A team of artists and community members worked together to create four eye-catching benches for bus stops and other locations in Martinsville-Henry County. The Benches for MHC project was born out of an AIR Institute workshop hosted by Piedmont Arts in January 2020.
Piedmont Arts Executive Director Heidi Pinkston said the museum was excited to host and facilitate the AIR Shift Workshop. “AIR Shift created an atmosphere where community members discovered new ways to think about the power of creativity and how it can help grow creative communities and economies.”
Workshop participants with a variety of creative and business skills worked together to design and plan two implementable projects for the Martinsville-Henry County community. The projects focused on raising the value of arts and creativity locally. The teams competed for a share of a $10,000 grant funded by the Harvest Foundation.
A panel of local leaders joined the group on the final workday to give feedback on presentations describing the projects created by each team. The Benches for MHC project was awarded $6,500 of a total $10,000 grant by the Harvest Foundation. The proposal was to create two public art benches – one in Henry County and one in the City of Martinsville along the free Piedmont Area Regional Transit system. The project included soliciting designs from artists or others in the community and a budget that would both compensate the designers and pay for the bench construction.
In person work on the project was suspended with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the team continued collaboration through emails and telephone, resuming in-person meetings when safe conditions were available. The second workshop team project was not feasible with health and safety guidelines, so the decision was made to allocate the total grant to the bench project that was then expanded to create a total of four benches.
In the spring of 2022, the completed benches were installed at their permanent locations around Martinsville-Henry County.
Bench locations include:
– Book Bench by Ed Dolinger, located at Blue Ridge Regional Library.
– Bee Bench by Meritha Alderman, located at Piedmont Arts.
– Birdhouse Bench by Ed Dolinger and Jacob Smith, located at Henry County Administration Building.
– Fossil Bench by Page Turner, located at Virginia Museum of Natural History.
Information on the Benches for MHC project and all Piedmont Arts’ public art projects can be found at PiedmontArts.org.