When I walk around cities, I tend to look for things that tell me stories about where I am. Every city is unique in the way that it showcases even the most mundane features, such as trash cans, wayfinding signs, and benches. In Buffalo, we are lucky enough to have people like architecture professor Brad Wales, who is committed to creating uniquely designed small (and medium) built works that help to tell the tale of Buffalo. Whenever I come across one of Wales’ projects, I can’t help but slow down and reflect upon the work – from artistic bus shelters to an aggregate concrete 6’ tall fence.
Just yesterday, I learned that artist Ellen Steinfeld had recently completed a functional public art installation in Niagara Falls. The work is a far cry from the standard, catalog-sourced bench that we find in most cities. This whimsical artwork screams “Welcome to Niagara Falls!”
“The commission was competitive and the imagery had to include the theme of ‘natural phenomenon'”, said Steinfeld, who fabricated the new public art sculpture/bench for the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area – Discover Niagara Shuttle on Rainbow Boulevard.
This art-bench is certainly an eye catcher, and goes a long way towards creating a sense of place. Place making is not rocket science, though unfortunately it is a rarity to see such artistic works incorporated into urban landscapes. Why? Lack of time. Funding issues. Bureaucracy. Insurance hassles. Uninspired people in charge of infrastructure. The list goes on and on.
Fortunately, in the case of the Discover Niagara Shuttle on Rainbow Boulevard, in tandem with partners Resource:Art, the City of Niagara Falls, and Ally Spongr (Project Coordinator at Niagara Falls National Heritage Area), travelers using the shuttle stops will find public art installations that second as benches and shelters.
Now, stepping back and looking at the project at hand, was it really that hard? I suppose that it all depends on who is in charge of these types of programs, and if they really care enough about doing anything above and beyond what is in their job description. Hopefully we can see more of these types of projects spring up around WNY, where our own creative minds are tapped, to bring life to typically lifeless utilitarian objects.