Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Adya Smalls paints a University of Georgia-themed chair during an art club meeting at Summerour Middle School as part of a "Chairs for Chairty" event being held at the Norcross Art Fest. The money raised will go back to the school whose art students decorated them.
NORCROSS -- Summerour Middle School art teacher Deanna Harrington knows a thing or two about creativity. So do her Art Club students, thanks in part to a program called Chairs for Charity.
Not only are Harrington and her students artistically creative, but they have also found a creative way to help keep the art program at area schools going strong in spite of across-the-board budget cuts.
Arlene Beckles, Outreach Chair for the Norcross Arts Alliance, is proud of the success of the young initiative. This is her second year with Chairs for Charity, and this is only the third year of the program's initiative in the Norcross schools cluster.
Beckles collects chairs from people and businesses in the community and distributes them to Norcross schools. Art students design and paint the chairs, which are then sold at silent auction at the Norcross. Every dollar of every chair sale goes back to the school whose art students decorated it.
"With budget cuts, many art departments have little to no funding," said Harrington. "This money makes a big difference." The art teacher, a former student of Summerour Middle School herself, takes the opportunity this program allows and compounds the lesson to students. Not only must they do their best work in order to bring top dollar for their chairs, they must also understand the marketing of the items.
"When they want to paint a popular cartoon character on a chair, I ask them, 'what adult will want to buy that for their home?'" According to Harrington, the students must think of marketability as well as creativity and quality of work. Probably for that same reason, Georgia Tech and University of Georgia chairs are big sellers.
The students learn other valuable lessons, too.
"They work together, as a team," Harrington said. "They come in to work on the chairs before school, and some evenings they stay as late as 7 to paint."
According to Beckles, there is always a need for donated chairs. This year, she was only able to collect 12 donated chairs. Some students and teachers used their own money to purchase more, just to allow more students and schools to participate in the popular program.
The Norcross Art Fest is Saturday and Sunday in historic downtown Norcross. The Chairs for Charity will be on display for silent auction during the entire festival, and winning bidders will be notified shortly after the festival is over.
For more information about Chairs for Charity, visit www.chairsforcharity.org. For more information about the Norcross Art Fest, visit www.splashfestivals.com.