May 5, 2003

Have a seat: Chairs on display through May 15

By Eric Rangus

The Emory Chairs Project is one of the most striking and versatile exhibits celebrating the opening of the Donna and Marvin Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.

Debuting across campus March 17, the 37 chairs are conversation pieces, architectural and engineering marvels, interesting oddities and, yes, functional places to sit. The chairs originally were to be displayed for one month, through April 18, but the community’s reaction was so positive that the exhibit has been extended though May 15, which means faculty, staff and students have another week-and-a-half to appreciate these innovative works of art.

Each chair is numbered on the brochures available around campus and on the web at A tour of the exhibit begins at the Visual Arts Building on Peavine Creek Road, where three chairs are located.

“My work is over here,” said project director Linda Armstrong, lecturer in visual arts, referring to a pair of chairs tucked in a shady spot in the middle of a sea of kudzu and overlooking Emory’s baseball field. “I like to watch baseball.”

The vast majority of chairs are situated within a five-minute walk from the Quad. Outside the Math & Science Center courtyard is Kyle Dillehay’s untitled work (no. 7), a bronze chair with a forest-like back that blends in with the trees behind it. Armstrong said many of the chairs were placed to blend with their environment, and this is one of the best examples.

The site committee toured campus looking for sites to use months before the actual installation. The chairs were installed over Spring Break, and it took eight days and three installation teams, which included students from Emory, Georgia State and the Atlanta College of Art.

Didi Dunphey’s work across Dickey Drive is one of the most high profile of the exhibit. Modern Convenience: Swing Set (no. 9) is not only padded and upholstered in fuscia naugahyde, but also comfortable, functional—and fun. The swing has been such a hit that Dunphey is looking to do more pieces for children’s playgrounds.

One of the few chairs inside a building is Celeste Roberge’s Chaise Gabion (no. 31), located on the second floor of Carlos Hall. The chaise is a steel cage wrapped around a half ton of river rocks.

The grassy area bounded by the Goizueta Business School and the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts has been transformed into a gathering place centered around exhibit pieces. There’s Kerry Moore’s Big Adirondack (no. 26), a huge, 850-pound wooden chair that is perfect for catching rays. Horace Farlowe’s Emory Bench Sculpture (no. 10) is exactly that—a marble bench that is as lovely as it is functional.

Don’t try sitting in Elyse Defoor’s Aerial Chaises (no. 6) without a seatbelt and a crash helmet. The 12 chairs hang precariously, and most strikingly, from the front of the Schwartz center. Defoor’s work is featured prominently in the Chairs Project brochure.

Woodruff Library’s Valerie Watkins found an old Emory desk in the attic of Candler Library before its renovation began. That desk, presented by Watkins and Julie Newman (no. 36), which an average fifth-grader would have a problem squeezing into, is on the stone steps of Coca-Cola Commons. It’s a neat time-capsule piece. Underneath it are several books, including a 1927 Emory yearbook. The desk even had chewing gum stuck to it (since removed).

Other chairs are located in the music building, on Fishburne Drive and in the shadows of Cox Hall and the Dobbs Center. The success of this exhibit, Armstrong said, has motivated the Steering Committee for the Arts to consider other large-scale public art projects for campus in the future.