The importing of big-city ideas is, at times, frowned upon in this mountainous enclave, but Patrick Trucco might have found one that everyone in town can support.
You may have noticed the aesthetically pleasing chairs dotting the town at places like Snake River Brewing or Persephone Bakery, all as part of the Rocking Sage Living fundraiser. They are Trucco’s brainchild, born in part from the “Cows Parade” art installations that started in Chicago and have moved in some form to cities and towns around the country.
“This idea had percolated in my head for years,” said Trucco, who is a member of the St. John’s Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees.
“Cows on Parade” started when the city of Chicago paid artists to paint large cow sculptures that hung out around the city before being auctioned. Trucco and Hospital Foundation President John Goettler wanted to localize that idea and make it fit the capital campaign for building Sage Living, the new nursing home being built at St. John’s Medical Center.
They thought rocking chairs were a natural fit, hence the fundraiser’s name. Once they purchased the chairs, local artists set about constructing and putting their spin on them. Chairs being a new medium for them, the artists had to fit figure out the process, something Jason Borbet, who goes by Borbay, spoke about during artist talk in July.
“He talked about how challenging it was for him to think about ‘Do I paint the chair first, do I assemble the chair first?’” Goettler said.
Aside from the construction itself, the artists went to town on the chairs, using a variety of methods. Danny Shervin burned a design into his with gunpowder, while Natalie Connell filled the back of hers with a painting of the Grand Teton.
Once the chairs were completed, businesses across town signed up to display them. But the chairs aren’t simply for looking good in the front window of a coffee shop. The Adirondack rockers can be taken home, if you’re willing to pony up the cash. Over the summer, interested people can bid on the chairs in an eBay-esque format.
“We started the bidding at $1,000,” Goettler said. “And the buy-it-now price is $10,000.”
A few of the chairs have already sold for that buy-it-now price, but many are still available. Visit StJohnsHospitalFoundation.org to see the chairs and find information about the campaign.
Goettler and the foundation have pledged to raise $19 million in support of Sage Living. Even if all the chairs sold at the $10,000 price, the total would be only a small part of the overall capital campaign. But Rockin’ Sage Living is intended to also have some intrinsic benefits, too.
“We felt we needed a younger demographic to be a part of the campaign,” Goettler said.
The foundation has operated in Jackson for the past two decades, and Goettler said its connections in Jackson’s traditional donor class are strong. But he wanted to make sure the entire community felt involved in the push to build Sage Living.
Hence enlisting artists, particularly young ones, to work on the chairs. With their legions of Instagram followers and fans used to seeing their work in coffee shops around town, the artists were an ideal way to reach the social-media generation.
In light of the younger audience the foundation is hoping to reach, Goettler has a pair of events planned: The first is an artist talk with Katy Ann Fox, who painted a pair of chairs, and the second is a culminating party in September.
Fox’s artist talk — including a provided lunch — will take place from noon to 1 p.m. Aug. 22 at the St. John’s Professional Building. The main party is set to take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at Teton Pines.
Though the Teton Pines location might sound hoity-toity, the ticket price, $20, is meant to draw a crowd from all the social strata of Jackson for a 1920s-themed party at which any remaining chairs will be auctioned.
“Borbay is going to be the auctioneer, and he’s a larger-than-life guy,” Goettler said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.” ￼