May 23

May 23

Transformed pews debut

Seven pews and five church chairs radically altered by local artists are now on exhibit. They'll be auctioned Saturday to raise money for the latest Grans-to-Grans campaign.

Their assignment was to take old wooden pews salvaged from the First Baptist Church, and “redevelop, reconfigure, and re-imagine” them.

Seven local artists accepted the challenge four months ago, and the results will be showcased and then auctioned this week as a fundraiser for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grans-to-Grans campaign, supporting HIV/AIDS initiatives for women and children in Africa.

“They’re all different ideas of restructuring, taking apart, reassembling,” says Michael Graham of Grid Inventive. “About the only thing we said was it should be functional as much as possible. It’s more accessible to a lot of people than if it’s just art.”

The artists — Shayne Brandel, Matty Hillman, Murray Kimber, Brian Malley, Carol Reynolds, David Stryck, and Angelika Werth — took vastly different approaches, befitting their varying disciplines.

Not all the repurposed pews were ready when the Star had a look Monday, but Reynolds painted hers, Stryck turned his into a gorgeous table, and Malley, a metalworker, acted on an idea he’d had in mind for some time.

“I almost got the idea the same day that Michael posed it to me,” he says. “I was a little wary of the whole idea of using church pews as a starting point, because I don’t have the best relationship with organized religion.”

But he knew he wanted to deconstruct the bench and make something fun that kids could enjoy. It was the perfect opportunity to build a swing set.

The pews he cut up to form two seats, while the frame is “95 per cent” reclaimed steel, taken from a friend’s farm at Five Mile.

“She’s got heaps and heaps of scrap. So I did a couple of missions up there. I knew what I was looking for, but really just filled my truck with as much conduit and pipe as I could.”

Malley estimates he spent 40 hours on his swing set, “a good solid piece of work.” He says he rarely gets to sculpt, “so this was a really fun project.”

In addition to the pews, five chairs from the old church at Willow Point have been reinvented by teens from the local youth centre.

They’re all available for viewing at the old Presbyterian Church at Victoria and Kootenay Streets each day this week from noon to 6 p.m., and then the reception begins Saturday at 6 p.m., with former MLA Corky Evans handling the auctioneering.

The artists will be on hand to talk about their inspiration and process, and you’re invited to vote for the People’s Choice Award for best pew. The winner gets a two-week trip to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.

Graham says it’s just a coincidence the pews are returning to a former church — originally Grid was going to host the finished works but they recently gave up their gallery space, so had to find another venue.