The Phipps Center for the Arts is proud to announce the launch of the Art Bench Trail. The seven public art projects linking small towns throughout the St. Croix Valley were created by community members, including youth and adults, and artists between 2006 and 2011. The Phipps has created a special website at www.artbenchtrail.org, and is promoting the Art Bench Trail through advertising and other endeavors to encourage residents and tourists to get out to see new places, and to engage with unique works of art and the surrounding communities – to explore the St. Croix River Valley bench-by-bench.
To kick-off a season of activities, events, and self-guided visits to the Art Bench Trail, The Phipps is partnering with Tropical Wings to sponsor a Bird Migration Celebration May 2 – 4. On Saturday, May 3, from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., Tropical Wings volunteers and naturalists will staff each of the Art Benches with free hands-on activities and information about the 55 neotropical migratory birds that migrate between here and Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, and visitors to the Art Benches that day can pick up a free limited-edition festival poster. Tropical Wings is a volunteer group that formed in 2011 to support a Sister Park partnership among 13 national park units in the Upper Midwest, including the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and seven parks around the Osa.
The activities at each of the benches on May 3 will be unique. For example, inspired by the poetry etched around the edge of the Art Bench in Somerset, Wis., activities there will include writing haiku, creating origami birds, and flying kites, which will be available if participants don’t bring their own. At 10:00 a.m., Laurie Allmann, a poet from Scandia, Minn., will read her original poem, “Wings and a Prayer,” and winners of the Tropical Wings poetry contest will be invited to read their poems. Themes for activities at other Art Benches are Banding Birds in Marine on St. Croix, Minn.; Photographing Birds in St. Croix Falls, Wis.; Bird Migration Simulation in Prescott, Wis.; and Listening to the Birds at Carpenter Nature Center, Minn.; Birds in your Backyard in Hudson, Wis.; and Be Kind to the Birds in Bayport, Minn. For more information about the weekend of events, including a full schedule and directions to the Art Benches, go to www.artbenchtrail.org/tropical-wings/.
While the Bird Migration Celebration inaugurates the Art Bench Trail, special events are planned throughout summer and into the fall, and visitors are encouraged to visit the Art Bench sites on their own, as an artful way to explore the region’s offerings. They provide gateways to the small towns of the region, reflecting the creativity of its people, and opening the door to nearby natural and historic sites, local businesses and restaurants, and parks.
“The Art Bench Trail really celebrates our national park in the St. Croix Valley – the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway,” said Julie Galonska, chief of interpretation, education & cultural resource management for the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway. “The benches are not only wonderful pieces of community art; they also reveal how local communities are connected to the St. Croix River, especially its natural resources and history.”
The new Art Bench Trail website includes an interactive map, directions to each bench, self-guided activities to do at the benches, and stories about how each one was made. The stories of the creation of each bench add depth to experiencing them, as the projects included intergenerational cooperation, hands-on learning about art and nature, and the belief that everyone has a creative spirit. Visitors to the website can also upload photos taken at each bench and have a chance to win tickets to a performance at The Phipps.
The benches are diverse in design, representing imaginative ideas about places to rest and reflect, but share common values of appreciation for the region’s natural features, including its waters, wildlife, and special places, and the need to preserve those things for the future.
“Even young kids who work on a bench talk about how they will be able to visit it with their own children someday,” said Anastasia Shartin, visual arts director at The Phipps. “Creating something that will last for a long time, the participants find ways through the design of the benches to express an appreciation for our present-day natural environment and a desire that it stays healthy into the future.”
The Art Bench Trail is a partnership of The Phipps, the St. Croix Valley Foundation, and the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway. Many businesses and local organizations have also contributed time, energy and funding to the individual benches.
“We at the St. Croix Valley Foundation love the benches and are excited about the launch of the trail,” said president Jane Stevenson. “So much of the work we do requires collaboration and community engagement at all levels, and this project beautifully personifies that collaboration. It has engaged children and their families, artists and nonprofit organizations in all our communities and represents what each group feels best represents how we feel about the river and the natural environment of the Valley.”
The Art Bench Trail is now connecting these works of public art to bring renewed attention to them. New signs are being placed at all benches, brochures and posters will be available throughout the region, and advertisements have been placed in several publications. A new bench will also be added to the trail this summer in Osceola, Wisc. Osceola Middle School students will be participating, with involvement from several local organizations and groups. To find out how to help support this project or to get involved, call Shartin, at 715.386.2305.
The Art Bench Trail is a partnership of The Phipps Center for the Arts, the St. Croix Valley Foundation, and the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway. It is supported with funding from the Kresge Foundation. Visit www.artbenchtrail.org for more information, photos, and other resources for the public and the media.
The Phipps is located 15 miles east of St. Paul. Take Hudson Exit 1 off I-94, Hwy 35 North, and turn west on Locust Street.
For further information, contact Anastasia Shartin, visual arts director, at 715.386.2305, ext. 103.