The Buzz

Irby_Chair_IMG_1286_copyA selection of art chairs by local artists up for bid at Musican Chair Fundraiser.

GAINESVILLE – Gainesville may be primarily a college town, but from looking around the downtown area, it is also home to a number of artists.

Friends of Alachua County Public School Elementary Arts Programs (FAN of the Arts) hosted its 3rd annual Musical Chairs Project Fundraiser at the Doris Bardon Community Cultural Center on Friday, March 2.

Sue Johnson, Advisory Board member of FAN of the Arts, took 26 solid wood chairs donated by Lincoln Middle School, and distributed them amongst local artists who turned them into works of art for the fundraiser.

The finished chairs were put up for sale with a starting bid of $125 in the silent auction for the public to bid.  Funds raised will go toward keeping full-time arts programs in the county’s elementary schools.

Johnson, a retired art teacher, worked on three different chairs for the auction, and spread the word to other local artists to participate.

Johnson’s “Eagle Chair” was a collaborative piece, where she had second grade students from Alachua’s Irby Elementary draw their own version of their eagle mascot and incorporated those drawings in the painted chair.

Lori Swarthout, art teacher at Irby Elementary for 18 years, recently taught her students etching, which is how the second graders made their eagle drawings. Johnson used those, not only as inspiration for her chair, but also made a book with their original etchings in it to go along with her chair.

“Sue [Johnson] did a fantastic job with the chair, and seeing that not only her chair, but all the other chairs being bid on, just makes it all the more wonderful,” Swarthout said. “Without these contributions, we wouldn’t even have an art program here in Alachua County.”

One of the most talked about chairs of the night, “The Musical, Musical Chair” by local jewelry maker Peter Senesac, was a rustic looking chair with a series of buttons, that when pressed, played recordings by the artist.

“I used my own electronic recording of music I wrote myself, using an electronic circuit board that greeting cards with sound have,” Senesac said. “This was a great opportunity to challenge myself into doing something I wouldn’t normally do, and showcase my electronic music in a creative way and for a great cause.”

Another huge hit with the visitors and bidders, the “Mind Machine” chair, kept the artists Joshua and Jacob Kubisz consistently in conversation about how they created such a unique chair.

“When we first took the chair we wanted to give it this positive spin towards education,” Jacob Kubisz said. “This chair has a six-spoke gear, representing the number of hours in an average school day, a 24-spoke gear, representing the number of hours in a day, and when we turn these gears with the crank it activates a larger gear and a smaller gear and transfers to the other side and back around to the last gear which turns the dial.”

Joshua Kubisz said “It takes 40,000 turns, approximately two turns per second for your progress dial to go fully around. It sounds complicated, but it becomes a metaphor for the amount of hard work and dedication it takes to succeed in school.”

The chair consists not only of the sanded wood gears, but also laser etching in intricate lettering and design on the top of the chair, on the dial and underneath the chair.

The fundraiser showcased what the public contributions would be helping to save, as a small group of Charles W. Duvall Elementary art students sang a series of classic songs, and even showcased their trio of violin players in a short ensemble.

“I know for a fact that having an art program gives the children success in other subject areas,” Aliye Cullu, artist of the chair “In the Stillness – Meditation” said. “Using the right side of the brain stimulates the left side, and children become better in subjects like math and science.”

Cullu formerly taught art to students at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Fla., and saw youngsters “bloom” as individuals under the art program.

Overall, the fundraiser was a success with all 26 chairs being sold to art-enthusiastic visitors.

The “Mind Machine” chair received the highest bid, ending in the final sale of $1,000, and Johnson’s “Magnolia” chair received the most bids of all.

According to Johnson, proceeds from the auction were estimated at $6,000, exceeding her original goal of $3,000.

“I enjoyed sharing time with people who not only believed that strong arts equal strong schools, but were willing to invest in that idea through the purchase of a chair,” Johnson said, grateful of Friday night’s turnout. “I think that it says so much about who we are as a community, and how we view the value of the arts for our children.”

All of the money raised Friday night will benefit and enhance the elementary art and music programs in Alachua County public schools.

For more information on FAN of the Arts and their cause, visit