Art

Artist-designed benches will ‘beautify’ Downtown, but must they function?

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Bench wisdom: There’s already an artist-designed bench in the “Atomic Passage” on Casino Center Boulevard. One tagger left a thought …
Photo: Corlene Byrd

For better or worse, artist-designed benches are a public art staple, whether it’s storybook benches in London (literally, open books as benches) or more minimal and ergonomic structures of stylish sophistication. With Las Vegas jumping in with a national call for artists and $225,000 from Public Works for benches in its Main Street Beautification Project, anything could land on the table.

One artist will be responsible for all 40 benches. Because that individual will be selected based on qualifications rather than proposals, we won’t know for some time what will materialize on the stretch of Main Street between Bonneville and Stewart in phase one of the project (phase two will extend down to Sahara Avenue).

"Greasing the Skids" at the Clark County Government Center Rotunda

What we do know is that questions have been raised in recent Arts Commission meetings about the idea of benches rather than art (particularly with our extreme summer temperatures), as well as extending beyond local talent. Assuming the discussion will swell in the post-install complaining process that accompanies public art projects, we figured we’d throw in our advice. If it’s not to be something created by a local artist—Zak Ostrowski, for example—who has the means, talent and fabrication skills, it could at least bend the rules by looking at “bench” as concept rather than function.

People walk past a bench designed for a project called 'Modified Social Benches' by Danish artist Jeppe Hein, during the Beaufort04 Triennial of Contemporary Art exhibition along the Belgian coast, in De Haan, Wednesday, June 20, 2012.

People walk past a bench designed for a project called 'Modified Social Benches' by Danish artist Jeppe Hein, during the Beaufort04 Triennial of Contemporary Art exhibition along the Belgian coast, in De Haan, Wednesday, June 20, 2012.

Perhaps this could pacify the naysayers: revisiting Brian Zimmerman’s 16-foot sculpture of stacked wooden chairs (touching on the idea of sitting while evoking life’s transformations) displayed last year at the Clark County Government Center. Or even better, the city could raise some extra money and bring in Danish artist Jeppe Hein to riff on his completely dysfunctional “Modified Social Benches” that will, much like art would, bring about questions and contemplations (rather than ass-burn).

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