Milwaukee Artist Molly Evans Revitalized Abandoned Furniture with Lionel Richie Lyrics

How a practical joke spawned a viral art project

Dec. 20, 2013
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lionel stitchie oh what a feelin
Not everything goes viral immediately. Milwaukee artist Molly Evans spent a good chunk of this summer stitching Lionel Richie lyrics to abandoned chairs, couches and mattresses around her neighborhood, leaving behind a small card on each one tagged #lionelstitchie for anybody curious about the project. And while a few photos of her creations did work their way onto Tumblr and Twitter, for the bulk of the summer the project was little more than an inside joke. It wasn’t until this week, months after most of the furniture she’d Lionel Richie-ified had been scooped up and hauled off to the dump, that the Huffington Post caught wind, calling national attention to her project.

“The goal was never to go viral with it,” Evans explains. “I just figured that people would see them around Milwaukee and them maybe make a game of trying to find them.”

Evans did most of her handiwork on Sunday mornings, before most of the neighborhood had woken up. (“I tried at night, but I couldn’t see what I was doing,” she explains, “and I also freaked people out when they were walking their dogs.”) At first she tried pinning the lyrics to her cushioned canvases, until, she says, “it occurred to me that I didn’t want people picking up the furniture to get stuck with pins—people do pick some of this furniture up.” So she settled on a clothing-tag gun, and by the end of the summer she’d gotten pretty good with it. She could tag an entire couch in about 15 or 20 minutes, meaning she could complete three or four on good morning.

But why Lionel Richie, of all singers?

“The idea came about from a couch that was in front of my neighbor’s house,” Evans explains. “They’re a wonderful family, but I feel like I always catch her at the end of the work day when she leaves a grumpy impression, so after she left it out there I figured I would play a prank on her.” So she affixed the word “Hello?” to a couch, and hid a cushion with the punchline in a nearby tree: “Is it me you’re looking for?”—an old joke, she admits, but one that made her chuckle.

“Once I did that I started listening to other Lionel Ritchie music and noticed all these gems of lyrics that ran throughout his entire career,” Evans says. “Somehow in the process I became a fan, which was unintended. He’s a great musician, but he’s not really my generation, so I wasn’t expecting to like him as much as I can. I think he’s a great writer, though, and who doesn’t love a pun?”

Apparently that fandom is mutual. “Love this!” the singer tweeted to Evans after discovering the project this week.

Samples of Evans' work are below; you can see more at her website.


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