By Mary Beth Layman
Want to enjoy a unique piece of Vinton history? You now have a chance by participating in the Vinton History Museum 2021 “Historic Art CHAIR-ity” fundraising event.
Since early this summer, 11 artists have been using their skills to creatively paint chairs from historic local schools in a theme of their choice.
One full-size chair was part of the school furniture used at the old William Byrd High School on Highland Road in Vinton and the 10 child-size chairs were used at the iconic Roland E. Cook Elementary School.
The unique chairs will be sold through an online auction site and are available for viewing online at www.32auctions.com/artchairity2021 through October 25.
In addition, the chairs will be on display at various downtown Vinton business storefronts through October 23. All proceeds will be used for sustaining the museum and its associated programs and acquisitions.
The participating artists are Jeremy Adams, Debbie Arthur Adler, Ilona Bobbitt, Cathy Codington, Jan Dickens, Len Hale, Mary Beth Layman, Becky Miller, Rebecca McKeever, Donna Adam Phillips, and Kelly Willis.
Mary Beth Layman, program chairperson for the Vinton Historical Society, contacted the artists earlier this summer. All the artists enthusiastically said they would like to participate in the project for a great cause.
The artists shared their thoughts and inspiration about painting the antique chairs.
Donna Adams Phillips and her 17-year-old nephew, Jeremy Adams, co-created, “Set Ye Booty.” The fun chair features typical pirate colors and a treasure map. Donna also created the beautiful “Ice Princesses” chair. The dark blue silhouettes are set on a soft blue background complete with jewels and sparkles. She stated she loves to paint and be creative. “I’m fascinated by bold colors and how they blend together.”
Debbie Arthur Adler, a local artist, created “Lilli.” Her love of art and creating is long held having studied art all through William Byrd High School and Virginia Western Community College. Watercolor is her chosen medium for most of her work. Debbie stated the painting on her chair is inspired by a friend’s granddaughter. “She is pretty as a flower and busy as a bee. She spreads joy everywhere she goes.”
Ilona Bobbitt created “A View From Above.” The beautiful landscape is highlighted with colorful hot air balloons floating above the countryside. Ilona’s first encounter with visual art was making paper dresses for paper dolls. Much later in life she felt the desire to pick up a brush to paint. Her self-taught hobby has become a passion. She said, “It was like an awakening to my surroundings and for this I am thankful.” She is a member of the League of Roanoke Artists and received a League award in 2019 for her oil painting, “Memories.”
Cathy Codington created the colorful and mosaic-like “Laffy Giraffy.” Cathy is new to the Vinton area and loves the small-town feeling. She has delved into various forms of art and has found her niche by teaching and creating artwork in Watercolor Batik. She adores spending time with her children and granddaughters and travelling.
Jan Dickens created “Dogwood in Vinton.” Her chair combines her love of painting and quilting. The hand-pieced slipcover was an inspiration for the soft paint colors and the beautiful dogwood blossoms on the seat and rung of the chair. Jan has had a creative streak going from when she was quite young, from making paper dolls to drawing, painting, and quilting. As an active member of the Vinton Historical Society, she volunteers her time setting up displays and cataloging historic items donated to the Vinton History Museum.
Len Hale created “In His Hands.” He allowed the natural oak grain to shine through and give strength and character to the strong hands on the chair “holding the whole world in his hands.” His inspiration for the design is the quote from the Colton Burpo book and movie, “Heaven is For Real.” Len, a lifelong resident of Vinton, lettered in three sports at William Byrd High School and was the original “Head Buck” of the Reindeer Club.
Mary Beth Layman created the whimsical “Oddly Octopus and Friends.” She retired in 2018 from her long-time career as Special Programs Director for the Town of Vinton. She stated, “One of my goals in retirement is to return to the skills I developed in secondary school and during my college major in art. I am finding great joy in creating artwork through watercolor and acrylics.”
Becky Miller created the stately “Whoot, Whoot, Al the Owl” from a photo she took at the Extreme Raptor Show at the Salem Fair. She went to the fair three times to capture the exact pose she desired. Becky enjoys photography and creating pencil sketches of people, animals and landscapes and just started working in acrylics this year. Becky is a dedicated Vinton History Museum volunteer and created “Al” on site. She has won nine ribbons for photography at the Salem Fair. Becky lives in Roanoke and has close family ties to Vinton.
Rebecca McKeever created “Little Town.” She stated the child-size chair is like a three- dimensional play mat. Railroad tracks are painted around and across the chair which also features a main street with a store, firehouse, toy store, grocery store, barnyard, neighborhood and more. She taught Elementary Art in Roanoke City Schools for 25 years. She retired from teaching to open her own pottery studio seven years ago where she makes functional pottery that is sold at local farmer’s markets including the Catawba Farmer’s Market and the Roanoke City Market.
Kelly Willis created “Whispers from Narnia.” She stated, “The French country-inspired chair is embellished with beautiful tiny birds, berries, vines and a quote from C.S. Lewis: ‘Courage dear heart.’ Fear—a relatable word this year. We all feel it at times. Even the smallest, most vulnerable of creatures feel it. But oh, the whisper of courage amidst any challenge. What a beautiful reminder. This little chair is just for that. It’s a loving call for courage in the face of deep darkness and fear. A reminder, dear heart, that you were created to love big and loud and long, to slay giants, and move mountains to do hard and beautiful things. Don’t let fear have the last word. Don’t let fear have any word. It doesn’t get to tell the story of who you are and what you are capable of– courage dear heart!” Kelly is a faux painter, decorator, and trash-to-treasure Gypsy.
Mary Beth Layman developed and coordinated the idea of painting antique chairs from the old William Byrd High School and Roland E. Cook Elementary for a fundraiser for the Vinton History Museum.
Darlene Crowder Marshall came up with the wonderful “CHAIR-ity” name. The board of directors of the Vinton History Museum appreciates the vast amount of time the artists contributed to make the project a success thus far.
The CHAIR-ity artworks were on display under the pergola at the Vinton History Museum during the Vinton Fall Festival on October 2.
For additional information, contact the Vinton History Museum at (540) 342-8634 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Vinton History Museum is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is located at the corner of Maple Street and Jackson Avenue in downtown Vinton.