'Bench bombing' art creates buzz in downtown Beaufort

emoody@beaufortgazette.comApril 4, 2014 

  • In other changes about town

    • A new business is coming to Port Royal at 707 Paris Ave., Rooted in Art, which specializes in custom ceramic hearts and garden sculptures, according to a sign on the door.Information: www.facebook.com/rootedinart
    • Crews from American Underwater Contractors began mobilization Friday, with installation anticipated to begin Monday, for the mooring field at the Beaufort Downtown Marina.
      The company will sink anchors for all 46 moorings in the field and attach 30 mooring buoys. The others will be added down the line, according to a plan between the city of Beaufort and marina operator Griffin Enterprises.

Painted robin-egg blue and made of recycled wood, unique benches by an unnamed local artist have been appearing on and near Port Republic Street.

Rhonda Jordan at Tabby Fabric and Studio knows who is doing the "bench bombing," as she called it, but said she is sworn to secrecy.

"He just wanted to do something fun," she said. "... I talked with him about it, but I didn't have anything to do with making them. I'm just his cheerleader."

Jordan has the last remaining bench, in front of her 910 Port Republic St. store, after city of Beaufort Public Works picked up several others early this week.

"We don't know who did them, who owns them," city manager Scott Dadson said in an email. "They never cleared this with the city."

Dadson said the benches had to be removed because of a city ordinance prohibiting obstruction of sidewalks and rights-of-way without permission. The ordinance allows people to apply for an exemption, which could include the benches.

The city has kept the benches after removal, and the artist can have them back, Dadson said.

Some business owners didn't like the benches. Jordan said the one in front of her shop was moved there because another merchant didn't want it in front of her store.

Others think the benches are both practical and attention-grabbing. Each has a different design, but they're all painted the same blue to tie them together.

Jordan said she has spotted people stopping for a rest on them; others take photos of the benches and ask about them. It's another way to draw downtown visitors to walk more than just Bay Street, Jordan said.

"Everyone goes up and down Bay Street, and then they walk up to Port Republic," she said. "They look down the street and don't see anything, and they walk back down to Bay."

Lisa Annelouise Rentz of Beaufort said she also knows who the artist is and that a public announcement about the project is expected soon. She said her role has been limited to supporting the idea when the artist asked for her thoughts. She has not been involved in the creation, but is glad there's a buzz on the streets.

"I think that's kind of one of the roles of public art, to get people talking, to create mixed emotions," she said.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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