Living & Playing Magazine. Scott nicely captured why I have enjoyed learning and writing about these community art projects in the St. Croix Valley:
Art Linked to Storytelling
To help build a connection to this project locally and globally, the Phipps and its partners, including the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway and the St. Croix Valley Foundation, will launch a website at www. artbenchtrail.org. The website will show pictures of each of the benches, give a map of the trail and more information about the stops on the trail.
In addition, the website will feature in-depth narratives about the pieces, crafted by local writer and nature lover Greg Seitz. In creating these narratives, Seitz stays true to both the sense of place and the uniqueness of the arts.
In the narrative for the bench in Larry Forrest Memorial Park just outside of Somerset, Seitz writes, “The Apple River rushes through Somerset, carving a a canyon bordered by 100-foot limestone bluffs. Just downstream, it flows into the St. Croix, which forms the western border of the town. The rivers were a major inspiration for the city’s Art Bench, explains Bruce Martell, who guided the project —with help from a local stone company and a bunch of students who don’t often get such opportunities.”
Seitz continues, “Two limestone pillars stand seven feet above the bench’s surface. They represent the Apple, Martell says, and its towering bluffs. A winding ribbon of blue flows across the bench’s surface, representing the meandering St. Croix.
“Those rivers were the highways that the French settlers who founded Somerset used in the 1850s. Connecting to that heritage was important for Martell, a descendant of Somerset settlers who homesteaded at the confluence of the Apple and the St. Croix in 1855.”
This blending of past and present is central to the identity of the St. Croix Valley. It is both the benches and Seitz’s narratives that work together to illustrate this.