FARGO — While some art experts might advise against buying a painting to match their furniture, they perhaps haven’t considered the idea of a chair being art.

Through the Chairs for Charity art auction, this idea of helping the community in a creative way has come to life.

The designers and furniture specialists at Fargo's InterOffice decided to celebrate their new location, 1630 First Ave. N., while also giving back to the community.

They asked local artists to submit their ideas to turn the iconic Eames molded plastic side chair from Herman Miller into something even more artistic and unique. The resulting chairs, vinyl wrapped with four selected designs, will now be auctioned off to benefit Lend A Hand Up, which provides financial help and hope for families affected by a medical crisis.

"Abstraction Chair" by Mitchel Hoffart uses geometric abstractions to echo the works of post-World War II modernist painters from the era that Charles and Ray Eames produced the chair. Special to The Forum
"Abstraction Chair" by Mitchel Hoffart uses geometric abstractions to echo the works of post-World War II modernist painters from the era that Charles and Ray Eames produced the chair. Special to The Forum
Mitchel Hoffart. Special to The Forum
Mitchel Hoffart. Special to The Forum

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Four artists’ designs were selected out of 40 submissions for the Chairs for Charity auction. The artwork of Nicole Gagner, Mitchel Hoffart, Jennifer Junker and Leigh Nelson has been translated to vinyl to cover each chair, a classic piece of furniture designed by Charles and Ray Eames that first appeared on the market in 1950.

It’s no surprise that art and furniture have a long-standing but sometimes tumultuous relationship. While blank walls lend an obvious invitation for art, the rest of the space includes a multitude of other elements vying for attention. But with this auction, which wraps up Friday, Sept. 20, art has found its way into the space of functionality.

Consider the role of the chair you might be sitting in right now. Could it be considered art, or mere architecture, a combination of angles and measurement?

“We initially thought [the artist’s chair] would be more of an art piece that wouldn’t be used, just kept on display,” says Sarah Huckle, workspace expert at InterOffice. “But by using a vinyl wrap, people will actually be able to use it.”

"A Round Hay Bale Chair" by Nicole Gagner is a colorful prairie landscape that provides a contrast to the modern lines of the Eames chair. Special to The Forum
"A Round Hay Bale Chair" by Nicole Gagner is a colorful prairie landscape that provides a contrast to the modern lines of the Eames chair. Special to The Forum
Nicole Gagner. Special to The Forum
Nicole Gagner. Special to The Forum

At the heart of the cause, InterOffice worked with Lend A Hand Up to make a real financial impact.

“Everything raised goes to the families, because the program’s administrative costs are underwritten by Dakota Medical Foundation,” says Jeana Peinovich, Lend A Hand Up’s director.

Since launching in 2008, the organization has raised $16.7 million to help 515 families, she says.

Lend A Hand Up provides resources to help families with significant expenses related to medical costs, travel costs, lost wages or other expenses. According to Peinovich, 53% of the families are dealing with cancer, while others face unplanned accidents.

Translating the artwork to each chair required real collaboration with Office Sign Co., including converting each artist's work into a vinyl wrap.

“This is a truly unique piece. I’ve never seen chairs wrapped, period,” says Office Sign Co.’s Jack Yakowicz, the account manager handling InterOffice’s unique request. “It’s a cool way to support Lend A Hand Up and actually receive a keepsake from a great cause. It speaks to the arts community’s ability to transcend so many different industries and be collaborative.”

The Chairs for Charity auction was made possible thanks to the collaboration of Lend A Hand Up, Office Sign Company and The Arts Partnership.

"Your Grandmother’s Living Room Chair" by Jennifer Junker. Special to The Forum
"Your Grandmother’s Living Room Chair" by Jennifer Junker. Special to The Forum
Jennifer Junker. Special to The Forum
Jennifer Junker. Special to The Forum

Make a bid

Bidding for the Chairs for Charity auction begins Monday, Sept. 16, and closes at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20. Four chairs will be on display throughout the week at InterOffice, 1630 First Ave. N., Fargo. Proceeds will be split between the artist and Lend A Hand Up.

Bid in person at InterOffice, or visit theartspartnership.net/auction to learn more or bid online.

"Sit in Fargo Chair" by Leigh Nelson takes into consideration both urban and rural landscapes with black lines on a sleek white surface. Special to The Forum
"Sit in Fargo Chair" by Leigh Nelson takes into consideration both urban and rural landscapes with black lines on a sleek white surface. Special to The Forum
Leigh Nelson. Special to The Forum
Leigh Nelson. Special to The Forum

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.