By Kelly Pollock, feature writer Buzz Cafe
On September 21, Buzz Café hosted the Nineteenth Annual Chair Painting event in their courtyard. Owner Laura Maychruk said that they planned to replace about half the café’s chairs with freshly-painted new arrivals. “During the year, we pop into Brown Elephant and when we see a chair we like, we buy it. Then we put it in the basement until the chair painting.” Local artist Steve Fisher, who painted the courtyard fence and whose art hangs near the cash register inside, has coordinated the event every year.
The event started at noon, and by three o’clock all the painting had been completed. Steve said that he still needed to apply polyurethane to give each chair a nice finish and to protect it from wear. But by the end of September, all the artists would be able to visit their chairs in the café.
Many of the chair painters live in Oak Park and are frequenters of Buzz Café. There were individuals and families, and many people were there for the first time. But whatever their story, everyone enjoyed a beautiful Saturday afternoon and the chance to leave their mark on Buzz Café for the next year.
Corina Bovio, a third grader from Longfellow, was there with her mom Gabriella. “I always get coffee in the morning at Buzz, and I marked our calendar for the chair painting,” said Gabriella. Corina loves ice cream and so she covered her chair with a giant ice cream cone. “My favorite flavor is mint chocolate chip, but I thought pink ice cream would look pretty on the chair. It looks so edible,” said Corina.
Alex Wagner of Oak Park was one of the first to start painting but the last to finish. His geometric doodle chair took over three hours to complete! “Everyone always asks me how I have the patience to doodle but I just really enjoy it.” Alex likes the waffles at Buzz Café for breakfast and said that he saw the ad about the chair painting a couple of weeks ago. “I’ve always loved the painted chairs and knew that I wanted to make my own.”
Not everyone who was painting lives locally. Barbara Holländer teaches German to English speakers in Düsseldorf and was visiting friends in the area. “I was looking for things to do during my ten-day vacation. I had been to Buzz Café before on previous visits and decided to try chair painting,” said Barbara.
Mark and Poppy Booth had no set plan for their chair. “We’re just freestyling,” said the father-and-daughter team. Poppy, a seventh grader at Julian, said that her favorite Buzz item is the cookies. Mark said that he often comes for the iced tea, but confessed that occasionally he comes on his own to sneak in a hamburger. Poppy laughed and said that sounded like something he would do. “They’re very good!” Mark insisted sheepishly.
Adam Webber grew up in Oak Park but lives in Chicago now and is a morning regular at Buzz. “I’m painting a forest at dawn because that’s the time of day that I’m usually here and the forest represents Oak Park,” said Adam. “I saw the ad about today’s event when I was eating this morning and decided to come back for it. I’m trying to be better about exercising my creative muscles.”
The Burns family from River Forest was painting two chairs, one for the boys (with a dinosaur) and one for the girls (with a unicorn and the moon). Molly Burns, a former art teacher at Hatch school, brought her four children—Marty (age 9), Mary (age 8), Joe (age 5), and Deedee (age 4). It was their first time at the chair painting although they go to Buzz Café frequently. The kids especially like the toys. She saw the ad and said to herself, “We’ve got to go to this.”
Jamya Harris, a kindergartener at Holmes, was there with her mom Julia and baby brother Jamal. Julia used to work at Buzz and had been chair painting before, but it was Jamya’s first experience. Jamya’s plan was to paint “whatever looks pretty.” Her finished chair was an abstract work in her favorite color—rainbow.
Unlike many chair painters, Deb Corbeil of Forest Park has participated many times over the years. “I used to come with my kids when they were young, and they are now all grown.” Her chair had a mind of its own. “Just when I think I’m done, I need to add a couple more things.” Deb is an accountant who said that “art is my therapy.” She likes to go early to Buzz Café to get her favorite scones. “Cinnamon chip are the best.”
Inspired by the burning of the Amazon rainforest, Lincoln fifth grader Sophia Hinojosa painted her chair red with flames so that “people would want to know more about it.” And while she said that she couldn’t draw trees, Sophia did add one green chair spindle to represent them. Armenia Garcia, Sophia’s mom, said that she and her husband recently had breakfast at the café and thought chair painting would be a great activity for Sophia since she likes to animate and draw in her spare time.
Nora and Molly Hartman, sisters from Oak Park, were there with their mom and grandma. “I read about the chair painting on Mom Mail and since my mom and I had painted furniture before, I thought it would fun to do with the girls while their grandma was in town,” said Kendra Hartman. Nora, a sophomore at Oak Park River Forest High School, took inspiration from the video game Animal Crossing for their chair’s seat while her sister Molly, a Holmes fourth grader, painted a black and white design on the back of the chair.
Oak Parker Rose Abrusci was there with her “Little Sister” Katie Betancourt. Rose and Katie have been a match through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for almost two years. “I always thought that employees painted the chairs at Buzz, but then I saw on Instagram about the chair painting event and realized that the public is invited. Katie is a good artist and loves to paint so I knew it was something we had to do,” said Rose.
Amanda Gosnell and her four-year-old daughter Laina were chair painting for the second year in a row. “We come to Buzz every Saturday before music class and Laina always looks for ‘her’ chair,” said Amanda. Like they did last year, they were decorating their chair with Laina’s handprints. “Although her handprints last year were so much smaller,” laughed Amanda. They are big fans of breakfast at the café. “I like to eat bacon!” affirmed Laina.
Matt Becker and Jen Offen and their four-year-old daughter Hazel are new to Oak Park having just moved here in May. They love coming to Buzz Café; the sugar cookies are everybody’s favorite. While her parents focused on the chair legs and seat, Hazel was conscientiously painting the chair back with a self portrait and a butterfly. When asked why her painting didn’t have a face, Hazel said, “Because I’m waiting for the paint to dry!” Once she knew she wouldn’t smear, Hazel added eyes and a mouth, signed her name, and then went inside for a snack—a cookie, naturally.
The mother-and-daughter team of Katie Brennan and Emily Edmunds had cats on their mind at the chair painting. “Our dog recently died and now we’re hoping to foster a cat,” explained Katie who is an attorney and a village trustee in River Forest. “Emily (a senior at Oak Park River Forest High School) and I have been here before to paint and really loved it. We both enjoy having a creative outlet.” Their chair with a cat on the seat and a skyline on the back was a reflection of their talent.
To see these chairs plus others that were painted at the Nineteenth Annual Chair Painting, visit Buzz Café during their regular hours: Monday through Friday 6am-9pm, Saturday 7am-9pm, and Sunday 8am-2pm.