Dabney Sanders: We knew from the early planning stages for the Downtown Greenway that we wanted public art to be a major component of this 4-mile loop, and we are using North Carolina artists to create benches, much like the bench that I am sitting on now, here in Morehead Park. The process to select artists involves submitting their qualifications and examples of prior work. Then we select the artist and ask that they come to Greensboro, meet with the neighborhoods, learn the neighborhood vision as well as its history, and then create a proposal for a bench that reflects the area. We have commissioned three artists to date, and two of those artist benches have been installed. The first one is a bench called Five Points that Gary Gresko from Oriental, North Carolina, designed. It reflects the history of the Warnersville neighborhood, which is a fascinating history that many people in Greensboro are not aware of. So, we are pleased to be able to tell that story as people enjoy and use the Greenway.
Gary Gresko: These are glacial boulders dug up right out of this site to represent the bedrock of this community and the beginning of the Greenway project. So there are five boulders placed here, one behind each bench—each a symbol representing the community.
Xandra Eden: There is a nice kind of open communication in all aspects of moving toward this project because the idea is we want this Greenway to be loved, appreciated, and used by the neighborhoods that are nearby—not just plopped down out of nowhere. We want the benches to be a part of each community. The best approach is to communicate with each community and make sure that the bench is something they are going to love, and that will enrich their lives.
Dabney Sanders: The bench that I am sitting on now is called Inside/Out, created by Ben Kastner and Toby Keeton from Wilmington, North Carolina. In this particular area,we did not have a neighborhood in exactly the same way that we had in Warnersville. So we did look at history, and this area where we are sitting had originally been a part of Governor John Motley Morehead’s property—a large property that has now been whittled down to just a few acres. His home was Blandwood, which sits about a half block away from us. And we looked at the fact that this had been called the Morehead neighborhood.
The artist looked at some furniture in Blandwood—some historical pieces that had a good story to tell. He decided to create these outdoor pieces using steel and concrete, and recreate them as an outdoor living room. The artist talked about seeing the Greenway as an inviting place for people to enjoy, but then stop for a little respite and perhaps have a conversation with somebody they do not know. This seating arrangement provides a welcoming opportunity to converse.
The next bench that we are planning is still in the design phase, and will be located near the Fisher Park neighborhood. The artist , Jeanette Brossart from Durham, North Carolina, has already held some community meetings with the Fisher Park neighborhood. We are looking forward to seeing the end product at the end of 2013 or early 2014.