Art Bench Trail will connect river valley towns
The Phipps Center for the Arts, the St. Croix Valley Foundation and the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway will launch the Art Bench Trail project in the spring, aimed at promoting tourism in the St. Croix River Valley (SCRV).
The Art Bench Trail will connect seven artistic benches created between 2006 and 2011. The benches can be found in Somerset, St. Croix Falls, Hudson and Prescott in Wisconsin, and Marine on St. Croix, Bayport and the Carpenter Nature Center near Hastings in Minnesota.
Anastasia Shartin, visual arts director for The Phipps Center for the Arts, said the tourism campaign’s goal is to encourage residents and visitors to explore the small towns of the SCRV.
“We chose benches as the form because benches are a place people are encouraged to sit, sit together with others and spend time,” Shartin said. “Whether each bench has a beautiful view, or the focus is the functionality, each is different and unique from one another and invites people together.”
The idea evolved from a series of conversations with the center’s partnerships, the SCVF and UW-River Falls, Shartin said. The idea is to build a sense of community through art.
The selection of an artist to create a bench is different for each one, Shartin said. Sometimes artists are handpicked by the partnerships. Sometimes submissions are taken and someone is picked. Other times a community group facilitates a bench’s creation.
The materials used for each bench vary per community too, Shartin said. It depends on the artist’s vision or what is readily available.
Each bench tells a story about each community and its connection to the history and wildlife of the St. Croix River.
“We want to use the trail to heighten awareness of the communities and broaden community involvement in the arts,” Shartin said.
No matter what, Shartin said, an artist is chosen who makes sense for the community. Local citizens and youth groups work in collaboration with an artist to make a bench.
For example, Bruce Martell was chosen for the bench in Somerset. According to a press release, Martell worked with 38 elementary and high school special education students to design and build a granite and tile bench from stone quarried not far from town. The students found objects in and around their homes and schools to press into the clay tiles.
Shartin said Martell made sense as the craftsperson for Somerset because he is a local carpenter and descendant of one of Somerset’s founders, and has a close affiliation with the local schools.
The other benches are made of materials such as mosaics, woods and metals. Examples of groups that work with the artists to create these benches include Girl Scout troops, 4-H clubs, an ecology club and a senior living center.
The marketing campaign for the trail will gear up in March, Shartin said. She plans to use articles in magazines and newspapers, ads in community guides, brochures in travel venues and libraries and an appearance on Wisconsin Public Radio to spread the word. A new website for the Bench Trail will be unveiled.
“We also plan to integrate the benches into existing community events,” Shartin said. “The bench at Marine on St. Croix will be featured in their art fair. Somerset’s plans are still in the idea stage.”
As soon as the ground thaws, signs will be installed at each bench, “encouraging local and visiting tourists to explore the SCRV, bench by bench.”
Another bench is in the works in Osceola, Shartin said. The plan is to have middle school students work on it in June and July, with a tentative unveiling planned for September.
“We have the potential for two more benches, “ Shartin said. “This project is ongoing and expanding. It’s all very organic how it unfolds.”
in Larry Forrest Memorial Park on the east side of Sunrise Drive/County Road I.
– St. Croix Falls: built in 2006, in Gaylord Nelson Riverwalk, south of the National Park Service’s St. Croix River Visitors Center downtown. 401 North Hamilton St.
– Hudson: in 2006, in the playground near the Marina at the south end of Lakefront Park, near First and Buckeye Streets.
– Prescott: built in 2008, in the butterfly garden near the entrance to the Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center at Freedom Park. 200 Monroe St., one block west of Highway 35.
– Bayport, Minn.: built in 2006, at the main entrance to Croixdale at the north end of Bayport across from the Andersen Windows plant. 750 Highway 95.
– Marine on the St. Croix, Minn.: built in 2009, in the Minnesota Historical Society’s Marine Mill Site Park on Judd Street, south of the General Store and Village Hall, off Highway 95.
– Hastings, Minn.: built in 2011, under the trees at the beginning of the trail to the herb garden, opposite the learning center at Carpenter Nature Center of Highway 95.
For more information, contact Shartin at 715-386-2305 or firstname.lastname@example.org.