art is surprising the real world - feature artFrench Playwright Francoise Sagan said, “Art must take reality by surprise.” And that’s happening all over Springfield as over 100 bus benches are transformed into artist galleries.

A partnership with the Springfield Art Association, ACE Sign Co., and several area merchants are making this possible.

Betsy Dollar, executive director of the art association, says the eye-catching bus benches integrate local artist work into the community. “Thanks to Dennis Bringuet (owner, Ace Sign) for having the vision and ability to make this happen.”

The association is especially excited about the project because it integrates art into public spaces. “People aren’t totally aware of bus benches,” she says, meaning most of us drive by them without much notice. But she hopes the art will catch people’s attention and get them to wonder who did the work. “We hope what starts as a subconscious thought becomes more tangible.”

Dennis has been thinking about this project for a number of years. Things fell into place in just a couple of months when he recently found several area businesses, including INB, willing to sponsor the benches.

All of the featured art was created by juried artists who are members of the SAA Collective of artists. The Collective includes members of the Prairie Art Alliance which recently became part of the Art Association’s artist group.

Betsy says they chose art for this first series of benches based three criteria: “It had to be bright, colorful and noticeable from a distance.” Dennis added, “Simple and bright are very important for this medium.” He said that In the case of “Lincoln’s Eyes” by Jim Brady, they weren’t sure using just a piece of the original art would work. But the final product makes quite a statement.

Artist Thom Whalen’s “Gemini” is an oil painting turned bus bench. “I teach at Lincoln Land,” he says, “but sell most of my work in San Diego and Washington, D.C.”

While very different from Thom’s work, artist Sue Scaife’s watercolor, “Winter’s Shadows,” will definitely stand out. Sue has worked as a watercolor artist for the last 24 years and spends a couple of days a week at the association headquarters, working on her craft.

Betsy noted a new Art Association Program which she believes is drawing more people to their art classes. Every Friday night, everyone is invited to “Canvas & Cocktails.” You bring the wine, cheese and dessert, and an association staff member or artist will lead you though an art project that you can complete that night. For more details, see the association’s website.

While events like this are one way to interest the community in arts, Betsy says she’s looking forward to seeing what kind of impact the bus bench program has. Jim Langfelder, Springfield mayor and son to artist Midge Langfelder, says, “Communities grow through the arts . . . and this is a great collaboration that helps make Springfield the best city in Illinois.”