‘Dragon Chair' inspires budding young artists


Published: Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 9:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 9:31 p.m.

The Duval Elementary Fine Arts Academy is teeming with artistic talent as demonstrated recently when a “Dragon Chair” designed by its students was one of 32 chairs auctioned off during the Musical Chairs Project to raise funds for elementary music and art programs.

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Duval Elementary's Dragon chair sits on display at the Doris Bardon Center in Gainesville on Friday, March 1, 2013. The chair will be auctioned off on Friday and will benefit art and music programs in Alachua county public elementary schools.

Brett Le Blanc / Correspondent

Not only did the students help Gainesville artists Sue Johnson and Turbado Marabou design the chair, they also came up with a story to accompany the chair called “The Dragon Chair, A Legendary Possession of the Duval Dragons.”

And now the chair is back at Duval, thanks to the anonymous donor who purchased the chair and donated it back to the school. Bids for the chairs started at $125.

Donna Jones, principal of Duval, said the “Dragon Chair” will stay in the front office for a month and then it will be placed in its permanent home in the media center — “placed as a reminder to students, faculty and staff of the arts support we have in the community,” Jones said.

One copy of the storybook is with the chair and the other copy is in the media center.

Angie Terrell, piano teacher at Duval, said artists Johnson and Marabou worked with the students to implement the design of the Duval Dragon, the school's mascot. The students are fourth-graders Danielle Welch and Demekkeia Rutledge and fifth-graders Fandio Plancher, David Glass, Jevon Bartley and Asha Lewis.

“We incorporated all their ideas into the finished product,” said Johnson, adding that the story centers around the Duval Dragons protecting the “Eternal Egg of Knowledge,” which is depicted in the seat of the chair, from an evil creature set to destroy it.

Johnson explained that, in the story, the Duval Dragons rise up, do battle and ultimately defeat the evil creature, thus saving the egg of knowledge.

“The children came up with the story,” Johnson said. “The theme is ‘Don't mess with the Duval Dragons, because they're for good, knowledge and brain power.' ”

Johnson, founding member of Friends of Elementary Arts Inc., said the students created drawings of their ideas about dragons and considered how a wooden school chair might actually be transformed into a “Dragon Chair.”

She said she talked with the children about the wonderful qualities of dragons and Marabou talked to them about form and functionality.

She said the students expressed an interest in writing a story about the chair, so she collected their thoughts and ideas for the storybook.

The students are still excited about their accomplishments with designing the chair.

“We made an excellent team and it makes a good impression of our school,” Jevon said.

Fandio is already looking toward the future.

“Great experience,” he said. “If we grow up to be artists, we will look back on this chair and say, ‘Wow.' ”

Now in its fourth year, the Musical Chairs Project silent auction of unique artwork made from plain wooden chairs was held last month at The Doris, a cultural community center. Proceeds will benefit Friends of Elementary Arts Inc.

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