TARPON SPRINGS — A popular annual fundraising event will wrap up with a downtown auction next Thursday.
The 5th Annual Chair-ity Auction, formerly called the Hot Seat Program, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Artists’ Faire Fine Art Gallery and Gift Shop at 111 E. Tarpon Ave.
“It’s one of the neatest things the chamber gets involved in because it’s 100-percent to the community and we love it,” said Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce president Sue Thomas.
Although next Thursday’s event brings this year’s effort to an end, the program is a months-long endeavor that invites community members to hand-paint and decorate wooden chairs that are eventually put on the auction block.
Daniela Smyth, a recreation specialist with the city, created the Hot Seat Program five years ago as a way to raise money for sick local children. All proceeds go to one or two youths suffering from a debilitating illness.
This year, Zyiel and Zyterius Watts, both suffering from a blood disease called spherocytosis, are the benefactors.
It all starts in Craig Park, where the plain, unadorned wooden chairs are turned into unique pieces of functional art over a number of weeks. A collection of residents, ranging from young children to professional artists, gather on designated days and paint the chairs any which way they please.
“It’s a nice mix because we get the kids painting, we get the families and then we get some done by artists,” Thomas said. “I love the ones the kids do. I have a stool in my office right now and I just love it.”
“This event provides an ideal opportunity for families and groups to work together to create uniquely painted chairs that will be auctioned to benefit two local children suffering from a serious illness,” City Manager Mark LeCouris wrote in an email response.
According to a Recreation Department press release, this year’s painters included local artists Robin Saenger and Heather Moore, Mayor David Archie, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader, the National Art Honor Society from Tarpon Springs High School and the Gro Group, a life-skills organization for the developmentally disabled.
Next Thursday’s auction will be led by professional auctioneer Erin-Marie Wallace. The evening begins with a silent auction at 6 p.m. followed by the live auction at 6:30.