At Whitfield, we approach visual arts as another language or discipline to use to creatively solve problems. For seniors taking an advanced studio art course the Cardboard Chair Project is a rite of passage that challenges them to design and build a chair, using only cardboard, gummed paper tape and Elmer’s glue. The chair must support their weight during an hour-long critique and visually communicate something about them as artists.
Team-taught by faculty members Luke Cano, Jim Daniels and Cara Foster, the project involves all seniors in ceramics, painting, and photography & design studio courses—all of whom are working with a new medium and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone. The projects are evaluated on craftsmanship, structural stability and the artist’s ability to reveal his or her personality.
“One of the concepts we talk about in our classes is form following function—with this project, that means the purpose of the chair should be the starting point for its design. That concept applies across mediums so for a student who might be thinking: ‘This isn’t painting—why am I doing this?’ or, ‘I am in photography, why am I making a cardboard chair?’ it’s about being a creative problem-solver and coming up with a dimensional sculpture that follows the function and reflects your aesthetic as an artist.”
Students explored the potential of the cardboard medium by creating sketches and prototypes. Carli Besemer ’18, Lindsey Grigg ’18 and Ellen Steinman ’18 chose a lounge chair for their design. “We are all pretty chill so we wanted a design that reflected our mellow personalities,” said Besemer.
Noah Elmore ’18 and Torrence Watson ’18 considered multiple designs before moving forward to build build their chair. “We wanted our chair to be a unique shape,” said Elmore. “We created a lot of different drafts and then Torrence drew this shape and we went with it. I am excited about our project and think it has turned out pretty well.”
Once completed later this month, the chairs will be on display in the gallery space outside of Woods Hall.