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CHAIRity event supports victims of abuse

December 06, 2007

For the eighth consecutive year, senior-year students in the College of Design’s interior design program began the first task of their semester – designing a chair – not learning about design, but learning about victims of domestic abuse.

For the project, interior design faculty members teamed up with the Phoenix Family Advocacy Center, an organization that provides comprehensive services to domestic violence and sexual abuse victims, to bring caseworkers’ information and victims’ stories to the students’ attention.

On to this knowledge is layered inspiration from – and exploration about – an artist or artistic movement, and the idea for a chair emerges.

From 25 separate student ideas for chairs, 11 designs are developed by teams of two or three student designers. The team members then construct and present their chairs for judging.

The challenge is to design and build the chairs in five weeks, and all are one-of-a-kind. Representatives of the International Interior Design Association Southwest Chapter judge the chairs and choose one winning chair for a scholarship award.

The students are challenged not just by working out details of how to bring their designs on paper to reality by constructing them of wood, steel, and glass, but also by raising funds for the materials. The students are allowed to spend $100 of their own money; the balance is provided by companies donating cash or materials for the completion of the chairs.

The chairs, which help raise awareness for domestic abuse – are exposed to many people from the time they are finished until they go to the auction. The initial display took place in the ASU Architecture and Environmental Design Library, then in an exhibition Oct. 8-Nov. 2 in the College of Design Gallery of Design. The exhibit was on display for one night at the Burton Barr Central Library for “First Friday,” then moved to the atrium of Phoenix City Hall.

On Nov. 15, the chairs were moved to the Phoenix Art Museum Great Hall for the “CHAIRity” dinner and auction that benefits the Phoenix Family Advocacy Center. Three chairs were offered through a live auction with the remaining chairs in a silent auction bid process. The scholarship-winning chair – titled “Do You See Her?” – was the final bid of the evening and sold for a record-breaking $6,000. The other two live auction chairs went for $2,100 (“Brise”) and $2,500 (“Revolution”).

Eleven chairs in all were auctioned for $15,675, far above any of the previous years’ totals. All proceeds from the sale of the chairs go to the Family Advocacy Center for services to their clients.

To see all the chairs, or for more information about the Family Advocacy Center, visit the Web site