Seats to fete Wrigley history, benefit charity

In honor of 100th season of historic park, custom chairs line Magnificent Mile

Seats to fete Wrigley history, benefit charity

CHICAGO -- Move over, Cows on Parade. The Magnificent Mile is debuting a new set of charitable artwork, one with great historical significance.

Cubs Charities has teamed up with Magellan Corporation to line Michigan Avenue with 50 custom-made pairs of ballpark seats that were designed by 47 Chicago-based nonprofits, celebrities and artists to represent a wide variety of historical events from Wrigley Field's rich history. The seats were unveiled early Friday morning, including a set of three near the Wrigley Building on 400 N. Michigan Ave.

The Centennial Seats, part of the Cubs' celebration of the ballpark's 100th birthday, will be sold in an online auction where participants can place bids to purchase the seats, with proceeds split between Cubs Charities and the respective partnering nonprofit.

For a full list of participating nonprofits in the Centennial Seats program, as well as other information about Wrigley Field's 100th birthday celebration, visit wrigleyfield100.com. Interested individuals can place bids on the chairs starting Friday until Aug. 10 at www.cubs.com/chairs.

"I think what I love about the project is sure, the Cubs are a national brand, they're iconic, but many people have no idea what events have taken place at Wrigley Field over the last 100 years, many of which are not even baseball related," said Connie Falcone, vice president of development for Cubs Charities. "So it's really a history lesson walking down Mag Mile this summer."

Seats stretch as far north as Delaware Street to the seats in front of the Wrigley Building, just north of the Chicago River. The historical moments depicted are all-encompassing; from the legendary musicians who have played at Wrigley Field, to Babe Ruth's called shot in the 1932 World Series, to a tribute to beloved late Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, not a significant event, player or important figure in the ballpark's history was missed.

Falcone explained Cubs Charities gave its existing grantees the first crack at participating in the project, with nearly every organization wanting to participate. Some of their grantees, however, don't have an art component, so the rest of the seats were filled in by nonprofit community art centers, high schools and professional artists. Even the Chicago Blackhawks and perhaps their most famous fan, Vince Vaughn, got in on the act.

Most of all, Falcone found it gratifying that community art organizations that normally struggle for funding will now get huge exposure.

"I think to help them get funding, but really not only increase the visibility of these organizations," Falcone said. "But if you've seen the artists today, these kids that are working in the arts groups, they're so proud to be able to display their artwork here in public -- that, to me, is the heart of this project."

One such group is South Chicago Art Center, which designed the seats to capture the essence of the first game played at Wrigley Field on April 23, 1914. Interns Katarina Otero and Oscar Chavez, along with supervisor Anthony Steele, crafted a collage-style design that meshed old box scores and images with cutouts of players from 1914. The seat even included turf on the bottom of the folding chair portion.

Otero and Chavez said the project took a lot of research, which made it doubly rewarding. Chavez also noted how important it was for SCAC, which is located deep on the South Side at 91st Street, to be "a part of Chicago."

"Really, really powerful experience," Otero said. "I know my family's proud. I'm really proud of this art piece, and my friends that worked on it -- it's just a really great experience that they gave us, a great opportunity for the art center and us, too."

Another community art group that unveiled a pair of painted seats in front of the Wrigley Building was ElevArte Community Studio, located in Pilsen. As part of a ElevArte's mentorship program, Adriel Delacruz and Chris Kremer worked together on designing the seats to capture former professional golfer Sam Snead using a two-iron to clear the center-field scoreboard from home plate in 1951.

"Street art is kind of the backdrop for Pilsen, so we wanted to take that idea and put forth this idea and golf to represent Wrigley," Kremer said.

The result was a pair of seats painted green with golf balls sticking out of the seat backings and a golf club wedged in between. Kremer said the initial shipment of seats they received had an issue, so they had to transfer it to Delacruz's mother's art studio. They hammered out the project in a week's time, working every night into the wee hours of the morning.

"It's an honor, man," Kremer said. "It's a great opportunity to get ElevArte's name out there, but also to represent Wrigley. I mean it's 100 years, it's a big thing."

The third set of chairs in front of the Wrigley Building represented the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which played at Wrigley Field in 1943-44 while many MLB players served in World War 2. The AGPBL was the inspiration for the movie "A League of Their Own".

Residents from Misericordia Heart of Mercy, including Paul Patterson and Kris Huening, painted the chairs to include logos from the AGPBL. Misericordia provides a home for over 600 children and adults with developmental disabilities and provides a number of programs to those residents, including art.

"I'm very excited right now, and we're proud of it," Huening said.

The historical significance of the chairs was not lost on Julie O'Sullivan, Misericordia's art director.

"Oh, I think this is an amazing experience and really allows us to get our name out there," she said. "There are so many people that walk down Michigan Avenue, and I think we were really lucky to get such a great moment in Wrigley Field history with the All-American Girls professional baseball league."

To help raise awareness and promote the auction, Cubs Charities encourages Chicagoans and Cubs fans alike to tweet and post Instagram photos of themselves with the Centennial Seats using the hashtags #WrigleyField100 and #CentennialSeats.

Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.