Garden SITy Art Bench Project

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Art You Can Sit On

Story by Erika Heeren
Photos by Emma Thompson

The greenbelt got a little more beautiful this summer, with the installation of four new benches designed and built by local artists. The newly formed Garden City Arts Commission has placed the benches along the greenbelt and in City parks.

“We have few places to sit and enjoy the Boise River. Having artistic benches along the greenbelt gives everyone a visually pleasing bench to enjoy,” explained Arts Commission member and Garden City Councilwoman Elfreda Higgins.

The local artists selected are no strangers to contributing to the Idaho arts community, and several own or manage their studios in Garden City’s Live-Work-Create District.

Each of the benches is a unique perspective on life along the greenbelt. Each piece features bright colors and pulls inspiration from the natural expression of the local landscape. The installations provide an opportunity for greenbelt fans to explore different spaces along the river and beyond.

Councilwoman Higgins hopes the benches will become destination spots and add a positive economic impact for the City. “The greenbelt along the Boise River is a fabulous place to enjoy the river corridor including the various activities associated with the river,” she noted.

The Garden City Arts Commission plans to have five additional benches installed by next summer. For more information about the Garden SITy Bench Project, as well as current and future bench installations, visit www.gardencityidaho.org.

Artist: Ken McCall
Bench Name: Heron Bench
Location: Heron Park, 3858 Reed Street, Garden City

About the Bench: Ken McCall’s Heron Bench is inspired by the park’s namesake and the natural beauty of the river. “It’s in a cool location right next to the river. So, I wanted to create something that didn’t look like a bench. It’s more artistic and more natural-looking,” McCall noted.

Artist Information: Most of Ken McCall’s childhood was spent exploring various art mediums alongside his grandmother in her art studio, where Ken’s passion for sculpture emerged. Ken studied sculpture and metalwork before embarking on a 20-year career in precision fabrication for the aerospace industry. In recent years Ken has returned to his first love, designing and building beautiful metal sculptures. Working primarily in metal allows the flexibility to produce both delicate and monumental objects of art that can live in almost any space. He founded his studio, McCall Studios, with a focus on meticulous construction methods that give a seamless quality to the art to emphasize the elegant lines of the design. The finished project is a combination of artistic vision, solid craftsmanship, and careful integration of the piece in the natural setting. McCall Studios specializes in custom, high-quality artwork. In addition to designing and building Ken’s original works, McCall Studios has collaborated with local artists on countless public art installations.

Artist: Reham Aarti
Bench Name: Greenbelt Sherbet
Location: End of 50th Street on the greenbelt, Garden City

About the Bench: Reham Aarti’s mosaic bench is a celebration of color and light. “I wanted to make something fun and silly and ridiculously colorful that would make people stop and smile when they went by,” explained Aarti.

Artist Information: Reham Aarti is a Kuwaiti-born mosaic artist known for her bold use of color and her love of unusual textural inclusions when creating her art. She favors a less traditional style, opting for a more modern, playful look. Reham continues to develop her technique while taking classes to enhance her work and expand her mosaic palette of materials. She published a book – Mosaics for the First Time. In 2003, Reham established Mosaic Essential, a full-service mosaic walk-in workshop, and studio. Through the classes and mentoring programs at the studio, Reham has been able to nurture new mosaic artists in her community, teach at area schools, and assist various organizations, schools, care facilities to create their own pieces of art to keep or auction for fundraisers, and has begun helping a local chapter of the Livestrong Foundation that creates art with cancer survivors & Parkinson’s Disease patients. Most recently, Reham established Door #3 studios as an artist co-op in Garden City to create space for artists to collaborate and create.

Artist: Derek Hurd
Bench Name: Blue Bench
Location: Mystic Cove Park on the greenbelt, Garden City

About the Bench: Derek Hurd’s Blue Bench has a more angular presence than the other bench pieces. The unique portal hole provides a scope from the woods toward the river from a standing position and a frame of the sky from the seated position. “The bench is sculptural and functional. Blue Bench provides users an opportunity for sitting and a standing lunch table as well. Both points of use have a framed view through a portal on the bench. Framing the sky, and framing the landscape river view will be a picture that changes through the seasons and location of the user. The bench is situated on the location of a previous bench, which is marked and celebrated in the concrete pad to honor all the lunches, cigarettes, and kisses that occurred there,” Hurd explained.

Artist Information: Derek Hurd has designed custom furniture and residences for over 20 years in the Treasure Valley. He is a residential architect at Gravitas where he designs contemporary homes for discerning clients, ranging from new construction on infill and foothills sites to large scale remodels. He is also a furniture designer at Studio1212. He works and plays out of sPacePort, a vibrant community of creative entrepreneurs in the heart of the Surel Mitchell Live-Work-Create District in Garden City.

Artist: Susan Madasci
Bench Name: Trio
Location: East 40th Street and the greenbelt, Garden City (installation scheduled for September 12th)

About the Bench: Featuring a contemporary three-leaf structure is Trio by Susan Madasci. “Trio is a functional artwork piece consisting of 3 brightly colored leaf forms. I wanted the “benches” to draw the interest of passersby with a playful inviting concept that people can casually lean, sit or play on. I wanted to work out of the box with the bench concept the city had presented to the artists they chose for the Garden SITy Bench Project. It was an honor to be chosen and to contribute to the entrepreneurial and artistic vision of the Garden City Arts Council. Their mission to support working artists and regard them as small businesses that are helping to build this evolving community in the Live Work Create District. It’s exciting to see all the energy being created here,” Madasci said of the piece.

Artist Information: Susan is an artist and blacksmith who works with steel in the traditional forging manor of a blacksmith, yet challenges traditional aesthetics by redefining the boundaries and definition of blacksmithing, making work that is colorful and contemporary. he owns and manages Madasci Studios, LLC in Garden City, Idaho, a workshop and creative space, which is part of a community of local artists and businesses, operating on the Live-Work-Create District in Garden City.