Six New Artist-designed Benches Arrive in Park

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Sam Soet rests on his ash bench after installing it near Five Needles in the Art Park.

Six new artist-designed benches are providing spots for rest and contemplation along the trails of Michigan Legacy Art Park (MLAP). The bench designs were chosen after 15 proposals were submitted, all funded through the Art  Park’s capital campaign, Art Access for All.

The benches are just a few of the recent additions and improvements in the park, funded through the Art Access for All capital campaign. The park recently surpassed the halfway point of its $500,000 goal. A rebuilt amphitheater, accessible trail, storage shed, retaining wall and stairs are some of the other improvements. A new sculpture acquisition, Communications Vine by Eric Troffkin, was recently installed in the park as well.

One new bench has special meaning to artist Sam Soet of Farwell. Utilizing wood from “dead-fall” trees, Soet likes to memorialize them and return them to their natural setting. His ash bench has seating on opposing sides, and now provides a view of both a wooded ridgeline and one of the park’s most stunning sculptures, Five Needles. After visiting the Art Park for the first time last summer, Soet knew he wanted a piece of his here. After contacting MLAP Executive Director Renee Hintz, Soet soon heard of the call for bench proposals.

“Sam’s bench is very special, not only because it’s a thoughtful design, but because he’s created a beautiful new purpose for a naturally felled tree,” says Hintz.

“It’s great,” says Soet. Having his repurposed wood bench in the park, “just seemed so perfect.”

Repurposing materials is a specialty for Tim Burke of Harper Woods. He already has two sculptures with the Art Park, “The Parcae,” a whimsical trio of robots, and “Fertility Sculpture.” His pieces include parts from old factories, fighter jets and missiles. His bench is made from granite that was removed from the Detroit Institute of Arts during renovations.

Bart Ingraham’s white pine bench is full of symbolism. Ingraham, of Suttons Bay, sees a dragon in it, someone else saw spectacles, another, waves. Considering himself a “young artist,” he was “honored and astounded my bench was selected.”

Most of the artists spoke about feeling honored to have their work within the park, in the company of the Art Park’s large and diverse group of artists.

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Bart Ingraham and wife Gail take a moment to enjoy the new location of Bart’s white pine bench.

“Art takes on a totally different dimension in nature,” Ingraham says.

Cozette Phillips of Mt. Pleasant designed a bright blue bench anchored at each end with chalkboard “easels.” In the short time it’s been at the park, it’s proven to be very popular for the creative opportunity it allows people.

“I hope that my bench will provoke creativity and offer a place for visitors to record their observations of nature and the art that the park offers,” says Phillips.

“My kids love drawing on Cozette’s bench and many people are inspired by it. She deserves immense credit for her innovative design,” says the park’s executive director Renee Hintz.

Phillips, along with Thomas Zaroff of Saint Joseph, Tim Burke of Harper Woods and Joe Krajkiewcz of Grandville rounded out the group of six who completed their bench installations in June and July.

Zaroff, whose bench sits off the park’s new accessible trail, claimed he was, “still a bit surprised,” his bench was chosen among the fifteen submissions. He enjoyed the challenge of creating the bench, which is made with glass fiber reinforced concrete and is symbolic of Michigan’s copper mining history.

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Joe Krajkiewcz’s bench arrives at the Art Park for installation at the entry.

Joe Krajkiewcz created an orange homage to oak leaves with his painted steel bench. The two large leaves are bent, providing the back and seats.

“I feel rewarded to have been selected and to have the opportunity to reach viewers artistically and functionally with a comfortable place to sit and reflect,” said Krajkiewcz.

Phillips added, “I am inspired by the mission of the park and wanted to support the arts in Michigan as well as the educational opportunities the park provides.”

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