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Rockin’ Around the World
Ruth Leopold

Every year Carolina Meadows conducts a fundraising drive for our local public television station, UNC-TV. Every year the station announces a theme for its drive and clever folks at Carolina Meadows find a striking way to publicize the theme. This year’s theme was a travel one, highlighting the ways UNC-TV’s programs cover the entire world.

Members of the Carolina Meadows fundraising team met and brainstormed ideas to make the theme tangible. Team member Sally Hubby suggested “The Armchair Traveler”, which seemed particularly appropriate for a retirement community where not all the residents are able to travel. The idea was unanimously approved. Sally, whose background is in Graphic Design, volunteered to decorate a chair with appropriate symbols. The design was based on an actual voyage on the Queen Mary. The voyage was charted on a large map which hung in the Carolina Meadows club center lobby.

The first task was finding a chair to paint that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Any hope of finding a reasonably priced new armchair quickly faded and a hunt through local thrift shops began. The Orange-Durham Habitat Re-store held the answer, a large, spindle-backed rocking chair which became Sally’s “canvas.”

The chair was taken to the Carolina Meadows Maintenance Department whose workers enthusiastically embraced the project of prepping the chair for decorating. However, a disaster almost occurred at the beginning of the prep. Maintenance already had an old broken-down chair on its premises which had been offered to one of the staff. By mistake he loaded the Habitat chair onto his truck instead. He was driving away when he was stopped in the nick of time.

A painter in the department provided Sally a paint fan so she could choose a base color for the chair. She chose “Aged White” and the chair was painted with several coats of it. Finally, the “canvas” was ready.

However, as you can imagine, having a chair for a canvas presented unique challenges. There is no such thing as a “chair easel.” To paint images on the curved back of the chair, Sally had to tip the chair forward onto her lap, lean over it and paint the symbols she had chosen upside down. Even Michelangelo never faced that kind of problem.

Sally painted nautical and travel-related images to the chair using acrylic paint pens and fine-point Sharpies for the lettering on the chair. She researched stylish labels from grand hotels around the world which were often affixed to traveler’s luggage between the years 1910 and 1940. She re-scaled the labels and painted 23 of them, some in a circle on the seat of the chair

and some on the back. They include labels from hotels in Loch Lomond, Granada, Berlin, Naples, Venice, Jerusalem, Saigon, China and Chile and more.

The chair also displays a series of nautical flags, each flag representing a different letter in the nautical alphabet. Sally found various knots used in sailing and duplicated them down several spindles on the back of the chair. There are waves on the chair’s rockers, life preservers on its arms, as well as anchors, compasses, books, a bicycle and stacks of luggage in various other places. Sally also found several quotes about traveling which she included on the chair. Capping the top of the chair is the saying, “A Good Traveler Is One Who Knows How to Travel with The Mind.”

When the painting was finished, Maintenance sealed the chair with polyurethane to protect the designs. In addition, the workers built a platform to display the chair. The platform was painted blue to represent the ocean upon which “The Armchair Traveler” could sail. The chair was displayed in the lobby of Carolina Meadows Club Center for several weeks, generating much enthusiasm for the whole fund drive. The chair was auctioned off for $450 and the drive raised well over $54,000.

Bravo to the entire fundraising team and Hip-Hip Hooray for Sally Hubby, our wonderful artist!

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