TAC TEN+: Quilting Pieces Together: The Art Chair Program

“When I first started the residency, I would draw in solitaire. TAC turned me on to the idea of being in the public, says JJ."

When I first heard of John Tabor Jacobson’s Art Chairs, I felt a kinship between our two projects. Back in 2018, when I wanted to create something where audience and artist participation made a piece come alive I co-launched the Annual Community Quilting Bee. Each year, about 10+ artists work on creating – through any means like sewing, stitching, embroidery, dying, paint, and patchwork – a fixed section of fabric that is then brought together in a quilt.

JJ, as he is more widely known, first created the Art Chairs at The Avenue Concept in 2015 as part of his residency. “When I first started the residency, I would draw in solitaire. TAC turned me on to the idea of being in the public,” he says. JJ began his residency working behind the counter at the Paint Bar. “I would use a pencil and paper to work out ideas and sell paint. Slowly I started to respond to the community,” he says.

The initial idea for the Art Chairs was to have different artists apply their vision to an individual chair however they wanted. Each chair is painted on by a different artist and once placed together and reconfigured – they become an activated space themselves.

Of the first chair he bought, JJ says, “I grabbed one from Ikea so we could all look at it, see how it primed, how it holds up and travels; what kind of paints would work well, that kind of thing. Once we realized it was a good medium to work with Yarrow bought ten – and the program was born.”

The chairs can be arranged in any configuration and encourage visitors to look at them individually and all together at once. This is not dissimilar to quilting. The act of taking pre-cut shapes and turning them round and round until you find new and exciting combinations is essential to the art of quilting.

There are other similarities too. How the chairs are arranged, where, and what type of activities they inspire is one aspect. Another is the role of the artist who decorates the chair. In quilting, when each patch is individually made by an artist, no one piece is more important than another. Depending on the lighting, the angle, one’s mood, and many other factors, each piece of the whole momentarily steals focus, taking a turn to bask in the spotlight before graciously stepping aside to act as a supporting player to others.

The first Art Chairs were unveiled at a summertime backyard barbeque at TAC’s headquarters. Each chair was given to a different artist and JJ included four chairs that were painted by New Urban Arts students, board members, teachers and janitorial staff. The intention was to create bridges between artists and the community for Activisual PVD, a full-day event that combined the launch of new art installations with live entertainment and a temporary skate park.

“I liked the idea of giving every artist the same blank canvas,” JJ says. “Kind of like the Dunny doll project of the early 2000s.” A Dunny is a type of vinyl designer art toy created by Paul Budnitz and Tristan Eaton, and produced by Kidrobot since 2004.”But the project was mostly inspired by The Big Draw,” he says.  Founded in 2000 in England, The Big Draw raises the profile of drawing as a tool for wellbeing, thought, creativity, social and cultural engagement.

“So much of our society is isolatory,” he says. “Art has the capacity to bring people together.”

And the chairs are an ultimate utilitarian object; a no-fuss, simple form of engagement, more communal and pedestrian; something anyone can understand: you sit in it, read, talk, think. They can be stacked for travel, unloaded and arranged. “Programs can stem from these chairs that haven’t even been thought of yet,” says JJ.

Now the chairs themselves tell a story. Each year brings a fresh crop of chairs to be utilized at public events, such as PechaKucha, and auctioned off as fundraiser. Through the years the same form is given new life, new purpose, and new energy while simultaneously building on everything that had come before.


R Silver is the co-founder, co-organizer, and the head of web at the Community Quilting Bee. She finds natural dyeing a grounding process, that ties her to a specific point in time and location. Outside of her creative practice she spends most of her time studying / working in information security and traveling.

Exhibiting Guest Artists for TAC TEN+ Pop-Up Installation

Arthur Cayo
Umberto Crenca
Lifelong Learning Collaborative
Kendel Joseph
Sav Hazard Chaney
Xander Marro
The Wilds Advisory, The Met High School
PPSD teachers
Shey Rivera Ríos
Al Sok
Mary Thorne
Sara Breslin