We are commissioning 9 benches to be created by North Carolina artists and recognizing neighborhood connections along the Downtown Greenway. Each artist will be assigned a location and will work with the appropriate neighborhood to determine the character of that neighborhood and use that for inspiration in the design.
Five Points Bench
Gary Gresko, Oriental, NC. Installed 2009 at Five Points near the intersection of Freeman Mill Road ramp to West Lee Street.
This public art seating area is the first of 9 neighborhood benches to be commissioned for the Greenway. Its design reflects input from residents of the Warnersville neighborhood who attended a series of community meetings led by the artist. Warnersville, Greensboro’s first African-American community, was once known as Five Points, and so the number five is a repeated symbol in this work. The five words etched into the backs of each chair were chosen by residents to describe the essence of their neighborhood and its history. African teak was used as the material for the five seats that make up the bench. The five rocks that create a backdrop for the piece were unearthed at the original site for installation and symbolize the bedrock that Warnersville has been for the people who live there, as well as the role it has played as the foundation for the African-American community in Greensboro. The semi-circular design with individual seating was used to create an inviting, “front porch” feel that the artist hopes will encourage conversation and communication.
The Five Points Bench, by Gary Gresko of Oriental, NC, was installed on Monday, June 15th, 2009, and is located at the intersection of West Lee Street and the Freeman Mill Road ramp.
Ben Kastner and Toby Keeton, Wilmington, NC. Installed 2012 at Morehead Park near the intersection of Spring Garden and Edgeworth Streets.
If one were to take the analogy of Greensboro as a house, the Downtown Greenway project can be likened to a living room. In this place, community members will come together for interaction and leisure. Taking these simple terms, the artists at ALLOY have begun to think of this project as more of a couch or loveseat than a bench. In this way, a grouping of furniture-like objects which relate or face one another promotes interaction between community members using this space. Furthermore, we would indeed like this piece (or pieces) to be emblematic of the historic nature of the neighborhood. To accomplish this without interfering with a genuine historic experience, we propose taking historically inspired objects out of their normal context. Our initial sketch idea, quite simply, is to produce a finely crafted outdoor bench inspired by 19th century indoor furniture.
We see this as an opportunity to engage the public in a dialogue about the historic nature and personality of their neighborhood, including the often ostentatious manner in which people have populated homes (such as the nearby Italianate flourishes of Blandwood, for example). Furthermore, we are intrigued by the possibility of representing indoor materials such as fabric and delicate wood in an outdoor material such as steel, bronze, hardwoods or concrete. We have been trained in many blacksmith and metal working techniques, which we would like to explore in this project, such as traditional mortise and tenon joinery and sheet “repousse” or chasing work, which gives sheets of iron a billowy, almost fabric-like quality or can be used to shape details akin to a wood carving.
Durham artist Jeanette Brossart created a mosaic inlaid concrete bench that has created a seating area and formed the keystone for the new triangular park in Phase 3 called LoFi Park. The connections between the architectural details of houses in the neighborhood and the houses of animals that live in Fisher Park were made with examples like the snail shell or nautilis, the capital of an ionic column, and the turtle shell and a parquet floor. After public meetings with the Fisher Park neighborhood, she designed a meandering stream that reflects the important elements of Fisher Park and its surrounding neighborhood. The park is located in front of Joymongers Brewing Company at the intersection of Smith/Eugene/Battleground and features the neighborhood bench, water fountain, and a solar powered trash receptacle. An artistic bike rack designed by Guilford College Student Kim Canaan called Onion is also part of the park. Click here for examples of Jeannette’s work.
A Monument to Dignity and Respect
The fourth “neighborhood bench” is actually not a bench, but two art sculptures that reflect the neighborhood conversations of Ole Asheboro, Asheboro Square, and Arlington Park. The community desire for a sculpture rather than a bench led the Downtown Greenway to commission Durham based artist Vandorn Hinnant to work with the neighborhood and create 2 unique works of art. Five meetings were held for residents of Ole Asheboro and Asheboro Square in 2017 and 2018 to get input from residents who live in the surrounding neighborhoods about what the neighborhood would want to see on the 2 pieces along the Downtown Greenway on Bragg Street between Eugene and MLK Jr. Drive. The piece titled “With Dignity-United We Stand’ is located along the Downtown Greenway at the corner of MLK Jr. Drive and Bragg Street. The piece titled ‘With Respect- Together We Rise’ is located at the corner of Bragg and Arlington Streets. Click here to for photos and the text that is found on each piece. On-street parking is available along Bragg Street between MLK Jr. Drive and Arlington.
Vandorn is a native of Greensboro and received a BA in Art Design from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro NC, and studied sculpture at UNC-Greensboro. His original works of art are in numerous corporate and private collections throughout North America, and some works are in Europe and Africa. He has served as guest curator of exhibitions, as juror of many fine art competitions, and as guest lecturer at colleges and universities. He serves as an independent educational consultant working with youth and adult learners. Currently the artist is developing a body of sculptures with an emphasis on The Golden Proportion. His work centers on the question of how to integrate into his works of art the geometries of Nature and the energetic matrices of Nature’s pre-material template. He is co-author of the soon-to-be-published book “The Rest of Euclid”; a definitive text detailing and elaborating on the long overlooked implications of proposition one in book one of “Euclid’s Elements”. He is the inventor of the “Nature’s Numbers Fractal Radial Symmetry Square Roots Calculator”.
Vandorn leads hands-on experiential workshops on “The Geometry of Art and Life” for learners of all ages. He is co-author (with Robert L. Powell, Sr and Jr) of the book: “The Rest Of Euclid“; a definitive treatise on the long overlooked implications of proposition one in Volume One of “Euclid’s Elements“. He has served as guest curator of exhibitions, as juror of many fine art competitions, and guest lectured at colleges and universities. He serves as an independent arts educational consultant working with both youth and adult learners. Currently the artist is developing sculpture maquettes (models) to be fabricated into permanent materials.
“The making of art is more than an act of making. It is, in fact, integral to the act of Becoming. The maker/artist becomes both conduit and communicator. What is made becomes both conduit and communicator. The artist is transferring Essence from self to other, and this is alchemy.”
Click below to watch the first video about the Monument to Dignity by the artist. Vandorn will also create one for the Monument to Respect; please check back.
These benches titled Reflection Rocks are made from granite blocks found along Martin Luther King Jr Drive as a part of the streetscape plan; local artist William Bryer repurposed and created 3 unique seats with the granite blocks along Bragg Street on the Downtown Greenway.