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Artists respond to call for bench murals

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 July 2013 at 12:00 am

Peter Loran of Kent submitted several designs for the bench-painting project, including this one of Albion native Grace Bedell and President Abraham Lincoln. Bedell wrote a letter to Lincoln, encouraging him to grow a beard.

ALBION – What do a tugboat, a Chinook salmon, Santa Claus, Abe Lincoln and a quarryman all have in common?

They will be painted on benches in downtown Albion as part of public art project.

The Albion Main Street Alliance is coordinating the project that calls for at least 10 benches to be painted with Albion heritage themes. We may do as many as 12 benches.

A $50,000 Main Street grant, which is paying for several street-scape improvements, is funding the bench project. This fall there should be bike racks, a historical marker, trees and other upgrades to the street scape.

The grant paid to swap out the benches and some of us on the street-scape committee thought it would be a good idea to paint the new benches as a mini-murals. We wanted to celebrate our history and highlight the canal, Santa Claus School founder Charles Howard, the quarrymen and other prominent residents and features of the community.

The artists – all Orleans County residents – came through with many nice designs. I’m real excited about this project.

The Downtown Albion Neighborhood Advisory Committee, a group that has been reviewing all the grant projects through the bigger $477,000 Main Street grant, will pick the bench designs. The winning entries will be submitted to state historic preservation officials to make sure they are OK with everything.

I don’t know the exact time frame for the project due to the review process, but I anticipate the painted benches may not be ready until late fall. At that point, maybe they will be inside businesses where they would stay for the winter. In the spring we will unleash them on Main Street and East Bank.

I think they will draw folks to the downtown, giving the businesses a lift and stirring community pride.