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Standing for The Art of Seating, or This Chair is Just Right

After having eaten my lunch during my morning break – yes, I do that sometimes – I was left wondering what to do with my lunch hour. I finally decided that this would be a perfect time to stroll from the library over to the Columbia Museum of Art.

I must shamefully admit that I hadn’t thought of actually rushing over to see the new exhibit at the museum, The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design. “An art exhibit about chairs?,” I thought to myself, art snob that I am. Well, shut my mouth. I nearly missed one of the most fun exhibits I’ve ever seen. Who would have thought chair history could be so lively? This truly fascinating show reflects the response of the American creative spirit to the influences of different countries and artistic design styles, as well as to the influences of religion, nature, science, and advances in math and technology. The American talent for being open to everything spurs ingenuity and invention and creates a style that is uniquely our own. The designs we see in these chairs reflect American history, our love of gadgets and technology, our innovation and artistry. I walked through the show with a feeling of wishing I were Goldilocks and could sit down on every chair – just to see which one was just right.

This outstanding exhibit of forty chairs was drawn from the Jacobsen American Chair Collection. The collector, Diane DeMell Jacobsen, started the collection with her late husband, Thomas Jacobsen. I overheard a tour guide explain that there are three criteria used to select chairs: the chairs must be American made, they must be reflective of the period in which they were created, and they must be artistic in design.

Don’t make my mistake. Rush over to see this exhibit! It is here only until August 26th. Be on the lookout for my favorite chairs, Centripetal Spring Arm Chair from 1850, and High Stool from 1971. Look carefully at High Stool; it’s made of cardboard! If you are afterwards inspired to make a chair of your own, or just want to explore something like American furniture design, stroll across Assembly Street to RCPL. You can pick up a book, have a seat, and enjoy.

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