Bench Project

The Bench Project is an ongoing community art project throughout the lower St. Croix Valley of western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota that engages local community groups in designing, locating, and creating benches, each a unique work of art.  Since 2006, through this partnership program with the St. Croix Valley Foundation, seven benches have been created, each involving multiple local partners and utilizing community assets.

The stated goals for The Bench Project are to build relationships and a sense of civic responsibility among participants, and to spark appreciation for the federally-designated “wild and scenic” St. Croix River – its history and wildlife – and other special qualities of each participating community.  A belief that everyone has a creative spirit underlies the project, as does the notion that community-created art enhances the character of our local towns and cities, and more deeply connects participants and viewers to the unique qualities of those places.

In spring 2014, with support from the Kresge Foundation, The Phipps and its Bench Project community partners will unveil an Art Bench Trail.  A website will be created, brochures with maps will be distributed, signs will be installed at each bench, and a marketing campaign will be implemented to encourage local and visiting tourists to explore the St. Croix Valley, bench-by-bench!

2006 - Hudson

2006 - Hudson

Tuesday, May 16th, 7:00 pm

The River Bench was created by 60 Hudson children and parents who contributed more than 1,000 hours to the project, working with local artist Lynn Jermal. The history of Hudson’s connection to the St. Croix River is expressed in mosaic designs throughout the fish-shaped bench, including Native Americans paddling their canoes, birds and other wildlife and children playing along its shores. An engraved stone timeline also marks Hudson’s history.

2006 - Bayport

2006 - Bayport

Tuesday, May 16th, 7:00 pm

This bench grew out of several intergenerational storytelling gatherings involving local Girl Scout Troops 92, 515, 1204, 1610 and 2138 and senior residents of Croixdale, a senior living center. Together, they worked with Stillwater artist Judy Sell to build the bench and to create and apply the mosaic designs. “Kindness is Key” was inspired by the keys that hang on the bench. They represent the 40-year history of residents.

2006 - St. Croix Falls

2006 - St. Croix Falls

Tuesday, May 16th, 7:00 pm

Nine summer school students ages 9 to 12 worked with artists, poets and naturalists to design this bench over two action-packed weeks. They hiked trails, toured Franconia Sculpture Park and created bronze sculptures with local artist James Shoop. In their own words, the children wanted the bench to reflect “the importance of keeping the natural environment intact, the past of the natural environment, the hope for its future and the great beauty of St. Croix Falls.”

2008 - Prescott

2008 - Prescott

Thursday, May 15th, 7:00 pm

Sixty community members worked on this bench with artist John Turula, including Friends of Freedom Park volunteers, youth from the Helping Hands 4-H and Prescott High School’s Ecology Club members. Through presentations on Dakota wildlife, butterfly habitat and a number of art-making workshops, participants determined the shape and orientation of the bench, shaped and glazed all of the tiles by hand, and worked together to attach and grout the tiles.

2008 - Somerset

2008 - Somerset

Thursday, May 15th, 7:00 pm

Through a series of community-building and educational activities, 38 special education elementary and high school students worked with local craftsman Bruce Martell to design and create this stone and tile bench that reflects Somerset’s unique history and place in the watershed. The stone was quarried not far from town, and the students found objects in and around their homes and school that they then pressed into clay tiles.

2009 - Marine on St. Croix

2009 - Marine on St. Croix

Friday, May 15th, 7:00 pm

Designed by 4th and 5th graders from Marine Elementary School with local artist Karron Nottingham, this bench was inspired by Native American and lumber history as well as the St. Croix River’s natural beauty. The bench was constructed by the artist, current and former students from Marine Elementary, their families and other community members. Minnesota Historical Society’s Mill Site Park marks the site of the first commercial sawmill on the St. Croix.

2011 - Hastings

2011 - Hastings

Saturday, May 14th, 7:00 pm

The Carpenter Nature Center's bench was created by members of Hudson's Girl Scout Troop 53021 with Twin Cities-based artist Estela de Paola de Lerma.  The bench was unveiled during Carpenter's popular annual fall raptor release event.

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