‘Chairs of Inclusion’ Exhibit Opening July 10 at Wildflowers Too

Jul 02, 2015
Artwork by: Dan Fenelon ‘When Chairs Fly’ by Dan Fenelon and members of the Wae Center.

“Chairs of Inclusion,” opening at Wildflowers Too in Barnegat Light July 10, is an innovative art exhibit created by 11 New Jersey artists in collaboration with adults with developmental disabilities. The exhibit, subtitled “A Seat at the Table for Everyone,” was commissioned to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled’s Wae Center, an alternative learning center in West Orange. The show consists of 11 actual chairs conceived by an individual lead artist, then created by that artist in collaboration with a team of members from the Wae Center.

Cricket Luker, owner of Wildflowers Too and an artist herself, learned of the exhibit about a year ago as it was nearing completion. “Just hearing about this project, I was very interested to see it. But after experiencing it, I was so excited, I knew I would move heaven and earth to find a way to bring it to LBI. It is inspiring and uplifting, it is fun, and it is hugely important. For people who see it, it’s something they will simply never forget.”

“These are high-quality art,” said Mary Birmingham, curator of the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit, which showed the exhibit in June. “Some are so inviting you want to sit in them; others are more sculptural. But all are art objects, imbued with the humanity and the essence of the people who participated in their creation.”

Livingston lead artist Ellen Hanauer’s “Love Seat” is constructed from 63 Lucite boxes, each holding objects selected by one of the 63 Wae Center members as representing him or herself at an elemental level. Each box has a personality of its own, and when joined together with 62 other boxes to create a chair, what results is a powerful symbol of unity, diversity and joy.

Morristown lead artist Dan Fenelon’s “When Chairs Fly” is hands-down the most whimsical of the chairs on exhibit. Fenelon rescued a chair from a thrift store to repurpose as a chair of inclusion. He then facilitated a team of six center artists whose enthusiastic ideas and collective energy transformed a simple chair into a fanciful and eye-popping throne worthy of the community that created it.

Other lead artists who participated in the project include Jennifer Levine, Yvette Lucas and Susanna Baker of Montclair, Tim Folzenlogen of Verona, Stephen Schwartz and the ArtShare Artists Collective of Livingston, Mansa Mussa and Onnie Strother of West Orange, Lisa Ficarelli-Halpern of Red Bank, and Gladys Barker Grauer of Newark.

The Wae Center – its name stands for Wellness, Arts & Enrichment – was founded on the belief that each individual possesses the potential for creating a meaningful life. Inclusion is implemented every single day by facilitators trained to bring people of diverse abilities together as equals. The Chairs of Inclusion project seeks to shift perceptions of ability, art and community, and those who have visited this exhibit since its opening in late 2014 agree it has achieved that and more.

Wildflowers Too is located at 506 Broadway. The opening reception for the public on Friday, July 10, is from 4 to 6 p.m. The exhibit will be on display through July 28. The gallery is open from 10 to 5 p.m. every day. For further information, call 609-361-1101.

‘Love Seat’ by Ellen Hanauer and members of the Wae Center. (Artwork by: Ellen Hanauer )
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