By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – Just in time for the Peanut Festival, Grapeland Jr. High/High School Art Teacher Callie Barge has her art students diligently working on projects to be displayed at the City Park on Saturday, Oct. 14.

While you may not think of a chair as a canvas for art, based on the success of last year’s fundraiser, it just may be the perfect conversation piece every home should have.

“A couple of years ago when I was working at a church, one of the fundraisers I saw involved taking something old and making it new. They had a lot of things at the old junior high last year and they were trying to figure out what to do with them. I thought it would be a great idea for us to use the materials in art class and as a way of raising money for supplies,” Barge said.

“I want these kids to experience different styles of art, work with different things and go to museums or attend performance art,” she added.

The art teacher said this is the second year her art class has been involved with the chair project and explained it “… went really well last year. The students have been very creative with everything they’ve seen. Some of this, I thought they wouldn’t be able to do anything with, but with these kids – they told me they knew exactly what to do with it. They had a vision.”

Barge said this year’s project is much bigger than last year’s “… and it’s probably twice as big. Last year, we had one booth (at the Peanut Festival), but this year we will have two booths side-by-side.”

As Barge showed off some of her students’ work, the abundant creativity levels in her classroom became evident. The typical canvas used for painting was nowhere to be seen. Rather, the students had turned old desks, chairs, record players and bookcases into a vessel for their creations.

Asked what was one of the more unusual projects she had seen created, Barge laughed and said she had a couple of students who planned to implement a toilet seat into their project.

“I have a couple of kids this year – the chair they have has a missing seat. Instead of trying to rebuild the seat, they are going to use a toilet seat. I am very anxious to see how that turns out. They are very excited about it and I think it will be a very fun design I would have never thought of,” she said.

Some of the projects are also paying homage to Tyress Anderson, the Crockett High School senior who recently passed away.

“Several chairs are made to honor his memory and are dedicated to him,” she said. “There are quite a few kids who were very close to him.”

She added, “Taking something that hasn’t been used for a long time and giving it a purpose, is really the key to doing this.”

Barge said the projects created by her students would be on display at the Peanut Festival and would be auctioned off through a silent auction. “The cut-off time is 3:00 p.m. and whoever the highest bidder on the item is, we will contact them. We will be at the booth until 5:00 p.m.,” she said.

“I would love for everyone to stop by our booth, even if you’re not interested in buying a chair. Stop by and chat with the kids and find out the stories behind their chairs,” she said.

For more information, please contact Callie Barge at 903-815-0776.

Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com