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‘Chairs Gone Wild’ hits Spicer, Minn.

Mary Wohnoutka, from left, Connie Filley and Val Sechler, members of Spicer’s Beautification Committee, sit in completed chairs that will be painted and decorated by local artists. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)

Even before the snow started to melt a group of Spicer volunteers began working on a summer beautification project that will showcase local artists’ take on lakeside relaxation.

The project, dubbed “Adirondack Chairs Gone Wild,” kicks off March 28 when 15 area artists will be given a handmade, pine Adirondack chair to turn into a piece of functional art.

They’ll have two months to transform, paint and decorate their chair before a public unveiling in May and an auction in August.

In between May and August the chairs will be put in public places around Spicer.

“Our goal is to bring beauty into the community and create good community spirit,” said Mary Wohnoutka, a member of the town’s beautification committee.

The project is part of a series of “wild” summer events in Spicer, including the “fish gone wild” that had artists transforming wooden fish silhouettes and “poles gone wild” where artists painted utility poles in Spicer.

The past community art events have been well-received by residents and have brought people from outside the community to Spicer.

“People notice and wonder what we’re going to do next,” said Wohnoutka, adding that the new playground, deck and furniture at the city park and the free Sunday summertime concerts on Green Lake are part of Spicer’s efforts to celebrate art and community.

Artists submitted their names and examples of their work to a three-person jury made up of art teachers, who will select the final group of 15 artists.

Those who had submitted their names “have a good track record,” said Janet Olney, executive director of the Willmar Area Arts Council. “We want to keep the quality really high.”

The announcement of which artists were selected will be made during a public reception set from 5 to 6:30 p.m. March 28 at the Dethlefs Center in Spicer.

At that time each artist will receive a bare, wooden Adirondack chair.

Using a portion of the $2,600 grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, the committee purchased pine boards and supplies and sweet-talked a couple local handymen and regular community volunteers — Dick Wohnoutka and Jim Saulsbury — to make the chairs instead of buying manufactured ones.

“We wanted a chair that was really going to be worthy of the artists putting their time into it,” said Olney, who wrote the grant.

“Just the chairs themselves are a work of art,” she said.

The men began working on the chairs in February. Wohnoutka cuts the pieces that Saulsbury sands to a smooth finish.

They work together to assemble them.

“We’ve got a couple of great guys that are making the chairs for us, so we’ve got great opportunity to save some money and have a good quality product,” said Connie Filley, a member of the beautification committee. “And I know the artists will do a fantastic job.”

The grant will also fund a small stipend for the artists to purchase paint and other materials, but Filley said the artists will have “free reign” to do whatever they want with the chairs.

The only stipulation is that they can still be used for sitting.

The finished chairs will be revealed during a May 22 community event at the Spicer downtown park where people will vote for their favorite chair.

There’ll be a $100 cash prize for the peoples’ choice winner.

“It’s going to be a fun summer project,” said Filley.

After spending most of the summer being looked at and sat in while they’re on public display, the chairs will be auctioned off on Aug. 15 at the Glacial Ridge Winery.

Each artist will get 90 percent of the auction proceeds.

Since the artists make a living from their art, the committee said it was important to compensate them fairly for their work, said Olney.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750