At Centre County Library auction, visitors take a seat for a good cause

bmilazzo@centredaily.comMay 17, 2014 

— Will Espey said he only stumbled upon art accidentally as a recovering alcoholic 10 years ago.

But if his work can help local organizations, then it’s just an added bonus for him, Espey said.

The Altoona resident said he was asked by the Centre County Library & Historical Museum to participate in the inaugural Art for Literacy Chair Auction Saturday afternoon.

The event was a way to raise money and awareness for the Centre County Library & Historical Museum during the organization’s 75th anniversary, and the facility’s 200th anniversary.

The artists decorated old chairs from the building’s attic. About 75 visitors attended the vent, which featured about a dozen chairs on display in the first floor of the house.

Live music by David Curley serenaded visitors as the event began with a silent auction, and moved outdoors to the community garden for a live auction.

Lauren Peightel decoupaged pages from “Pride and Prejudice” onto a chair titled “Austentacious.” Kate Gattey painted a chair titled “Golden Lion.”

But Espey had a chair that was interactive.

His chair titled, “American Dream,” depicted what Espey though a child envisioned for his or her future with the look of a house in the suburbs, with flip page books at the arms of the chair.

“If a child daydreamed the American dream, this is what it might look like,” Espey said. “It tells the story of a fairytale.”

Espey grew up a sports lover and professional hockey player, and about 10 years ago got into art as a way to channel a different kind of emotion while recovering from alcoholism, he said.

“I just thought, ‘What will I do with myself now?’ and got into art,” Espey said.

His first piece became a poster for the Department of Labor and Industry in Michigan, and he was then able to work at the Crazy Horse National Monument, the American Red Cross, Meadowcroft Rockshelter and the Department of the Interior.

The museum building, 203 N. Allegheny St., was built in 1814 and will undergo a series of renovations, said Jennifer Cifelli, communications director.

Cifelli said the library’s goal was to raise $5,000, and it has an annual fundraising goal of $100,000.

Money raised Saturday will primarily help pay for restoration to the inside of the structure, which sustained damage after it was lifted last month during a separate renovation phase. Additional monies will help fund the library/historical museum, branches in Centre Hall and Philipsburg, and the bookmobile.

“People take it for granted, but it’s a gem in our community,” Cifelli said.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.

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