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Artists' work will have nonprofits sitting pretty

The Outdoor Arts and Make-A-Wish foundations join forces for a project that has creative minds producing funky seats.

Published June 1, 2004

SAFETY HARBOR - She wears a purple scarf around her neck.

A red hat covers her eyes.

She is a mystery woman.

And she is on the rounded back of a vanity chair.

MaryAnn Cagen of Safety Harbor, who painted "Mystery Woman," is one of more than 100 artists, architects and contractors designing functional and creative chairs for Chairs for Chairity, a benefit for the Outdoor Arts and Make-A-Wish foundations. The chairs will go on display this summer and will be auctioned early next year.

"I wanted to do something I don't normally do," Cagen said. "I'm in the process of painting clothing on the mystery woman chair. I'm going to put rhinestones on it, put some spunk into it."

Cagen has taken on three chair projects for the charity. Besides "Mystery Woman," she painted a beach scene onto an Adirondack chair and is building a child's chair to resemble a race track. She hopes to complete the chairs within the next two weeks in time for the preview party June 22 at Reeves Import Motorcars in Tampa.

About 40 of the eclectic seats will be unveiled at the gala. Then, in early July, the other fanciful and innovative chairs will be shown off at various locations throughout Pinellas, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties.

"What's really nice about this project is the wide distribution of people that we have participating, people in Pasco, Sarasota," said Jay Goulde, director of the Safety Harbor Outdoor Arts Foundation, which facilitates privately funded community art projects. "This will probably end up being the largest public display of artistically done chairs the Tampa Bay area has ever seen."

Chairs for Chairity follows two other Outdoor Arts Foundation projects, such as the architecturally designed doghouses that benefited the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and the fiberglass turtles that helped the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

None of the artists gets paid.

Lenne Nicklaus-Ball of St. Pete Beach designed a funky rendition of a lifeguard chair that is 6.5 feet high and 3 feet wide. The Sirata Beach Resort is sponsoring Nicklaus-Ball's work for the charity.

Nicklaus-Ball planned to spend her holiday weekend working on the chair, adding some paint to the wood and draping it in neon lights.

"It's going to be very beachy," said Nicklaus-Ball, who works at the resort. "I'm pretty excited about it. When you have the whole arena there and see what the artist brings to the table, it's just an amazing event. It's sort of fun for people to go out and look at the chairs."

Silas Beach of Clearwater is doing an Adirondack chair in the shape of a fish. The back is a fish head. The arms are scales. And the ottoman is the fish tail.

He describes it as an outdoor chair made from pine wood slats. It's one of the most comfortable chairs that doesn't have a cushion, he said.

"You know how people have that kind of whimsy art in their yard," said Beach, who does art for Frenchy's Restaurants in Clearwater Beach. "It's definitely something people would have in that type of arrangement."

Boo Ehrsam of Pinellas Park has spent weeks on her wish chair. The chair is made from an old wooden spool that at one time served as a table. It has a sun on one side, a moon on the other. She's dyeing the cloth for the cushion fuchsia.

"It's hard to describe because I'm making it up," Ehrsam said. "It's very colorful. It's not like you would find in your regular living room. But I think it would be appropriate for the Make-A-Wish Foundation."

Partnering with another nonprofit on a project is a first for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Sarasota/Tampa Bay, which covers nine counties and relies on public and private donors, along with its own fundraising events.

About 80 percent of the funds go toward granting wishes to sick children, such as trips to Disney World and meetings with celebrities.

"The charity will help us get more attention for our cause and our needs," said Stephanie Andrews, director of development and public relations. "We have over 80 waiting to have wishes granted. It's really the community that helps us come forward and grant these wishes."

[Last modified June 1, 2004, 01:00:29]

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