art, and it’s even practical!
Friends of Valley Cemetery show off results of the Beautiful Benches
Functional art may be
an oxymoron to some, but that’s not to say it doesn’t exist. Case in
point is “Summer Sunshine,” a striking tile mosaic fashioned out of a
The colorful piece is
one of 19 such benches transformed into works of art now on display on
city sidewalks in the vicinity of City Hall. The benches debuted Aug. 23
at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, where visitors saw that something
as simple and useful as a wooden bench could indeed be made beautiful,
or in some cases, just different.
The benches are at the
center of the Beautiful Benches campaign, a blending of the city’s
burgeoning art and downtown revitalization scenes, the intent of which
is to raise funds for the ongoing refurbishment of Valley Cemetery.
The campaign had
businesses, organizations, educational institutions and individuals
purchase plain wooden benches for $2,000 each. Local artists were then
asked to submit plans to redesign the benches in any fashion they
“To give artists that
kind of carte blanche is outstanding,” artist Joey Pearson said.
“Usually we get commissions with a lot of strings attached. This is
inspiration for her bench in the city’s buildings and architecture. Her
creation, “A Walk in the City,” features familiar city landmarks,
including the Palace Theatre, City Hall and the old Stan’s Paints
building, but showcases several of their unfamiliar aspects.
“Unless you really look
up at a lot of the old buildings you don’t notice what’s there. I hope
people will look at this and see things they don’t normally see,” she
Pearson wasn’t alone in
finding inspiration in the city’s old buildings. “Millyard Folk” by Amy
Brearley and Susan Shaw features the city’s mill buildings set amongst
an almost rural setting. The renovation of the mills from industrial to
commercial and residential space is shown in Kathy Tangney’s “The
Changing Faces of the Mills.”
While all other benches
were painted, photographer James E.D. Cook was able to place a panoramic
photo he took of the Merrimack River and Manchester skyline directly on
his bench. The result is “Summer in the City.”
Bench sponsor Jane
Beaulieu said she was pleased with her bench, “Birds in Paradise.”
“I think it looks good,
it’s very whimsical” she said. “I think art and culture are really on
the move in the city.”
The public will have
the chance to view the benches around City Hall through Sept. 16, when
they will be auctioned off at the New Hampshire Institute of Art between
5 and 7 p.m.
John Wood, chairman of
the board of directors of the Friends of Valley Cemetery, said
previously that he is optimistic about the first-ever Beautiful Benches
campaign, which he hopes will raise $150,000. A portion of the money
raised will also go to the Manchester Art Fund.