The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Life!

June 1, 2014

Best seat in the house

Chair-ity auction to benefit Women’s Resource Center

— Along came a spider who sat down beside her … a skilled artistic interpretation, replete with Kenny Isom’s 3-D arachnids transposed onto a wooden chair, represents a very serious problem — that one in every four women in the U.S. will find herself trapped in the web of domestic violence at some point in her lifetime.

A child cupping hands to ears to escape the sounds of parents arguing — another artist’s recognition that every year, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes.

Wildly creative are the painted Adirondack chairs and tables for the 5th Annual Chair-ity Auction to benefit Women’s Resource Center. Some artists chose to directly represent the situations facing those helped by WRC in their portrayals; others chose to keep their themes lighthearted or romantic — each approach, with or without a deeper message, will appeal to potential bidders Friday at Lewis Automotive, Beckley, to support WRC’s continuing mission.

Artist Cheryl Shanks plans to be present. She missed last year, keeping tabs on the bidding for her Marilyn Monroe themed chair by phone. This time, she’ll watch to see if her Disney’s “Frozen” inspired chair will earn the highest bid of the night.

For the last five years, Shanks’ imagination has had the biggest impression on bidders. The Marilyn chair went for $3,000. Could it be a savant-like ability for picking the right theme, or is she just that good?

More likely, it’s the latter explanation for the painter accustomed to doing it “old school” — without the aid of technology.

“I have just painted all my life,” says Shanks, who lives part of the year in her home at The Resort at Glade Springs, Daniels. Before vehicles were wrapped in graphics printed onto digital film, Shanks hand-painted them for NASCAR. Originally from Kentucky, she was responsible for some of the lettering of Richard Petty’s cars along with those of other recognizable legends in the sport.

The mural scale artist says she painted everything from Newell coaches to tour buses for Gloria Estefan and Jermaine Jackson to tobacco advertisements on barns. If it was big, she had a brush and an ambition to match.

“I have even been as high as painting water tanks with whatever a city wanted. People would call me and I always did the big stuff. I never had to advertise.”

Although intimately familiar with ladders and scaffolding to accomplish her past works, Shanks luckily never broke anything scaling to lofty heights to create town emblems and embellish star-quality transportation. Shoulder impingement keeps her on the ground these days; one of her favorite murals, closer to her West Virginia home, is at Bunkers Sports Bar inside The Resort at Glade, where her caricatures of members and their personalities are called spot on, eliciting many requests by new candidates asking, “When are you going to paint me?”

This is also Shanks’ 5th year of painting for WRC Chair-ity Auction sponsor Aspen Corp. Her passion to paint is only enhanced by the opportunity to make a difference for victims of domestic violence.

“I pick out themes that are the hot thing. The first year, there weren’t many chairs with detail, on the back and arms. After two or three years, the artists started getting really detailed and creative. It’s like a competition now, but I don’t care anything about that,” she said. “I just want to make money for WRC.”

She’ll join the other artists who partnered with sponsors to complete 33 separate works of art on handcrafted wood, mostly chairs, but also side tables, a bench, kids’ chairs and a porch swing.

According to WRC fundraising development coordinator Dee Sizemore, “What’s unique about this event is all the artists who get involved, many of whom approached us to do it, are giving of their time and talent and passion to help.”

The event, first called “A Night Out and Chair-ity Auction,” had its title abbreviated but still offers a date-night atmosphere to go along with the bidding. The artists and sponsors have surprised Sizemore by going over the top this year in creativity, with themes and added bonuses.

“We never know what they’ll include with the chairs until the night of the event. The Margaritaville/Maroon 5 chair sponsored by 92.7 KISS FM, for instance, comes with Greenbrier Classic concert tickets.”

A child-sized rocker that has caught Sizemore’s eye is the St. Francis de Sales School’s second grade class “Butterfly Kisses and Flower Petal Wishes” chair, embossed with each child’s fingerprints.

The bidding will open at least with each chair’s basic retail value — $150 for chairs and rockers. The “Gone With the Wind” themed porch swing handcrafted by Sizemore’s father, Herman Sizemore, and painted by artist Sheri Hendricks, and a special bench will each start higher at $250.

Generally, the items sell for much more to bidders, as the dual appeal of art and a cause supersedes the impulse for a bargain.

“Each of the last two years, we’ve raised $20,000 for WRC through this event. We’re hoping to raise at least that and more this year. Every chair is different and each is a work of art,” Sizemore said.

Interested bidders wishing to preview the entries can go to Lewis Automotive during regular business hours where the chairs are displayed between now and Friday’s event. Those interested in bidding but who can’t attend the auction can call in a maximum bid on a chair to the WRC and volunteers will do the bidding by proxy.

Tickets are $20 each, including entertainment by musician Krista Hughes and a full barbecue buffet supplied by Pasquale’s. Visit wrcwv.org or call 304-255-2559 to reserve.

— E-mail: lshrewsberry@register-herald.com

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