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October 14, 2009 > What's your favorite bench?

What's your favorite bench?

By Dustin Findley

The Senior Center Art Installation Project invites public input from City bodies and the community on benches to be installed at the new senior center shortly before it opens. Models for the benches will be displayed at the current center and before the Senior Advisory Commission.

There will be four benches - two on the left and one on the right side of the entrance to the new center plus another, incorporating a bronze element, possibly a sculpture or whatever the artist will conceptualize, next to the "Barbara Lee Senior Center" sign opposite the entrance. The fourth will not be a useable bench per se, more of a visual item.

Maryann Baker aims to inspire joy through her artwork and has proposed bench designs called Cameo Bench, Dancing Shoes, Happy Hats and Tulips.

The artist commented that our lives are so busy we often forget about the joyous times. Seniors have the time to reminisce, the benches providing them with scenes that can "bring back memories and the inspiration I had."

Cameo Bench incorporates the tree of life sculpture, an apple tree, at the back of the arm rest. The tree is optional and the entire bench meets the bronze requirement.

"What stories do shoes tell?" asked the artist in her proposal for Dancing Shoes. "From baby's first shoes to one's first dance shoes to men's fashion...?" This design includes playful ballet slippers, colored boots and pumps but the design is not finalized.

Seniors can tell a story about one of their hats and a special time in their life on the Happy Hats bench.

Tulips, like other flowers, are beautiful symbols and milestones of life.

Vera Lowdermilk wants her work to reflect the contribution made by seniors. She also wants to invoke the memory of happy, family times for seniors, surrounded by their loved ones, involved in activities that provide both instruction and joy. Each of the four benches will be made of cast bronze with a different scene on bas-relief sculpture.

For the models of the benches, the artist exaggerated the relief to show off detail but the finished benches will have shallower casting, akin to the face of a penny. Each bench sculpture will have a different theme, season, and element (earth, water, wind, fire).

Her first represents earth and spring. The second, water and summer fun. The third, fall harvest. The fourth, young adults sharing stories around a fire, nurturing, teaching, sharing traditions with their families. Collectively, the benches create a unique reflection of life.

The entire back of the bench will be a bas-relief sculpture. Each incorporates a season and element, portraying seniors and their families, the artist's interpretation of the young-and-old theme.

Eldon P. Slick has four very different benches, presenting scenes of vitality that focus on the closeness of people. "Precious Life" depicts grandparents lifting a grandchild with joy. "Reaching for the Stars" celebrates families striving to reach goals. "Our time" has a man and woman fondly reminiscing about when they were a young couple. A fourth bench is called "Family Dance" which has a section for a wheelchair.

All three sets of models for the proposed bench designs will be displayed throughout the City, including the current senior center. The public can indicate their preferences and comment.

Artists will be with their projects at the Senior Center Sneak Peek on Friday, October 23 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. the event is open to the entire community. In the afternoon, there will be a monster bash dance for the seniors.

The models will appear before the Senior Advisory Commission on October 27. The project sub-committee will have reviewed all the public input that week.

The Public Art Committee will select a bench design on November 2 having considered public comment. Renee Lorentzen, Senior Center Supervisor, will present the models and Public Art Committee's recommendation to Council on November 16.

Senior Center Sneak Peek
Friday, October 23
10.30 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Milpitas Barbara Lee Senior Center
540 S. Abel Street, Milpitas
(408) 586 227

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