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St. Henry's 'Chair Art'

Chairs are everywhere at St. Henry's Church, but there's nothing relaxing or leisurely about these pieces of pine furniture.

Hard work was invested into every one of the chairs. There was no sittin' down on the job for John Kratzke, who handbuilt 60 chairs in his Dent shop. And there hasn't been much nap time for the families who adopted the chairs, either.

Aboard a flatbed trailer the size of Sicily, chairs were delivered to St. Henry's earlier this year. All 60 were taken home, with an assignment: Create a work of art out of your Adirondack chair; bring it back to the church; and put it up for auction.

A "mission from God" is an accurate description of this unusual chair fundraising project.

Remember the "Blues Brothers" movie? Characters Jake and Elwood embarked on a slapstick enterprise--assembling a band and promoting a benefit concert. Proceeds from the fundraiser were donated to a Catholic church school.

The objective is the same at St. Henry's, which is celebrating the 125th anniversary of its Catholic elementary school--and raising funds in conjunction with the summer celebration.

Chair artists are on a "mission from God." Among their creations so far: A red, white and blue chair; a John Deere yellow and green design; a brightly decorated beach chair--complete with a sun-shading umbrella. One chair is completely upholstered in denim.

"The whole idea behind the chair project was for it to be a family showcase talents," said Kathy Kratzke, a St. Henry's member.

Kathy's husband John is a graduate of St. Henry's and a strong supporter of the school. .He would have to be, to take on the daunting project of building 60 chairs for the cause--for free.

"I'd been tripping over that pile of scrap lumber for about 24 years," laughed Kratzke, who conceived the idea in his Dent shop. "When you work alone, and the machinery is running, you have lots of time to think."

On the weekend of the school's anniversary celebration, there will be a "Great Adirondack Chair Auction" June 22.

With Kratzke Swings donating the chairs, and families donating the finished creations--the auction will generate near-total profit for St. Henry's School.