivory patterns.
The silent auction, including the Chair-ity section, begins setting up early on the morning of July 4. Ryersbach said that bidding officially starts at 10 a.m., but early birds can come by and put their bid on the bid sheet. Bidding on each chair starts at $50. Silent auction winners will be announced, said Ryersbach, between 2:30 and 3:30 on Tuesday afternoon. Auction winners can pick up their chairs and other objects thereafter. Friends of the Arts like to have all purchases completed and silent auction objects picked up by around 4 p.m.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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