You might be reading this article while sitting down. Most likely on a chair or maybe even a couch. We use an interesting dialogue when describing furniture. We use terms like arms, leg and backs. Furniture has human properties in its physical appearance. This isn’t by coincidence; designers and furniture maker model these objects with the intention to comfort the users. There is care within every step, from the selection of the material to the assembling process.
This attention to detail is integrated throughout the entire process of Craft for a Greater Good Project. This project is the collaboration between Home GR/OWN, The Milwaukee Art Museum Teen Internship program, the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and attendees from the Furniture Society. Their mission is to create benches that will be installed at Victory Over Violence Park.
Here’s why these benches are important.
Home GR/OWN is an initiative led by our cities Environmental Collaboration Offices, or ECO, and it aims to transform selected neighborhoods by adding green spaces to promote the neighborhoods economic development. Home GR/OWN’s main goal is to connect communities to the parks.
“It’s important to not only have green spaces but to have the community feel ownership of the spaces and have a stake in maintaining them,” said Erick Shambarger, director of environmental sustainability.
The Milwaukee Art Musuem teen interns are the core element of this entire project. They played a prominent role in the creative process. Their main source of inspiration was the site itself and the mural located in the park. The benches are designed with the intent to be a memorial and an inspiration. The interns say that rather than being an invasive object, they want their work to be a reflection.
“We want the people in the area or in the community to feel like this is for them,” said Xarion Latimore, one of the teen interns.
If we break down the specific components of the bench you’ll notice the seat is made from a slab of honey locust. More specifically, the live edge slab of the tree. This is aesthetically interesting because the edge of the slab is also the edge of the tree. The surface of the seat is where the bark once. With close inspection, you might even find leftover insect tracks all around the seat. The back of the bench is made from found objects from street curbs and local thrift stores. Strange objects such as hockey sticks, old chairs and an abacus set are used to create a butterfly back and dove wings.
Shannon Molter, a Teen educator at Milwaukee Art Museum, says her favorite moment was watching the interns disassemble the furniture components.
“They are learning how to use tools and learning how furniture is made by taking it apart,” said Molter. “They were just like totally energized.”
Beyond just having a place to sit, pause and take in your surroundings, this project hopes it facilitates growth in the neighborhood. To have a social flow of interaction within the park. To celebrate victory over violence.