Ten artistic ski chairs have popped up around Whitefish this summer.
One is inspired by the people walking through town. Another has a grizzly bear silhouetted by the northern lights. An another has a horse theme with horseshoes hanging from the chair.
All of the ski lift chairs are part of the Big Ski Chair Affair, a fundraiser presented by the Big Mountain Commercial Association to raise money for the winter SNOW bus and the summer Glacier Park Express.
Rick Cunningham, executive director of the association, said it’s worth taking a tour around town to view all the chairs before they’re auctioned off in September.
“They’ve done a great job,” he said. “They are neat pieces of art.”
Whitefish Mountain Resort donated the quad lift chairs for the fundraiser and local artists used their creativity to transform them into benches, which are displayed in front of their sponsoring businesses.
The chairs will be auctioned off on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Craggy Range Bar and Grill.
The project evolved from one of those “wouldn’t it be cool if we” conversations last summer, according to organizers. Since then the working ski chairs were modified with metal legs to allow the benches to sit anywhere. The artists transformed the metal chairs using a myriad of styles and techniques.
“It has been laborious to move these things around,” Cunningham said. “But the artists have worked magic on them.”
Artist who created the chair designs include Lorinda Smith, Deb Stika, Susan Miller, Shelby Powell, Steven Miller, Paula Greenstein, Chris Marie Campbell, Michelle Saurey, Mark Baumbach, Terence Gill, Nanci Williams, Dee Dee Cooper, Ruth Lane, Louise Barker, Paula Rindal, Sally Glutting, and students from Summit Prep School.
Michelle Saurey, Mark Baumbach and Terence Gill worked together to create a bench that combines grained woodwork for the back and seat, while a metal mountain range dotted with trees rises from the back. The bench sits on the lawn at the Walking Man Frame Shop and Gallery.
“I had this vision to bring these two artists’ work together,” Saurey said of their chair.
She said the original concept was to create something more abstract, but once they started work that design shifted. The weight of the chairs, which she noted are extremely heavy, had to be factored in as well as the fact that the chairs, while artistic in nature, also need to be functional.
“Once we got the chairs we had to work around what was feasible,” she said. “That shifted our work to what the finished product is.”
They actually took their chair apart. Baubach worked on the wooden pieces in his studio in Lakeside and Gill created the metalwork in his studio in Eureka before the chair was reassembled.
Nanci Williams’ creation sits outside the Purple Pomegranate on Central Avenue. At the top is a sign that proclaims the bench as a “Snow Bus Stop” and includes life-size black and white characters waiting for the bus. Her design was inspired by drawings in her book “The Whitefish Fashion Collection,” which features the interesting folks around town.
“There’s a dog sitting down as if he’s looking back down the mountain and the chair is going up,” Williams said. “It came from real people I picked out for this.”
Ruth Lane, Louise Barker, Paula Rindal and Sally Glutting worked together to create a chair with a distinctly autumn feel with copper-wire and leaves up the overhead support. Their chair is outside the Firebrand Hotel on Spokane Avenue.
Lane said the group created a chair inspired by nature and recycling.
“The cushions are eco printed,” she said. “Eco printing uses the leaves tannins to print on wool or felt.”
The sponsoring businesses are: Hidden Moose Lodge, Whitefish Lake Restaurant, Craggy Range Bar and Grill, Mackenzie River Pizza Co., Firebrand Hotel, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, National Parks Realty, Stumptown Marketplace, Walking Man Frame Shop and Gallery, Purple Pomegranate, Nelson’s Hardware, Frame of Reference Fine Arts Gallery, and JoBeth Blair of PureWest Real Estate. Olie Bircher welded the legs on the chairs.
The association is a local nonprofit organization funded by member businesses. Its mission is to build cooperation and develop new ideas and projects that will enhance Big Mountain and Whitefish.
The group raises funds for the SNOW bus, the Glacier Park Express and Big Mountain Road winter maintenance.
To view a map of the chair locations or for more information, visit bigmtncommercial.org/events/
Those wanting to bid on the chairs don’t need to be present at the auction. To establish bidding arrangements, contact Cunningham at 253-9192.