Four new art benches unveiled in The Woodlands

Emilee Geist

The latest round of art benches in The Woodlands was unveiled Wednesday during a private ceremony with artists, underwriters and members of The Woodlands Arts Council.

The four new benches raise the total of art benches in the township to 24 and culminate Phase 4 of the arts council’s ongoing efforts to beautify the community as well as support artists, said Jenny Carattini-Wright, executive director of The Woodlands Arts Council.

“The benches are beautiful and definitely whimsical and creative. The underwriters answer questions, and then the artist takes their answers and the location into consideration and that is how they create the designs,” Carattini-Wright said. “It was an awesome event. The underwriters and artists were in attendance. They will all be favorites. Everyone will have their own opinion (of the benches) but they are all awesome. We have an incredible community.”

In a July interview, Carattini-Wright said she and others affiliated with the council were very excited to continue the Art Benches project during the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire process of Phase 4 of the ongoing effort was shifted online in 2020 with a series of virtual presentations from more than 80 submissions and selection by this year’s underwriters.

This year’s benches include works from a variety of artists.

At site one is “Mystical Senses” by Gaston Carrio. It is described by officials as, “an open invitation to the infinitely magical experience of nature and the circle of life, surrounding one in complete sensory immersion.” At site two, is a unique work created by three siblings from The Woodlands, “You Are LOVED.” The siblings, Michelle Old, Stacy Moore, Kevin Giuseppetti, work together at a regional architectural firm, Kirksey Architects.

For the site three bench, located at the southside of The Woodlands Waterway across from The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, is “The Texas Dawn Water Lily,” by Kyle Thornley, of mountain ski resort Revelstoke, BC, Canada. Thornley captures this vision through natural symbols of interdependence, the cycles of life, and our stewardship of lands and waters.”

The final bench, at site four, is titled “Penstemon,” by artist Daniel Hornung of Tucson, Arizona, according to officials, “intended to create a destination that allows people to appreciate the subdued surroundings of the site. Hornung’s design uses color and whimsy to remind people to slow down and savor the beauty of nature around them.”

Tradition to continue

Carattini-Wright said now that Phase 4 of the project is completed, officials are already in the early stages of plans for Phase 5 in 2021. Next year, in addition to art benches, artists and underwriters will be sought for artistic bicycle racks that will be spread through the township.

“We are excited, and we are planning stage five now and we are already beginning to sell benches that will be install in 2022,” she said. “Not only will we be looking for artists for bench designs, but we’ll allso be seeking artists for bicycle racks as well as underwriters.”

The first eight benches of the project were installed in 2014 with Phase 2 of the project seeing six additional benches added in 2016. The third phase was completed in fall of 2018 with six more benches, bringing the overall total to 20 benches. Each bench is designed to last at least 10 years and after being installed, are maintained by staff from The Woodlands Township.

According to a press release on the project in January 2020, each individual bench was underwritten by entities or individuals who, “submitted answers to questions that pertained to the location of the bench and their feelings about the location.” From that information, artists created designs and then submitted the ideas for consideration to be chosen by an underwriter. Among the 2020 sponsors are: Amy Cope-Gibbs and Jon Gibbs; Debbie and Sparky Gullo; Heather, Shin and Seth Dickens; and Doug & Beth Grijalva.

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