Kestrel High breaks ground on new mosaic bench

Photo by Chad Castigliano.

 

By Jeff Rome

Students and faculty at Kestrel High School have been digging through Prescott’s tough dirt to recreate the mosaic bench destroyed last fall.

“We want it to be as if they just took the bench, picked it up, and dropped it off right here,” said Ron Harvey, dean of students, art teacher and wilderness leadership instructor at Kestrel. The new bench will sit — and be sat upon — in front of the high school, near the road for all to see.
The reasons surrounding the destruction of the original bench in Granite Creek Park remain a subject of debate.

The City of Prescott’s stated reason for removal was “absence of any credible evidence that a structure meeting all City requirements will be achieved.” They wrote that “all [public] work is subject to review, inspection, and approval as to safety, functionality, and maintainability.”

Because original complaints about the bench had addressed its symbols of peace and various religions, some then suspected that safety, function and maintenance were not the true reasons the bench was torn down.

Whatever the reason, Harvey need not be concerned, because the new bench is on private land.

    Harvey’s class visited the original bench during a period when the city had demanded a halt on any further work, and had planned to help with the bench as soon as permission was granted. After it was torn down, “[Harvey’s class] kept asking the question, ‘What can we do to make this better?’ The answer ultimately came from one of the students,” said Harvey. The solution was simple: rebuild it.
Weather forced a wait. Two weeks after Granite Creek Park’s mosaic bench was destroyed, it snowed. In freezing weather, mosaic tiles can pop off if not yet properly set. Now, with the warming weather, conditions are right.
“I think it can be really easy to be bitter and resentful with the city, but it’s not really getting anything done,” said Kristin Anthony, who created the original bench as part of her senior project at Prescott College. “[Harvey]’s not spending his time moping about what the city does. He’s thinking, ‘What are we gonna do about it?’”

Back home in Littleton, Massachusetts, Anthony began a plan to create a mosaic bench with the community there. The city of Littleton has already approved her plan.

    “I think the worst thing you can do is not do anything, or be sad and go home,” said Harvey. He hopes to get the community involved in creating Kestrel’s bench, and is hosting a community work day on Wednesday, May 2 from 8:30 to noon. “We want a place that will bring the community into our school rather than create a barrier.” The more people who put their signature into the bench, the more it will become a reflection of the community.
When asked what she thinks of most about the original bench, Anthony said, “[I think of] the people who came together and put it together. It all makes me smile.” In Granite Creek Park, the bench reflected the users of the park. “Most of the people who helped out on it are those who aren’t usually heard,” said Anthony.
“I think that if no one ever brought up the issue of controversy, the bench would still be there and no one would be talking about it,” said Harvey, who described himself as the kind of person that dives headfirst into controversy.

“It wasn’t until the controversy started that hundreds of people knew about it,” said Anthony.

    Since the bench controversy, a citizen committee dedicated to a public arts policy has formed and met, according to Cindy Gresser of the Prescott Area Arts & Humanities Council. “We are in the research and development stages right now. We anticipate bringing a proposed Prescott Public Arts Policy to the City Council in August of this year,” said Gresser.

After the first bench was torn down, several businesses and residents requested a bench be built on their property. The Raven Cafe requested a bench, as well as the Unitarian Church. As of now, the only one going up is at Kestrel.

Harvey hopes that someday his students will be able to show their children, future students of Kestrel, what they made during their days there.

    “People who build will create the future,” Harvey said. He hopes to have the bench finished or nearly finished by May 23, with some help from the community to speed up the work. Harvey referenced the Beastie Boys in saying, “‘It takes a second to wreck it — it takes time to build.’”
You can put your stamp on the bench this May 2, 8:30 to noon, at Kestrel High School, located at 325 N. Washington Street in Prescott.


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