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The Manitou Chair Project: A town transformed

Manitou's chairwalk into town.
Manitou's chairwalk into town.
© Heather Oelklaus

On Sunday morning in Manitou Springs, early risers were treated to a sight they're not likely to ever see again: The Manitou Chair Project went down as planned, featuring nearly 700 disparate chairs on loan from the tourist town's artsy community lined up, one after the other, in a front-to-back traveling line down the middle of Manitou Avenue at dawn. And although he'd originally been shooting for 1,000 seats, project organizer Sean O'Meallie says it went beyond his expectations.

"The weather broke, the sun came out, the air was crisp and it was not so crowded. We had prepared for more, but it really turned out quite nice. Seeing all those chairs in the quiet and the still, with live opera being sung overhead -- it was really something emotional and surprising. A lot of people were able to see it happen. If there had been many more, it would have been chaotic and a whole different kind of expression. It was well worth it."

The Manitou Chair Project: A town transformed
© Brenda Biondo

As the sun slowly rose over the one-day spectacle, creating beautiful slatted shadows on the light-kissed pavement, music filled the air and a zillion cameras went off, including those of ten official volunteer photogs trusted to document the whole thing as it unfolded. What else was there? People doing yoga in a seated conga line, stilt-walkers and masked street artists, giant puppets, gawkers and adventurers of every stripe.

O'Meallie credits volunteer Hannah Rockey with lining up dozens of entertainers to make some hoopla up and down the installation's length. But it was mostly about the chairs -- collecting chairs, arranging chairs, taking chairs down, considering the singularity of each and every one. "The chairs were the key," he allows, "and the variety of chairs was rich."

The following pictures tell that tale.

The Manitou Chair Project: A town transformed
© Charles Knoeckel

The Manitou Chair Project: A town transformed
© Charles Knoeckel

The Manitou Chair Project: A town transformed
© Charles Knoeckel

The Manitou Chair Project: A town transformed
Lillian Critchlow

The Manitou Chair Project: A town transformed
© Charles Knoeckel

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