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Rockers on parade in Chambersburg

July 14, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Rocking chairs are "parading" around Chambersburg this month, and the local Council for the Arts couldn't be happier.

"Getting art out of the galleries and into businesses, as well as on the sidewalks, makes it accessible to more people," said Mark Miller, vice president of the arts council. "Our goal is to bring arts to the people and people to the arts, and the Chair Parade will do both."

The chairs, decorated by local artists, are on display in downtown businesses. Some will be out on the sidewalks Saturday during Celebrate the Arts! at Old Market Day.

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The wooden chairs were just 30 unfinished rockers until local artists turned them into works of art. The arts council made no restrictions on materials; the only requirement was that the chair still was functional and would appeal to a wide audience. Themes were submitted to avoid duplication and include Chili Pepper; Shepherd's Perch; Jungle; Pond Side Relaxation; and Art is Long, Life is Brief.

Miller is the owner of Gypsie, a gift and antique store on the square in Chambersburg.

Eliane Ambrose, an artist in Greencastle, Pa., said she read about the rocking chair project, but waited until close to the deadline to call the Thomas June Artisan Gallery, which displays her paintings.

"(Gallery owner) Jennifer (Davis) said we had to have a theme," Ambrose said. "I had no preconceived notion. I came up with a theme on the drive down."

The theme she thought of - Rocking the Dragon - and her execution of it earned her a first-place ribbon. The chairs have slats for a back, which did not lend themselves to a design of a dragon's head, Ambrose said, so she wrapped a piece of canvas around the back and painted the head on that.

"For the rest, I let my child instinct play," she said.

Ambrose planned to put metal claws on the chair, but a friend offered her some turkey feet. She drilled holes at the ends of the chair arms, inserted the feet and painted the nails with 60-year-old sliver flake paint from France.

Ambrose said that although she had always been drawn to art, she didn't start painting until she was 52.

"I didn't have a chance before that," she said, as she and her husband, Harry, were raising six children. She studied with Dennis Blalock, an artist in Thurmont, Md., for a year. "Then he told me to fly," on her own, she said.

Born and raised in France, Ambrose came to America in 1956 at age 18.

"I married a Greencastle boy," she said. Harry Ambrose had been stationed with the U.S. Army in France and the two met at a carnival.

Now that her children are grown and married, Ambrose returns to France every two years, taking photos to work from when she gets home.

"They are so open to artistic talent over there," she said. "I've had people hand me a bouquet of flowers" while she was outside painting.

While she paints nearly every day in her home studio, Ambrose said she "can't expect a masterpiece every time. If I get one good painting out of five, I'm satisfied."

Miller said the judging panel agreed unanimously to award first-place honors to Ambrose's chair. It is displayed at the Thomas June Artisan Gallery in its new location on the square between Wenger and Myers Insurance Agency and Gypsie.

The Chair Parade is a partnership between the Council for the Arts and the Downtown Business Council.

All of the chairs are available for purchase by silent bid at the Council for the Arts, with bids accepted during gallery hours and by phone after hours.

Winning bids will be announced during the first week of August.

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