‘Take a Seat’ hopes to build community by design

Contest invites people to envision six benches in Newfane where folks can sit and visit

Town officials are inviting creative community members to design six new outdoor benches where community members can literally take a seat.

"Newfane is interested in finding ways to encourage our residents and neighbors to enjoy our beautiful town and have new places to be together," says Selectboard member Jeff Chevalier. "I had the idea to put this competition together after the pandemic, when I realized how much I missed opportunities to see my neighbors casually and I wanted to have a spot just to sit and catch up with them."

Each seating area will be on public land about the size of a bench intended to seat four people, which is what town officials are essentially asking folks to design.

Most sites will be visible from the road to encourage others to join those at the site.

According to a press release, designs may be whimsical or humorous, contemporary or traditional.

"The key consideration is that the design must accommodate at least four people who are seated," the release reads. "Beyond that, creativity and imagination are encouraged."

"I think it will be a good project,"Chevalier says. "Hopefully we can get some of our local artisans involved and I'll be excited to see what people come up with for design ideas."

Five locations for the benches have been chosen: the Town Office, Williamsville Hall, South Newfane Schoolhouse (now a community event space), the town forest, and the town common in front of the courthouse, which will see two benches.

Each artist or group of artists chosen to design the six benches/seating areas will receive $2,000 to cover material and construction. Chevalier says the installation cost has been estimated for each at $500, and the town crew will do that work.

After town residents were surveyed about potential uses for the town's American Rescue Protection Act (ARPA) money and community gathering spaces were noted, the Selectboard voted to allocate $15,000 for project - $12,000 for the six winners and the balance to cover installation.

Ideas will be considered by a small committee of Newfane artisans. Applications are due by Feb. 15. Chevalier says the intention is to announce the winners at the March 5 town meeting. Installations are to be ready by June 1 although Chevalier adds, "the one thing I've learned in a couple of years on Selectboard is things have to be a little flexible."

"I'd hate to rush it and not get the best product," he says.

Artists are welcome to apply, whether they live in Newfane or not. Groups and organizations are also welcome to apply.

"We especially value collaboration and see the building of these sites as a wonderful way to get townspeople to work together in new ways. says Selectboard Chair Angela Sanborn. "Perhaps a Girl Scout troop has an idea and wants to ask some craftspeople to help them realize their plans. Perhaps an artist wants to work with a group of students from NewBrook Elementary or Leland and Gray to develop a design and build it. We welcome and encourage these collaborations."

Application forms and competition details are available at

This News item by Virginia Ray was written for The Commons.

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