Rollins Student Blends Art and Altruism

August 31, 2011

Brendan O'Connor
Brendon O’Connor places his newest creation at the Lynx bus stop located in front of the Orlando Museum of Art. (Photo by Laura J. Cole)

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love,” Mother Teresa once said. It’s a statement that affirms to the average citizen that even seemingly small acts of altruism matter. Like putting a chair at a Central Florida bus stop for riders to sit on while waiting for their bus. Brendan O’Connor, a student in Rollins’ Evening Program, has placed over 100 such chairs since he began his Sit Project two years ago. And not just ordinary chairs either. O’Connor has creatively transformed each one into a functional piece of art.

It all started a few years back on a July afternoon when O’Connor was riding his bike through Thornton Park and happened to notice an older woman leaning against a Lynx signpost while she waited for her bus. The hot Florida sun was beating down that day making the wait nearly unbearable for the woman. It occurred to O’Connor that a place to sit could have made the wait slightly more tolerable. A week later, his first chair debuted and he hasn’t stopped since.

O’Connor’s pieces are fashioned from refurbished chairs he often finds on the side of the road. “Or people just leave them on my front lawn now,” O’Connor chuckled. “I’ve got a 10-chair maximum in my backyard before my partner gets stressed.” Wood, wicker, plastic — any material can become the canvas for these practical pieces. With a dash of color and sprinkle of pizzazz, he gives each chair its own artistic identity.

Creating chairs for all 4,441 Lynx bus stops has proven difficult, especially since nearly all of the 100 chairs he has placed at stops have been taken by, one can only surmise, art enthusiasts. But not only does O’Connor not mind, he’s actually quite flattered. “You make something, put it out there and it isn’t yours anymore,” he said. And even though O’Connor’s Sit Project has started to receive a lot of newspaper and media coverage lately, it’s never been about the accolades.

“I just do it because it makes me feel good. I like helping other people,” said O’Connor, who is studying environmental and growth management but has a background in fine art. “I’m just putting chairs at bus stops, but because they are weird and eyecatching, it’s making people notice and think about how they can get involved.”

By Kristen Manieri

Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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