Milford ‘re-imagines’ park benches as artistic experiences

MILFORD — In some spots in Milford, park benches are more than just places to sit and enjoy the day. They are pieces of art.

The Milford Arts Council recently unveiled its Meet Me At The Bench art projects, all of which were designed as a way to help bring the community together to enjoy art and spending time outdoors.

“It was taking the idea of the park bench and making it the new front stoop,” said Paige Miglio, Milford Arts Council executive director. “It was taking the park bench and imagining where people can meet one another for the first time and have a conversation.”

Miglio said the project sprouted from a state Department of Economic and Community Development Arts and Tourism grant. The grant application was written back in 2019, and the MAC received $12,000 for work to be completed by spring 2020. The pandemic pushed that completion date back.

Miglio said a lot of the “neighbor-to-neighbor relations” were based on the front stoop where everybody knew their children’s names.

There are to be five artistic park benches, and two have already been installed. While introducing the re-imagined park bench, Miglio said they the MAC also wanted to introduce the idea of a percent for art program within the city.

“We wanted to take the park bench and not offer it to your typical artist to paint, but to contractors, woodworkers, metal workers, designers and other artists to re-imagine the park bench as an entirely new community and arts experience,” she said. “We were able to get the full funds into the creative hands, and even through a pandemic, they received their full funding for the project.”

Each year the grant is offered to organizations to develop some public-facing projects, and Miglio said the state liked the idea of a re-imagined park bench.

“The state review system loved the project, and we’ve had conversations with other communities where they told us they liked this idea and wanted to have it in their community,” she said.

The idea was for the park benches to be self-sustainable projects that would last up to three years or more. One of the benches is across from the People’s United Bank at 190 South Broad St., and the other is in front of Scoopy Doo's at 37 Helwig St.

“The one across from People’s United Bank was done by Sonny Cardinali and is called Sitting In The Shade,” said Miglio. “The second bench in front of Scoopy Doo’s is called Community Block and was designed by IO Escu, and the woodworker was Rich Borque.”

“The creatives received between $1,200 and $5,000,” she added. “There matching funds of $1,500 from TrinityPoint Wealth, Milford Boat Works, Wines and More, Connecticut Post Mall and Subway.”

The third bench, called Replicant, is due to be installed in front of the Milford Historical Society any day, she said.

When the artists finished the park bench project, most of them went into storage, added Miglio, because they couldn’t place them in the locations last year.

“We are excited that these projects are seeing the light of day, and I think coming out of the pandemic, the project resonates more powerfully,” she said. “The whole idea of assessing where we are as a society and community, we’ve been through so much. It’s been such a divisive time period that I think being able to present something through the arts that are healing and community building is exciting.”