At first thought, an office chair relay race sounds like something roommates might do around midnight in pajamas.
But at Temple Contemporary in the Tyler School of Art Sept. 2, the fifth annual Office Chair Relay was a highly anticipated and planned event, complete with a tournament-style bracket, a prized golden office chair, two costumed emcees, ice cream and the marching band’s drum corps.
Robert Blackson, the director of Temple Contemporary, laid out the ground rules over a megaphone, “No elbows, no roughhousing. We can disqualify you!”
Blackson explained the birth of the office chair relay race came from a discussion about the floors of the gallery, which are usually meant to display art.
“I was having a conversation with a student about how good the floor is, and how the floor’s really smooth,” Blackson said. “We could do a lot with a floor that’s really smooth, so we had these office chairs, and they’re really nice, and they’ve got good wheels on them, so we put two and two together.”
The race is popular with students and faculty year after year as an event to get students excited and build comraderie in the art departments.
“It’s really just a way of kicking off the semester, getting people to know that we’re here, and that we’re a space that isn’t just about exhibitions and artwork, but that it’s more about programs and events,” said Sarah Biemiller, assistant director of Temple Contemporary.
This year, the tournament kicked off with a race between the emcees to demonstrate to the competitors the proper office chair racing technique.
Each department had its own team of three or four participants, chosen on a volunteer basis, for a total of eight teams. To everyone’s surprise, the two-year champions in the printmaking department lost in the first round, knocking them out of the tournament immediately.
The races continued until only the final match-up between the admissions department and the ceramics department, going by the name of Dirt Bagz, remained. In a heated round of rolling, scooting and baton-passing, the admissions office team consisted of senior facilities management major Dylan Keller, undecided freshman Julia Madrak and freshman architecture major Erin Anagnost came out victorious.
The excitement of this event was augmented by the pep of the drum corps adding rhythm inside the gallery, while two vendors from Little Baby’s Ice Cream distributed flavors of ice cream like cardamom caramel and blueberry lemonade.
Paige Diefenderfer, a senior fibers and material studies major, participated in the race for the first time this year.
“It’s just really fun getting to race a wheely chair for your school; it’s not something a lot of people get to do, so I wanted to try it out,” Diefenderfer said.
“It’s a really small department,” added Enrica Ferrero, Diefenderfer’s teammate and a first-year graduate student in that department. “So because of that, I feel like it’s important to have a lot of spirit and pride for your department. It’s about the heart you’ve got.”
Lindsay Hargrave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.