Where Did the Big Red Chair Go?

Arts and CultureVisual Arts

Erik Jepsen / UC San Diego Publications

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The Big Red Chair in Revelle College, the art piece behind Galbraith Hall, has been destroyed by the Theatre and Dance Department at UC San Diego.

Not designed for prolonged outdoor use, the chair’s wood began to rot, and its metal rusted to the point where it was structurally unsound. Furthermore, UCSD’s Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) Department deemed the rotting wood and rusted metal unsafe, especially since students and visitors of the campus would frequently climb and take photos on it.

The chair had been repaired multiple times over the years, and Revelle College had previously paid for some of the repairs. This time, the damages were too costly for the Theatre Department or Revelle College’s budgets.

“We discovered in our yearly maintenance that it had severe structural damage,” said Michael Francis, the production manager of the Theatre and Dance Department. “We determined it to be unsafe since everyone climbs on top of it. It has been cut up and recycled into its various materials.”

The chair disappeared in September, before the start of the school year. Few students noticed its disappearance from its innocuous location behind Galbraith Hall.

The chair was designed by Scenic Designer Caleb Levengood for the Theatre and Dance Department’s 2007 winter original production, Good Breeding. Originally green with gold leafing, the chair served as Mount Olympus for the Greek god characters to sit on as they entered the stage.

After the production, the Theatre and Dance Department decided to keep it behind their offices in Galbraith Hall.

In 2009, as the paint was fading, the chair was painted red. Francis, the self-appointed person in charge of the chair’s maintenance, chose red because it was his favorite color.

The piece was one of the few campus art pieces not part of the Stuart Collection, a collection of public artwork on UCSD’s campus. At first, the advisory board of the Stuart Collection threatened to remove the chair, but no further action was taken.

With the demolition of the Big Red Chair, the Chicano Mural on Peterson Hall and the Black Legacy mural in Price Center remain the few art pieces not part of the Stuart Collection.

The Theatre and Dance Department did not think it was necessary to make a public announcement of the demolition of the art piece. There are ongoing talks in the department about replacing the Big Red Chair.

Francis saved some of the red wooden planks in his office as a keepsake. He expressed his sadness, saying, “I brought my kids, we took pictures. They were the last children on [the chair].”

Camille Lemesoff is a Staff Writer for The Triton. Assistance in research and writing for this article was provided by Sim Singh.