Honors College students carry on former dean’s tradition of decorating chairs

Alison Lucci

Former dean began chair saving trend

Rebecca Alexander, senior political science major, made her chair for the Honors College in 2008. Alexander said she made it as a sort of favor for the former Honors College dean, Larry Andrews. Kristina Deckert | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

“Whimsical” is the word Larry Andrews uses to describe the student artwork in the Honors College that has become an unofficial tradition there.

At least 10 years ago, the former Honors College dean began saving stray chairs from unfortunate fates and offered them to students to paint.

“We have a certain feeling about painted furniture,” said Andrews, who has several painted chairs in his home.

Andrews thought it would be interesting if students decorated the salvaged chairs. He said they “jumped at the chance” to create a four-legged masterpiece, but he never imagined the chairs would blossom into the 22-piece collection they are today.

Rebecca Alexander, senior political science major, created a floral- and butterfly-themed chair in June 2007. Alexander said she made the “whimsical garden chair” to thank Andrews for helping her secure a scholarship.

“Originally, it was motorized, which was really cool,” she said. But the butterflies began spinning out of control, so she eventually removed the battery pack.

Alexander said she worked on the motorized chair in her spare time over a two-month period.

Andrews said a striped, animal-themed chair and Alexander’s butterfly-themed chair are among his favorites.

The collection grew gradually, Andrews said, and the first chairs were completed between 1997 and 1998.

Kent State graduate Leah Anastasakis, who decorated a chair in 2001 during her freshman year, said she remembers being “one of the first people” to paint a chair.

Only two chairs were done before Anastasakis’, but their exact dates of completion are unknown.

Though she had previously painted furniture in a high school art class, Anastasakis said she had “no preconceived idea of what it would be at all.”

She said she was disappointed when her red paint mixed wrong, but she said she started painting anyway. The result: a red chair with a contrasting black star.

“I think students decorate according to their own tastes and interests,” Andrews said of the individuality of each chair.

Honors College Dean Don Williams said many people ask about the “very playful and inviting” chairs.

Williams, who welcomes new decorated donations, said the collection is a “very nice part of the honors center.”

Honors students from any discipline can decorate a chair, he said.

“If we find a chair, we offer it to students,” Williams said.

But now most students find chairs on their own.

Lauren Levitt, freshman managerial marketing major, decorated a Holocaust-themed chair in the Fall 2008 semester as part of a class project. She said the hardest part of the project was coming up with the idea.

Levitt’s chair portrays pictures and stories of children who died in the Holocaust. She designed the chair to transition from dark to light colors to symbolize the Holocaust and people’s lives “looking up” after the Holocaust.

“It’s kind of cool to see I left my own little legacy in the Honors College” she said.

Contact Honors College and International Affairs reporter

Alison Lucci at [email protected].